By Paul Lavoie, Paul Lavoie Interior Design

When I graduated from Mount Royal back in 1987, I had two job offers—one was in commercial work, and the other was with Douglas Cridland. I ran the dilemma by my instructor, and she said, “Well, you’ll either get the Hollywood of Western Canada, or you’ll be stuck behind a desk. You know what you need to do.”

douglas cridland
Credit: Martin Tessler

Douglas Cridland in his home in Calgary’s Eau Claire neighbourhood, from our January/February 2015 issue.

She couldn’t have been more right. I spent 13 years in Hollywood, and it was wonderful. Back then, Douglas Cridland Interior Design was a small office. Calgary was about to hit one of its many booms, and we had an A-list clientele, which Douglas really nurtured in this wonderful way. Honestly, the city had been a desert of residential design before he brought us water.

douglas cridland
Credit: Martin Tessler

Cridland’s own home features collections of artifacts picked up on his travels, paired with a lifelong art collection—he started it when he was just 16.

Douglas would give clients a classic collection of luxury and comfort with a wonderful sense of Western sensibility. He was the first person I ever heard use the term “prairie palette.” The colour palette here needs to understand soft light. That’s what gives you this dense quietness you have in the Prairies. He was the only designer I knew who loves a north light, because he could control it, how you feel in a room. He really was the king of a sophisticated, muted combination of things—in one of Douglas’s designs, you felt enveloped in luxury and texture and fine detail.

douglas cridland
Credit: Martin Tessler

Another shot of Cridland's home in 2015.

He really taught me details, those refinements in design that you’d never learn in school—little tricks, like how to insert an extension cord between the carpet and the baseboard, in a way that you’d never know there was a plug there. He was all about the details, and he never missed a thing. In his own home, he hated the look of light switches so much that he hid them in the closets.

Jack Bryan/Western Living March 1981
Credit: Jack Bryan/Western Living March 1981

For a kitchen in our March 1981 issue, Cridland’s clients wanted a “lean, industrial look.” He included open restaurant shelving—a good 20 years ahead of his time.

If there was anything that surprised clients about Douglas, it was his vocabulary—here was this sophisticated and sought-after designer who would easily drop an F-bomb into a sentence. But it instantly endeared his clients to him—he had this way of connecting with people. Not only were you getting this great designer, you were also getting this larger-than-life personality—and he made you feel like you were a part of something special.

John Sherlock/Western Living May 1990
Credit: John Sherlock/Western Living May 1990

The designer worked with architect Jeremy Sturgess on this interior from our May 1990 issue, and with many local artisans—including Winnipeg glass artist Warren Carther.

To read about more great people, designs, homes and innovations that shaped Western Living, click here.