From cheeky foxes to sly masked raccoons, a witty, joyous spirit is alive and well in the offerings of Apartment On Belmont, the Seattle firm known for its charming stationery, art prints and accessories. Housed in a former preschool classroom in West Seattle, the company is the playground and creation of artist Michael Doyle and graphic designer Samantha Wagner. Taking cues from Doyle’s inimitable style, the partners have evolved a singular aesthetic for their signature stationery, which harks back to the bygone era of artful correspondence by scribes like Noël Coward and Colette. But perhaps the most distinctive hallmark of their work is its vibrant visual storytelling, featuring Doyle’s colorful host of characters. Named after the location of Doyle’s home, Apartment On Belmont “is a visual world that contains all the things we love,” says Wagner. “Similar to what a writer does in a fictional piece, we try to use descriptive words, settings, and characters to establish a rich, immersive world you wish you could live in.”
Doyle and Wagner’s illustrated realm has grown to include a cocktail party’s worth of personalities. Among them: friendly alligators; Lillian, a wide-eyed ingenue named for silent screen star Lillian Gish; and a languid rabbit dubbed Leonard in honor of Leonard Weisgard, the famed children’s book illustrator. These rich characters–“We’re going to keep adding to them and playing with them,” says Doyle–frolic amidst a landscape sometimes based on his native Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, with painterly forests and dreamy water views.
The duo originates concepts together, then Doyle will draw or paint the main content of what will become their finished designs. Sometimes they’ll pore through their archives (stored in vintage suitcases) to source items or find inspiration. Wagner then develops the images digitally, playing with composition, scale and repeating patterns. But the true alchemy occurs in between these moments of individual effort as they build mood boards and swap newly discovered books. And when brainstorming, “The first thing we do is leave the studio,” confesses Doyle about taking advantage of their eclectic community. “It feels a bit like we’re playing hooky,” says Wagner, “but we’re always gathering ideas. West Seattle is a neighborhood with a real authenticity, full of interesting people and characters.”
The creative partners plan to expand Apartment On Belmont, developing a line of wallpaper, textiles and other products highlighting their distinctive iconography. “We want to take this art we’re creating and fill a space with it, mostly because we also want our artwork for ourselves on these different applications,” shares Wagner. And as the brand grows, “Our mythology is growing too,” says Doyle. “The next chapter for us is to see where else our little world can go.”