Why I Do What I Do...
WHY I DO WHAT I DO
“You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps…” The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
It has been said that some things are just ‘in your blood’. While this is true for me as far as interior design and architecture is concerned, becoming and being an interior designer has not come easy, or in a straight line for that matter. I have been practicing interior design for over 2 decades, but It has required a lot of patience, study and hard work and indeed firm and bold steps.
When I was a young child I was fascinated with doll houses. I was always very interested in how buildings were built and, with some friends, I would sneak into building sites and check the layout of the spaces. That is, until fences were erected around buildings. I come from a family of builders. My grandfather was a builder who built homes in the town I grew up in. Other family members became builders as well. Plus there is an architect or two in my family’s history. I spent a lot time drawing houses, making floor plans, laying out gardens and fantasized large families living there. I saved some of those drawings. Ahh, the innocence of youth.
I would save my pocket money to buy decorating magazines. Growing up in the Netherlands I had access to a German magazine called Schöner Wohnen. This magazine showed a richness of interiors which would take my breath away and I would dream about creating beautiful houses. The magazine is still one of Germany’s top interior design and decorating publications.
Getting to be an interior designer was a road with hurdles and obstacles. When I finished high school I was intent of going to an arts academy to study design, but family circumstances blocked that road. After my studies in Cultural Anthropology (yeah, not my thing really - I was not looking forward to study societies around the world and a number of jobs to get some money in the bank, I finally enrolled in a design school in the Netherlands and then Canada. Setting up my own business was also not a direct line. From marriage, starting a family and moving to the US for a few years, all this postponed my dream. I had affirmative quotes on the walls, I had a vision binder, I never lost sight of what I wanted to do with my professional life.
And then one of those big life changes threw my life in chaos out of which I emerged with my own business. Finally! I dived head in and never looked back. It was not easy though. Financial security was low: interior designers are not paid that well at first. I now was a single mom and responsible for my son and I. Scary times for sure. We got through that and slowly I built up my client base. I have had some amazing projects all these years.
One that comes to mind is a house I re-designed in Point Roberts, Washington State (US). The house is located on the water with some amazing ocean views. Point Roberts is a small community of Americans and Canadians with a core group of year-rounders and cottage dwellers. We hired a local architect to produce drawings for building permit purposes. After initial and approved drawings the architect left the project to me and I completely transformed the exterior and a good portion of the interior. Great project, but even more importantly great clients to work with! Our collaboration has lasted for over a decade and we have become good friends and business associates.
My projects with Re/Max Crest Realty in Vancouver have also been a collaboration between a great client and myself with a mandate to come up with interesting dedicated designs for a number of offices. We completed the last one in 2017. All in all I worked on about 9 offices for this Re/Max group. We tailored the design for each office to the reality of the make up of clients located in the neighbourhood of the offices.
Early in my career I produced a store front design vision, interior drawings and elevations for the retail chain Quilts Etc., now known as QE Home. In those days many of the stores were located in Ontario. I was located in Vancouver at that time, so I never saw the stores built until in early 2016 I visited a shopping center in Vaughan (north of Toronto) where one of ‘my’ stores is located. That was fun to see, even though the retailer had rebranded by then.
My career has spanned a large number of residential clients with small commissions (from draperies to bathrooms) and large commissions (an 8000 sq.ft home with a large budget) to projects in the commercial sector, including offices, retail stores, medical clinics and coffee shops.
A few years ago I realized that more and more interior designers and decorators were flooding the interior design and building markets. People younger than I with technical skills I had to brush up on became competitors. After nearly 20 years of working by referrals only, I found myself bidding on projects. That was a new learning curve! After some time I decided it was no longer in my best interest and well-being to do that. I decided to reduce my involvement in interior design dramatically. And, after my mother’s death this summer I came to the conclusion it was time to quit the profession altogether.
However, back to the beginning of this article: design being in my ‘blood’ I am now keeping up to date by writing about my field in my blogs and by developing and teaching courses in interior design. Pass on my knowledge to a younger generation. And, bring design to a larger audience! Good design is expensive and not really in the realm of possibilities of a larger home owner base. My courses, upcoming e-book (Gotta Love That Colour) and blogs will bring my experience to this group.