Detail-driven designers Chad Falkenberg and Kelly Reynolds celebrate Railtown’s hands-on culture.
"People are becoming increasingly aware of where their food comes from—it’s a similar trend in design,” says interior designer Chad Falkenberg. “This city attracts people who are dedicated to quality of life.” Falkenberg makes up one half of the design firm Falken Reynolds, the other half being partner in life and business, Kelly Reynolds. And Railtown, Falkenberg notes—the industrially inclined area framed by colourful freight containers that lands in the sweet spot between Chinatown and Gastown—may well be the epicentre of this newfound focus on local design. The pair are regulars here, sourcing custom teak tables from Bloom Furniture or specialty fabric from William Switzer for their acclaimed modern residential projects. Falkenberg and Reynolds first combined their talent, industry savvy and last names in 2011 to establish their Vancouver-based firm, and have since quickly moved to the forefront of the West Coast design scene. Twice nominated for Western Living’s Designers of the Year awards, the duo has expanded their reach to a global scale: with two commissions in the U.S. and regular treks to the annual Milan Furniture Fair under their belts, they’re now considering projects overseas. They’re currently finishing their first restaurant design, Sai Woo, on East Pender, though private homes still occupy the majority of their time. “You build relationships with the clients, you become friends,” says Reynolds. “It’s really a good thing.” Both men took unusual routes to design: Falkenberg’s background is in business and Reynolds did stints in both the military and the police force. But while their paths are unique, their vision is united. “Our style floats between modern Scandinavian and Italian, with a North American perspective: I’ve coined some of our work ‘Canadian Nordic,’” says Falkenberg. The two make a good pair as business partners, too: though both are part of the creative and concept work, one is more systems-minded, the other better suited to client liaison—or, as Falkenberg jokes, “I’m the shopper…Kelly is more of the online shopper.” But both feel right at home in the hands-on Railtown district, which is rapidly being populated with showroom-workshops (like Thiessen Art Services, a custom framing shop that invites customers to walk through a litter of works in progress) that bring craftsmanship to the forefront. “There’s definitely a movement right now of interior designers becoming more aware of how products and furniture are created,” says Falkenberg, describing colleagues who are building their own products and sharing the process with customers. “It’s young, populated with lots of young professionals,” adds Reynolds. “It feels like everyone’s starting together. It’s a community.”
Colin Campbell “Every square inch of these Zoe Luyendijk carpets at Colin Campbell has about a hundred knots,” explains Falkenberg (pictured right). “We come to the store to see the pattern and then select colours.”
William Switzer “We did this chair for William Switzer’s booth at IDSwest. We love that their workshop is across from the showroom,” says Falkenberg. “There’s a connection to how things are made.”
Bloom “It’s probably four months from start to end for a custom project like this,” says Reynolds of the teak table he designed at Bloom for a client. “It’s very satisfying to see the end result.”
Thiessen Art Services “Brandon at Thiessen Art Services hangs and delivers art, but he also has a collection,” says Falkenberg. Reynolds adds, “His guys are always so laid-back and it’s really a pleasant experience.”
Inform to the Trade “We have a few places we always go when we’re first looking, and that usually involves Inform to the Trade,” says Falkenberg. “We can take a client here and have them actually sit in a chair.”
Cousin Jack “Sheldon at Cousin Jack gets his work by word of mouth. He doesn’t even have cards,” says Falkenberg. The barber shares his space with a guitar design studio.
Ask for Luigi “We’re down here two or three times a week, and we always go to Ask for Luigi,” says Falkenberg. “I get the fennel sausage every time,” says Reynolds.