Minnetonka Couple Marries Business + Design

The owners of Bouchard Design Co. blend creativity, passion and talent into each design that they create.

As a couple, Jen Westmoreland Bouchard and Michael Bouchard seem to be a study in contrasts. They prioritize international travel yet live in a house that’s been in Jen’s family since 1958. They both pursue their respective careers (she is a French professor, he is a wine salesman) yet collaborate to create, and re-create, their shared vision of Bouchard Design Co. Their jewelry has been sought after and worn by luminaries like musician Jack White—yet they also nurture their client and community relationships in Hopkins and Minnetonka.

But spend some time with Jen and Michael and you’ll realize that what at first seems to be divergent interests is actually a beautifully constructed life, one that blends personal and professional, art and business, old friends and new connections. Jen describes Bouchard Design Co.’s jewelry as “one-of-a-kind pieces.” It’s fitting, because she and Michael live a one-of-a-kind life.

Jen grew up in Minnetonka, in a house that the late architect Carl Graffunder designed for her grandparents. Like many other Graffunder designs, the home has large windows, exposed beams and a stunning fireplace in the living room. The house has been in the family for three generations. After 30 years of ownership, Jen’s grandparents sold the property to her parents in 1988, and Jen and Michael bought it from her parents in 2013.

Today, the house retains the mid-century feel that was a definitive feature when it was constructed for her grandparents in the 1950s. While the bathrooms and kitchen have received updates, the floor plan and major design elements remain uniquely Graffunder. Jen is intent on preserving its original look; she displays art and pottery that were part of her grandmother’s collection, and the family still uses furniture that once belonged to her grandparents. “It’s like a little time capsule,” says Jen. This space is both fully family-oriented, with personal touches from each generation, and fully artistic. With two art studios—his in the basement and hers in her old childhood bedroom—the house offers creativity and beauty.

After graduating from Hopkins High School and St. Olaf College, Jen’s first priority was to see the world. She lived in France before moving to Los Angeles to attend grad school at UCLA. In California, she met Michael, a Cali native who shared her interest in travel, culture and design. As their relationship developed, the two began to plan for a life together, and it was Michael, not Jen, who first suggested that they move to her hometown. “It was the quality of life,” says Michael, who was persuaded by Minnesota’s affordable housing and capacity to fuel the couple’s personal and professional interests. They moved back to the metro during the summer of 2007 and married just a month later.

(Left: Jen Westmoreland Bouchard and her husband Michael Bouchard; right: items from one of Jen's jewelry collections, photo by Lydia Jane Photography).

The couple settled into life in the west metro. In 2009, Jen began teaching French at Normandale Community College, and Michael worked as a salesman in various wine and food businesses. They welcomed their daughter, Lyla, in 2011, and as a family, they continued to travel domestically and internationally.

Individually, Jen and Michael also started to evolve in their respective artistic endeavors. Michael, an avid surfer who fulfilled this hobby by riding the waves on Lake Superior, began to build his own surfboards. “My day job was a little too cerebral, and I wanted to do something with my hands,” says Michael. This was his entry into design, and while it never evolved into anything beyond a hobby, it was a pivotal step in his artistry.

Meanwhile, Jen pursued some freelance writing opportunities, in addition to designing different jewelry pieces. In 2012, Jen began to take her jewelry-making more seriously. “What I started to do is put together collections,” she says. These first-generation collections were organized by geographical region, a nod to her global passion and experiences.

Each unique piece contains materials specifically selected from a range of global regions and periods. “I use elements from all over,” says Jen, who notes that she takes inspiration from colors, architecture, art and even people, from near and far. Her pieces range from classic to edgy, but all of them are inspired. “There’s the customer who likes what Jen is doing, and then there’s the customer who loves what Jen is doing,” says Michael. “She creates an emotional attachment. Her work inspires people.”

As Jen started creating and selling collections of necklaces, bracelets and belts, Michael’s talents coincided with her own. Jen wanted to include leather tassels on some of her necklaces, and Michael saw the slow process it took to manufacture each one. One day, Jen came home to discover that Michael, who grew up in a family of problem-solvers and artists, had built a small machine that allowed him to slice tassels faster and in greater quantity. With that, Michael became a leatherworker. Jen describes his learning curve as “aesthetic trial-and-error.”

