“Disruptive” and “future-looking” is how president and CEO Daniel Drapeau describes his kitchen design company Miralis, located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Rimouski, Que. “Every three years, we try to do something that’s totally unique, that no one else is doing,” he says. “My management team pretends we are writing an article for a newspaper 10 years in the future. We interview ourselves like journalists. Then we build an action plan around the answers.” Drapeau’s philosophy has seen Miralis grow from 120 to 300 employees since 2009, with sales increasing more than 16% per year.
“Disruptive” was actually Drapeau’s mot d’ordre from the start. Ten years ago, when he bought the company from its founder, Jean-Paul Lauzier, 70% of Miralis’s sales were in kitchen cabinet doors and panel manufacturing. Drapeau, an engineer and self-described inventor, decided it was time to shed the past and set out to move away from just selling kitchen doors and panels, instead focusing on designing and building full contemporary European-style kitchens—complete with countertops, cabinets and hardware. “We were among the best kitchen cabinet door manufacturers in North America and were well-known for them, but it just didn’t inspire me,” says Drapeau.
“However, I loved the idea of being the best in contemporary kitchens. It gave me butterflies in my stomach!”
Drapeau, a native of Rimouski, had long dreamed of owning his own company. He was working in telecommunications in Montreal when a friend mentioned that Miralis’s owner was looking for someone to take over. “I thought about it for two weeks and knew it was for me,” says Drapeau, who moved his family to Rimouski, then worked for Lauzier for two years before buying Miralis.
Drapeau visits trade shows and designers in Italy several times a year to gauge emerging trends that he can launch in North America. “We look for what’s going to take off, styles that are distinct and will allow us to be innovative,” he says. In 2016, Miralis introduced “rough chic” kitchens, developing a special machine with metal brushes to give ash wood the grey-yellow-brown patina of barnboard. The same year, Miralis launched the “curio,” a made-to-measure integrated display cabinet fitted with LED lights.
To put his ideas into practice, Drapeau looks to a three-person advisory board made up of well-respected and experienced people he’d connected with in the Quebec business community. “You have to be open to criticism if you want to progress. You have to be able to make yourself vulnerable,” he explains.
Last year, Drapeau—who cites legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel as a hero (“Her designs were modern but aged incredibly well”)—organized a “lab” at the luxurious Le Germain hotel in Quebec’s Charlevoix region with 25 designers and architects from the Quebec City area. The intent was to nail a modern but timeless aesthetic for the company. “We asked them: ‘What is beautiful? What is not?’ ” he explains.
Drapeau’s goal is to put the Miralis brand on par with major European kitchen design brands like Poggenpohl and Scavolini. In 2019, he is planning a road show to visit retailers in Quebec, Ontario and the U.S. and tell them about his plans. “There aren’t a lot of known brands in the kitchen design business here in Canada, yet. We want to be one of them.”