Western Living Magazine
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Here are the key places, activities and influences that ignite the Vancouver designer's creativity
I’ve been experiencing Italy almost every year of my life and I have many happy places there—strolling through Orvieto’s main street, visiting open-air antique markets and picking figs from wild trees. There’s one particular spot that stands out for me, however: when I was younger, my aunt and uncle regularly took us to explore the grounds of a deconsecrated church up on a hill in Tuscany outside of Pisa. When I went back with my husband years later, I felt so at peace near the old church stone, surrounded by fields of wild poppies and fresh air fluttering through the now-wild olive grove. That moment and that place serves me in my work to create peaceful places for clients.
2. The Glades Woodland Garden
Located less than an hour’s drive outside of Vancouver, this place is an absolute wonderland of colour when the rhododendrons—which make up 90 percent of the garden are in bloom. Murray Stephen created the woodland garden with his wife back in 1956 to remind himself of his native Scotland, and some of his rhododendrons tower tens of feet in the air. It’s also great place to practice saying “indumentum” (a favourite word of mine meaning the hairy surfacing of a plant—many rhododendrons have a velvety underside to their leaves).
I grew up surrounded by wonderful home cooks: mamma, nonna, Italian aunts (and the occasional uncle—Zio Antonino’s spaghetti alle vongole is sheer poetry). And, like them, I cook to feed but I also cook to create. While I’m quietly creating a dish for lunch, whether it’s my father’s eggs in tomato sauce or a salad aped from Nigel Slater’s cookbooks, I derive great satisfaction from the process of conceptualizing a meal, the implementing of it and the immediate enjoying of it! My family and I give Italian cooking workshops: we teach one of our family recipes and enjoy a wonderful meal either at the harvest table in our kitchen or in our back garden surrounded by flowers.
4. Comfortable Corners
I love a space that could have easily been overlooked—that, with some sensitivity and thought, has been turned into a place to feel something. My favourite “corner” in my own home is the hallway on the main floor: it could have simply been a space used to get from one end of the house to the other, but by giving it personality—the arches and barrel-vaulted ceiling; painting it deep navy and adding a star-shaped pendant light—it’s a place that makes you smile.
5. Nicola Harding
I first heard the U.K.-based Harding speak during the online sessions of the Calico Club during COVID (silver linings!) and I felt she was speaking my language: creating places, not spaces, listening to clients and designing from the inside out to create unique work. She uses colour and pattern fantastically and I look to her work often for inspiration.
This story was originally published in the September 2023 issue of Western Living Magazine.
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