So, how did I come to be so well versed about furniture without the requisite formal education? Exposure and Experience. Having lived with Scott since we were teenagers, I had constant exposure to his favourite topic of conversation – Interior Design and common sense, or in some cases, lack thereof!
Our very first apartment (at 18 years old) was the show suite of the building, furnished with brand new tables from The Hudson’s Bay and an oatmeal sectional from Harry Hammer’s Warehouse, replete with fashionable toss pillows. Not for us, the hallmark yellow milk crates as bookshelf bases; or the raggedy chair from Mom and Dad’s basement; no, we had a colour co-ordinated, decorated and accessorized living space to be proud of. We were broke, borrowed groceries from our folks and scrounged for coins to buy an occasional weekend drink, but our place looked FANTASTIC.
Our next home was destined for redecorating from the moment we moved in. It didn’t stand a chance. White walls are not allowed in our personal space any more than white shirts were allowed in Scott’s wardrobe and soon the mahogany panel wall was flanked with green wallpaper. Although that mahogany wall had to stay, the wall dividing two small bedrooms was very quickly demolished to give us a spacious bedroom, even though we shared a double bed. (Oh, to be 20 and skinny again). So, you did see that – 20 years old – and already renovating and redecorating. Of course, when you have a pad that is this impressive, you have to show it off and, show it off we did! Friday night get-togethers and weekend dinner parties became our hallmark for the decades to follow.
Adventure and a bad economy impelled us out to Toronto where we bought our very first house and to the chagrin of my wood loving parents, proceeded to paint our Oak railings a beautiful shade of coral. Room after room was swept with individual style as we experimented with faux painting techniques, hand stenciling and strategic placement of prized art work. Even my English country garden was a riot of colour and texture with close to a hundred species of flowers that bordered Scott’s impeccably groomed lawn. He mowed it every week with an old fashioned push lawn mower and it was so lush that guests thought it was fake!
The jewel of our house was our dining room where I discovered that Trompe l’oeil marble in shades of mauve and ivory can indeed pass for crumbling castle walls. Thus began my love affair with Purple.
After much consideration Scott committed to the Interior Design program at Durham College and threw himself wholeheartedly into his studies and volunteer activities. Surprisingly, this is when I learned to cook. Our resident gaggle of hungry students, intent on finishing a term project, eventually needed to eat and that fell to me to feed them more than just cookies and cakes. I also learned a new language; isometric drawings; scale and proportion; that an egress is an exit and most importantly; that most Interior Designers, no matter how creative their projects are, will always wear black.
The next decade was a merry-go-round of industry events, clinking wine glasses with fledgling Interior Designers who are now famous, and having a privileged seat at the table of Award Winners sharing their design do’s and don’ts. So, while I was not the one with the institutional education, I nonetheless was the lucky recipient of my own informal enlightenment.
Fast forward to the new millennium, Scott and I have returned to the West Coast with our young sons where he is fulfilling his ambition of entrepreneurship. I embraced the role of motherhood and in an effort to improve my parenting skills; volunteered to facilitate a parenting course at night school. Over the next three years my listening and communication skills greatly improved, although my motherly discipline always escaped me in favour of indulgence and enjoying the little moments, especially when celebrated with food. It is my innate belief that anything can be made better with a piece of dessert.
Having our own company gave me a comfortable landing spot to return to work as I learned all about the corporate office furnishings industry. Quite often I had to “sink or swim” as I was thrust into a vacated position with no training. The business of contract office furnishings is not “heart surgery”, as Scott is fond of saying, but it does feel like every day is on the brink of a time crisis. Ergonomics” became my buzz word of the decade, because even the prettiest looking office can’t be useful if the furniture is not the right size and layout for the employees to work comfortably, to their full potential. This is where I learned how furniture should fit to the body for utmost comfort and good health. It is not something to be taken lightly, nor dismissed as quackery. Businesses were responsible to provide suitable office furniture for their employee’s daily usage that didn’t cause them to suffer repetitive strain injuries. So, while people had the advantage of professionally chosen furniture at work, they were not so well equipped once it came to choosing their own furniture at home. I encountered this exact difficulty once I started selling home furnishings at a retail furniture store. I use the term “selling” loosely, because really I felt like more of a “facilitator”, empowering the customers with information so they could make the right choice. Sadly, this was too much for most people to take in all at once while they were in the store and quite often I sent them home with instructions on how to measure for their purchase. It was astounding to me, that so many people were simply unprepared to make a decision; especially considering how seldom one replaces their sofa or bedroom set.
Soon it became apparent that it would be even more helpful for me to go to customer’s homes and do the work for them. Once the measurements of their space had been charted on a plan, the size and items of furniture became readily apparent according to the traffic flow, placement of doors, windows and overall footprint of the room. The resultant information was INVALUABLE. People were able to make their buying decision with confidence in the purpose of each piece and its fit into the room.
And there you have it! Or maybe you don’t and I lost you somewhere along the way, but here we are; Scott and I together, doing what we love.