In 2015, Michael began to produce and sell leather bracelets. “They went like wildfire,” says Michael, who uses a water-based dye to create a variety of colors. These bracelets caught the eye of musician Jack White. Through a “friend of a friend of a friend” connection, White’s team saw the bracelets and approached the Bouchards about ordering more to sell through their Nashville and Cass Corridor storefronts for Third Man Records. In order to accommodate the request, the Bouchards hired three contractors to help them fulfill such a large order. Ultimately, though, the artistic touch came from Michael. “I hand-dyed 1,000 bracelets last fall,” he says.

Despite the great compliment and huge business endorsement from a known musician, Bouchard Design Co. continues to honor and develop its relationships with customers in Minnetonka, Excelsior and beyond. In addition to local stores, Bouchard Design Co. pieces are also sold in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, New Orleans, New York City, and Columbus, Ohio.

(At left, young artist Lyla paints a leather bracelet made by dad Michael; right, leather bracelets and tassles, photo by Lydia Jane Photography).

Beyond the additions to her jewelry, Michael has also been integral in Jen’s own development as an artist. “We can bounce ideas off of each other,” says Jen, who explains that their deep trust in one another leads each of them to greater levels of creativity. “He’s encouraged me to push my limits.”

With this unique level of involvement from her spouse, paired with a great deal of natural talent and continued inspiration from frequent travels, Jen’s designs have matured into unique pieces that are accessible yet globally inspired. “It’s constantly evolving,” says Jen.

Michael’s leatherwork has also spiraled in ways that he couldn’t have predicted. Last spring, Michael fashioned some men’s belts, and he brought five of them to Art-A-Whirl, Northeast Minneapolis’ annual artist showcase. Not only did all five sell, but Michael left with a dozen more custom orders. In particular, customers clamored for his unique design of a reddish-brown belt with golden-tan loops and a copper buckle. This set Michael on a path to creating the ideal belt.

This is not a task he takes lightly, as he recognizes that belts are often an integral part of a man’s wardrobe. “You wear the same one or two belts every day,” says Michael. “It becomes part of who you are.” This “intimacy of a belt,” as Michael calls it, spurs him to use techniques and materials that ensure both design and durability. “I’ve created my own technique, which has gotten us the look we want,” says Michael. “I use the finest grade of leather. Because it’s one solid piece, they are going to last forever.”

Recently, all of this growth has meant bringing on new team members at Bouchard Design Co. One recent hire is Jen’s dad, Dan Westmoreland. After selling the family home to Jen and Michael, her parents moved just a few houses down the street. This allows them to be involved in the Bouchard family’s lives and business. In addition to his title as grandfather to Lyla, Westmoreland also works as a leather craftsman and with systems related to the design company’s wholesale accounts. Lyla, a kindergartener, also gets in on the family business. She designed kid bracelets for a fundraiser for ResourceWest. Like her parents, Lyla uses her artistic talents to support her local community.

With such a strong foundation in the Minnetonka area and so many connections nationally and internationally, it’s impossible to predict the trajectory of Bouchard Design Co., other than to acknowledge that the collective talent, passion, and experience of Jen and Michael will ensure continued inspired work. Both continue to welcome this evolution, whenever and however it occurs. “I’m always looking for ways to bring my interests in,” says Jen.

(Left, Jen and Lyla Bouchard read a book in their mid-century modern living room; at right, the Bouchards' dining room, rooms styled by Heidi Skoog).

Find Bouchard Design Co. jewelry and other pieces at these local shops.

 - Meridian, Excelsior
 - Fusion LifeSpa, Deephaven
 - Kisa Boutique, Ridgedale
 - The General Store, Minnetonka

Stop by a trunk show this month to see Bouchard Design Co.’s new collections up close.

Kisa Boutique, Ridgedale
September 15, 5–8 p.m.
Launch of the Bouchard Design Co. x Kisa collaborative jewelry collection, inspired by Turkish textiles.

Meridian Boutique, Excelsior
September 24, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Champagne trunk show featuring Bouchard Design Co.’s fall collection.