Given that Western Living is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, nostalgic deep-dives have been part of our daily life for months now—and I’m loving every minute of it. Case in point: I’ve been warmly reflecting on our very first Designers of the Year awards party, which took place back in 2008. We were in a showsuite for the (never to be built, as it turned out) Ritz-Carlton, and both architect Arthur Erickson and interior designer Robert Ledingham were among the attendees. Given their reputation for supporting emerging designers—a reason we still honour them today with their namesake memorial awards—it’s no surprise they were there to celebrate their peers. We’d planned for 150 guests, and instead crowded in over 300.
Some things have changed since that first year—“Eco” was retired as a category, and instead became a criterion in all of the award categories; “Maker” was launched in 2016—and our epic parties grew into boisterous affairs held in an airplane hangar, an abandoned Target store, an artist’s warehouse and many more unique locations.
And while so much of our day-to-day world has changed (we certainly weren’t crowding 600+ guests into an event last year), I’ve drawn a lot of comfort from the little things that haven’t—and high on that list is the day the results from our judges are tallied and I get to call each of our winners and let them know it’s their year to claim the title of Designer of the Year. There are whoops and cheers and sometimes tears, and it’s always a wonderful moment, whether or not there’s a big party to follow.
We’ll be hosting a much more intimate celebration with this year’s winners this fall (catch it September 23 on Facebook and Instagram Live!) and I look forward to bigger and louder parties to come as we inch forward into a (hopefully) post-pandemic life. In the meantime, we’re thrilled to present the 2021 Designers of the Year to you here.
I hope their work inspires you to dream of moments of nostalgia to come.