With its growing popular appeal, interior design has become something that anyone and everyone thinks they can now do, at home or in the office. But take it from Vancouver’s pros: getting it right requires more than just “paint and pillows.”
In the current zeitgeist, interior designers are the new rock stars. They have colour-swatched, clean-lined and pillow-fluffed their way through endless hours of home-decor television shows and achingly chic magazine front covers, even during the recession.
Design-renowned Miami has the likes of Barbara Hulanicki, who created the former Biba fashion empire in the ’60s; London’s darling is Anouska Hempel; and in New York it’s Thom Filicia and Julian Schnabel. In B.C. Kelly Deck, Kari Henshaw and Robert Ledingham are household names and part of a local industry that saw its ranks grow from 572 to 793 firms between 2006 and 2008, with revenues rising by almost 22 per cent over the same period.
Perhaps no firm exemplifies the burgeoning role of Vancouver designers on the international stage better than SmartDesign Group. The outfit was co-founded by London native Nick Baker in 2000 when his U.K.-based Baker’s Design Group merged with Vancouver’s Sunderland Innerspace Design Inc. (The latter was established by 35-year design veteran Jon Sunderland, who remained a partner with Baker until his retirement this January.) Baker expects SmartDesign’s revenue to grow between 30 and 40 per cent over the next two years as it works on projects around the world, including its specialty of airports (Doha, London Gatwick, LAX, JFK) as well as Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin, Ireland, and England’s Brighton Arena.
Like many British expats, Baker was lured by the quality of life in B.C. as compared to London. (“Far too many miserable faces and cars on the streets in London,” says the father of four daughters, aged 10 to 17. “And it’s so grey – even when it’s dull here at least you get green.”) Even if barely five per cent of his work is B.C.-based (Whole Foods Market, YVR and Everything Wine are major clients), Baker believes the region helps fuel both the company’s creativity and the sustainability card it often plays.