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Interior designer Gillian Segal tackles a pair of projects, and finds beauty in connection and contrast.
All photography by Ema Peter
Gillian Segal’s latest Whistler project is impressive enough at first glance—the 5,700-square-foot home on the bank of Nita Lake is inviting and warm, with rich textures and sumptuous materials found at every turn. But then you learn that the designer simultaneously renovated a Vancouver home for the same family, and the word “impressive” no longer seems good enough. Miraculous, perhaps, is more appropriate.
For most people, one renovation is more than enough for a lifetime. To hear that one Vancouver family of five dared to tackle two simultaneously could be downright shocking… unless, of course, you know that they’ve hired an audacious, loves-a-challenge designer. Segal found juggling the duo of projects—the home joining the Nita Lake house is in Vancouver’s tony Shaughnessy neighbourhood—to be a unique and rewarding opportunity: a chance for her to explore both contrast and connection across two distinct properties.
The city house is a hundred-year-old Dutch colonial, while the Whistler home was built in 2007. “It was really fun to develop personalities for these two different homes,” Segal says. While Shaughnessy leans more on historical design references, Nita Lake favours more casual-contemporary features. And though both of the family’s homes feature a neutral palette with lots of muted creams and whites (with durable fabrics everywhere to withstand the wear-and-tear of three active kids), it’s the Whistler project that doubles down on the texture to bring warmth to even the most unobtrusive shades: plaster finishes and textured wallpaper cover every wall. “Working in both large- and small-scale patterns with textiles also helped to contribute a sense of play to the space,” says Segal. “And that’s something every vacation property needs.”
Because the five-bedroom Whistler home was relatively new, the project was all about thoughtful cosmetic updates. Segal refinished the floors and gave the whole space a fresh Farrow and Ball paint job. “The layout was good as-is; it was just about making it… more,” says Segal. “We focused on bringing in a lot of natural textures and handmade pieces to create a space that felt refined, but still informal and inviting.” Here, carefully curated vintage pieces are paired with handmade ceramic lighting, handwoven rugs and custom furniture designs made by local makers and artisans. “It helped create an eclectic feel that had warmth and personality while maintaining a light and airy feel,” she explains.
The family goes up to the Whistler property practically every weekend, year-round, so the home needed to be more than just a winter chalet. “It needed to be laid-back and super-comfortable for every season,” says Segal. “They’re big skiers and mountain bikers, they’re big entertainers, they’ve got three pre-teens and teenagers; the focus was on creating something really inviting and flexible.”
So, Segal considered every detail. “I actually love everything,” she laughs. The Natalie Page ceramic pendants are the focal point of the limewash-plastered dining room, but what sits below is special too: a Lock and Mortice tabletop, affixed to a base of vintage coral blocks from Chairish. (The chairs here are from Atelier Arking.)
The hero of the entryway is an enormous light fixture, woven from rope by L.A.’s Cuff Studio. “There was a fancy crystal fixture here before. It was the client’s least favourite thing, but we needed something to occupy a lot of space because of the double height… so when we came across this and it had this organic, cabin-y feel, and the scale, and this beautiful soft glow, we knew we’d found something special,” says Segal.
It’s that practice of discovery that really allowed Segal to find each home’s unique voice, even as common threads connected the designs. Both feature wallpaper, but in the Whistler bedroom, it works not as an accent but as an all-consuming feature. “I wanted this room to be a moody, cozy escape,” Segal explains. She papered the entire room in Phillip Jeffries grasscloth, including the vaulted ceiling, for a dramatic effect (though the wall above the fluted fireplace got its own treatment, with Gregorius Pineo Crackle paper, repurposed from the Vancouver home). An oversized rattan light fixture from Atelier Vime (60 inches in diameter!) is the cherry on the sundae.
Though it’s hard to imagine a tougher experience than going through two renovations at once, it’s clear that Segal’s ambitious clients have at least one more challenge to overcome—deciding which of these gorgeous homes they love more.
This story was originally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Western Living Magazine.
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