You can catch a hint of the naturally inspired holiday scene that’s inside Sarah Duyker’s North Vancouver home as you walk up to the front porch. Two potted spruce—a twin set—sit on either side of the entry, each decorated with pinecones, pink pepper berries and white glowing candles. It’s the type of woodsy, effortlessly elegant arrangement that actually does take both effort and a smart design eye—and so It’s no surprise that its creator has rolled her love of natural design into the business of decorating, yes, front doorways.

Duyker and her business partner, Cindy Mast, launched their front-porch seasonal decorating service—called Stoops—just over a year ago. “I love gardening and the changing of the seasons, and the business was born out of that,” says Duyker. Autumn arrangements might include fall grasses and millet in tones of the season, along with heirloom pumpkins and a warm-hued wreath. Spring might see cherry blossoms in thoughtful arrangements. Holidays, of course, mean evergreens and the muted colours you see on Duyker’s own front porch.

While she had a strong vision for what the exterior entrance should be, for the inside of her home Duyker recruited designer Sophie Burke to strip back a once-traditional design to a more modern space. “I really love understated, natural design as an overall aesthetic,” says Duyker.

For the renovation, Burke’s team worked to cull any excess finishes€”like arches and mouldings in the kitchen, and an awkward pantry that chopped up the kitchen layout—and introduced simpler materials, including a limestone fireplace surround. “We look at this design as a kind of  ‘modern Shaker,'” says Burke. “We tried to insert a more austere and clean aesthetic into a more traditional envelope.”

The kitchen is now designed so that the whole family—including her three sons, aged seven, nine and 11—can easily help out with the dinner prep. “I feel like It’s important, raising boys, to get them to pitch in and help,” says Duyker. “Functionally, we designed it so the kids can really participate in the kitchen from a chores perspective.” To wit, there are no upper cabinets—everything is accessible in the lower drawers. “My eldest loves to cook,” she says, “and my middle ones love to set the table, with proper napkins and everything.”

Knowing that Duyker already had a great sense of style and interesting collections—including pieces from potter Janaki Larsen, and objets d’art from local design shop Provide—Burke included open display where the upper cabinets would have been. “Some clients are scared of open space because they don’t know what to put there,” says Burke. “She has beautiful pieces, so she was happy to have places for display.”

For the holiday season, the same natural and organic style that Duyker brings to her business is seen throughout her home. Tree ornaments are felted wool, and wooden beaded garlands wrap the tree. A eucalyptus garland rests atop the mantel, and any colour comes from nature, too: pomegranates on the kitchen shelves; preserved orange slices Duyker creates by dehydrating them at low temperature in the oven. “In general, we like to keep our entertaining casual,” says Duyker. “Nothing’s overly fussy, and everything is served family-style—which is why the kitchen is great. The kids regularly make gingerbread in here, too, though they usually eat them before they’re decorated!”

Whether it’s holiday season or a regular week, the home has a welcoming, warm spirit that invites you to stay awhile. “I loved that Sophie’s design feels really authentic and lived in, and not too fussy. She adds a real warmth to the space—it’s just not cluttered,” says Duyker.

“I have three busy boys, so my house is very busy and loud,” she adds with a laugh. “Visually, I just wanted it to be calm.” 


This story was originally published on November 12, 2019.