The Sisters of Design Service Havenly Discuss DC Fashion

Founders Emily Motayed and Lee Mayer have a keen eye for interiors—and for fashion.

Lee Mayer and Emily Motayed of Havenly. Photograph by Dustin Sonneborn.

Sisters Emily Motayed and Lee Mayer are a triple threat: strikingly beautiful, stylish, and über-smart. The Potomac natives, who are pursuing an MBA at Wharton School of Business and hold an MBA from Harvard Business School, respectively, launched their budget-friendly interior design firm, Havenly, last year. (Read Open House’s story from May.) 

Motayed, who splits her time between New York and Philadelphia, and Mayer, who resides in Denver with her husband, still consider Washington home and pay a visit to all their favorite stores whenever they’re back in town. We caught up with them to figure out exactly where they go. 

Where do you like to shop when you’re back in town? 

Emily: I absolutely love Violet Boutique on 18 Street. Whenever I walk in there, I get sensory overload and don’t even know where to start! They have the most amazing print dresses that are perfect for everything from a casual summer barbecue to going out on the town, and their accessories are to die for. I also live and die in fitted dresses, which they specialize in. Growing up in Potomac, I always shopped at Luna in Bethesda during my middle- and high-school days, so I will have a soft spot for that boutique forever and I make sure to stop by when I’m in the area. Luna still carries every one of my favorite brands, from Susana Monaco to Foley + Corinna, and I even still wear a DVF print dress that I bought from them with my allowance about ten years ago. When it comes to home stores, my aspirational place is Cote Jardin Antiques on O Street in Georgetown. They have the most amazing collection of antique lamps. 

Lee: I bought my wedding dress at Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase, so I have to choose that as my favorite store. I have such fond memories of putting on my wedding dress for the first time at that location—it still makes me smile when I think of it. The bridal collection is unparalleled, but they also have amazing contemporary pieces, from designers such as J. Mendel and Naeem Khan. For my “fun” clothes, though, I go to Britt Ryan in Georgetown. There’s a plethora of perfect cocktail dresses that are bright, fun, and perfect for most events. I happen to love the fact that it’s owned by another fearless female entrepreneur who has opened stores nationwide. And whenever I need something a bit dressier, I go to Julia Farr in Northwest DC. Alice + Olivia is one of my favorite brands, and the store is always stocked with a fabulous collection. The ladies who work at the store are also such a pleasure to shop with. And for home stores, Restoration Hardware is my favorite, hands down. I love the vignettes that they pull together in their stores, and I walk in and just want to buy everything, from the curtains to the pillows to the flooring! I can’t get enough of it.

What about for shoes? 

Emily: Sassanova is still my go-to for shoes because they have an amazing collection of pumps and flats, which is what I tend to live in. I love the vibe of the store, too, and every time I go in for shoes, I end up walking out with a few pairs plus a purse and scarf, since they have such adorable complimentary accessories. I think I bought my shoes for prom ten years ago from there. One of my favorite footwear brands is Pour La Victoire, which is available at Nordstrom and other department stores, because they make super high heels (I prefer five inches or taller) that are surprisingly comfortable. The heels work for day and transition into night extremely well. I’m pretty short, so it’s super important for me to find tall heels that I can run around in and not end up with blisters.

Lee: When my husband lets me (or isn’t looking), I love buying a solid pair of Louboutins, which I normally pick up from Neiman Marcus in Tysons.

You both wear great accessories. Where do you go for them? 

Emily: I started wearing big pieces of jewelry after college because statement pieces are such an easy way to punch up a boring outfit or make clothes really stand out. I’m a big fan of BaubleBar for affordable statement necklaces—plus the cofounders went to school with Lee. Gilt is a great place to look for affordable pieces, too. And a great local spot for jewelry is Charm in Georgetown—their brightly colored pieces are great, and I think I’ve bought their entire cuff collection.

Lee: I tend to be a little more low-key than Emily when it comes to accessories, but I do love Lou Lou. They have such fun pieces and also the best set of going out clutches and purses one can find.

What do you think of DC style in general? Is there something you’d like to see more of? 

We love how well-dressed the city is, but it does feel a bit more conservative than what we are used to, since we both lived in New York City after moving away from home. We’d love to see a bit more daring styles, especially out at night—maybe some shorter hemlines and tighter dresses for those looking to paint the town red.

For more about Emily and Lee, visit Havenly’s websiteFind Valeria Boucas on Twitter at @valeriaboucas.