Property Guardian Spotlight – Q&A with JF Lemay

We’ve found there’s no such thing as a typical LOWE property guardian – although reliability, creativity and a positive attitude are recurring attributes. This week we spoke to JF Lemay, one of our trusted licensees, about his experience with LOWE and why the furniture in his living room is 100% bespoke.

Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I’m originally from the French speaking part of Canada, Quebec. I came to London 15 years ago to undertake my master’s degree.

Q. What’s your profession?
A. I’m an architect, and I also design furniture and create pieces of art.

Q. How did you hear about property guardianship?
A. While in my first job after graduating, I heard about another creative who was living in a warehouse in Battersea. I remember thinking it sounded like the coolest thing, and it was something I kept in the back of my mind.

Q. How did you become to live with LOWE?
A. When I started my own business, I needed to reduce my rent. Someone I knew was living as a property guardian in a building looked after by LOWE, and they explained how affordable it was. It sounded like the ideal solution. I went through LOWE’s selection process, and moved in to a former care home in Finsbury Park – where I lived throughout the pandemic. Each floor was a bubble of about 10 people, and it was really nice having the company of others throughout that time of isolation.

Q. Where do you live now?
A. I’m now in Earls Court, sharing with two other licensees in a terraced house dating back to the nineteenth century. The houses were earmarked for demolition – the whole street had been boarded up – but the developer’s plans changed, and they approached LOWE to look after the properties until the next phase of development. LOWE have done a great job
of refurbishing it – including installing new radiators and a new boiler. I’d say they’ve taken good care of the property, even though it may be developed in to something else eventually.

Q. What do you enjoy about living in a LOWE property?
A. It’s a unique way of renting, it’s affordable, and the buildings are well looked after. It also enables me to pursue a creative career.

Q. Have you worked in one of LOWE’s creative spaces too?
A. Yes – for two years I had a desk in one of their co-working spaces which was fantastic. Tim and Poppy [LOWE’s founders] and their team have outreach programmes for young designers, creatives and entrepreneurs – and I’m an example of that. The way they helped me was to offer a free work-space, and at the time it was a big boost for my business. I’m really grateful to them.

Q. How have you made your LOWE home personal to you?
A. As licensees, we are entrusted to take care of the building we live in. So I have personalised it in other ways, by furnishing it with my own bespoke pieces of furniture. All of the furniture in our living room are pieces I’ve designed – mostly prototypes I’ve been working on for 10 years. I designed the sofa, dining table, benches, stools, the lamps…it makes it feel like home.

Q. Describe one of your proudest moments?
A. I recently made a piece with an Iranian artist, Soheila Sokhanvari, who was invited to do a solo show at the Barbican in London. She wanted to conclude the show with a big sculpture, and she approached me and we started working on it together. It’s now on display in the Curve gallery in the Barbican.