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LMM Magazine

Artist Spotlight: Maison Nola Beautifies Baby Lagniappe for Your Bundle of Joy

by Little Miss Muffin Staff 12 Oct 2023

maison nola artist spotlight little miss muffin

New Orleans' natural and iconic beauty meets the inescapable cuteness of babies and baby products as we explore the catalog and backstory of local baby home goods brand Maison Nola.

"There was nothing like it," said founder and artist of baby home goods brand Maison Nola, Stephanie Hemel. "There were no New Orleans textiles for babies at that time."

"So I thought to myself, 'There's a void, I could do this. And I could do this really elegantly, very pretty and classy.'" Stephanie continued. "So my goal was to make something elegant and elevated and lovely — and who doesn't love a toile? Especially for sweet little babies."

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maison nola bamboo rayon cotton muslin swaddle
maison nola toile crib fitted sheet

A New Orleans native, Stephanie moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school for art and design, and landed an internship sewing samples for Pottery Barn.

"I walked in and realized, 'Wow, fabric can be a job!'" said Stephanie. "I didn't know designing fabric could be a career. You know, no one ever tells you that. I grew up sewing with my mom and my grandma, and so I always sewed and was crafty, that sort of thing."

maison nola cloud blanket

After first beginning as a freelancer for Pottery Barn, Stephanie then began working for Pottery Barn Kids, becoming the nursery designer, particularly in the realm of designer baby bedding.

"You're sewing little appliques and you're designing on the computer and painting watercolor prints for sheets," said Stephanie. "And so I kind of learned textiles on the job, which was amazing to have had that experience."

Reviving a relationship with her high school sweetheart prompted frequent visits and eventually a move back home to New Orleans.

"So I moved back home and left my corporate job, and it was a bit daunting," said Stephanie. "But I knew baby bedding like the back of my hand."

Motivated and inspired, Stephanie began applying what she'd learned in her early career to the opening she'd identified within the local textile industry of her hometown. 

"I started off with the bedding because that's what I knew, with the question, how do I evolve this into a beautiful aesthetic for little southern babies?" said Stephanie. "And it's not even necessarily southern. Yes, it's our precious Storyland, but anyone can recognize classic storybook characters."

maison nola storyland toile bow headband
maison nola storyland toile footie
maison nola storyland toile hat baby

Stephanie and Maison Nola's early beginnings and expansion also coincided with a blossoming relationship with local retailers like Little Miss Muffin. 

"Little Miss Muffin was one of the first stores to support me," said Stephanie. "Monique loved the print, and in one conversation, we realized, 'Oh my gosh, that would be really cute on a onesie or a baby gown.' And then reality hits — I don't know how to do that, so I gotta go figure this out and learn to be an apparel designer."

"So lots of learning along the way, with apparel sizing and ordering and all that," Stephanie continued. "But the Storyland toile is just the sweetest little print. And when you have a little tiny newborn, it's the cutest thing. You know, it makes me happy, and hopefully it makes all the moms and grandmas and dads happy too."

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maison nola storyland toile newborn door hangers
maison nola storyland toile print custom mother goose

By niching the City Park-inspired Storyland toile print, Stephanie is able to honor multiple artistic traditions at once: the French countryside and traditional pictorial style of toile pattern design, the awe-inspiring landscape of New Orleans flora, and the heart of family fun present in Storyland and its storybook characters.

In doing so, the picturesque landscape of New Orleans comes to life in a beautiful and creative way beyond the more common depictions of the downtown skyline, French Quarter, or Mississippi Riverbend.

maison nola baby bedding crib sheets pillow

"I wanted to be as true to Storyland story as I was to City Park itself," said Stephanie. "I mean, I literally moved every single leaf in that plant to make it just so, and it became kind of a little fun project for me to be accurate. From the plants with the elephant ears, the little ducks walking around, the lagoon, and I put Humpty Dumpty on the cobblestone bridge."

"The design speaks to all the New Orleans natives and the people who are in the park every day," said Stephanie.

In keeping with its hometown inspiration, Maison Nola found its next business expansion into the realm of New Orleans-themed baby teethers. While originally looking to create a baby crib mobile with New Orleans charms, Stephanie's research led her instead to teethers as a new product category and silicone as a new production material.

Following her love of creating stylish and memorable products that honor both New Orleans and the early years of life and parenthood, Stephanie began crafting a new product line. Maison Nola Teethers feature Crescent City icons from local sports team emblems to beloved regional foods and flora.

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maison nola silicone teethers beignet maison nola silicone teethers muffuletta maison nola silicone teethers shrimp poboy maison nola silicone teethers crab
maison nola silicone teethers magnolia
maison nola teethers lsu fleur de lis
maison nola silicone teethers tulane fleur de lis
maison nola silicone teethers streetcar

"I didn't realize I had like struck gold with a teethers until the response was that everyone just fell in love with them," said Stephanie. "So I said, 'Oh, okay, great. Let's run with this. It's a completely different direction. Let's go with it."

The manufacturer Maison Nola partnered with on the line of teethers also produced bibs and sippy cups. This provided still another opportunity for synchronistic expansion within the realm of adorable New Orleans-themed baby products at varying price points for different customers and occasions — these and more available at Little Miss Muffin.

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maison nola storyland toile silicone bib
maison nola icon sippy cup
maison nola mardi gras throw me something mister silicone sippy cups
maison nola new orleans map silicone bib

View more from Maison Nola

maison nola storyland toile stuffed bears
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