Western Living Magazine
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Design duo Johnson McLeod searches the Armoury District for surprising statement pieces and natural beauty.
Furnishing your home should be 80 percent good taste and 20 percent fun,” laughs Ian McLeod, one half of Vancouver design firm Johnson McLeod. He and partner Kerry Johnson have a penchant for incorporating an element of surprise into the spaces they design—mixing luxe accessories with affordable pieces, bringing in out-of-scale objects for a hit of whimsy, or pairing raw, organic elements with angular, modern ones.
Since moving here from Toronto in 1983, the pair have split their time between a beach-chic cottage on Mayne Island and a contemporary and warm Kitsilano apartment; the resulting combination of island life and city living has clearly influenced their design aesthetic. “In our work, we like to bring in natural elements wherever possible,” says McLeod, as he tweaks a display on the showroom floor of Fullhouse Modern, draping a reindeer-skin throw over a crisp sofa and shifting a tree-trunk stool to the front of the tableau.
Incorporating natural elements into a more structured setting may be the couple’s specialty. Their projects have ranged from law firms and urban condos to historic homes, but the overarching principle that drives their work—that golden ratio of taste to fun—can be found in every room they touch. They’re regulars in the Armoury District, where they source furniture and decor to suit their eclectic tastes (think vintage lighting from Wow Interiors and graphic statement seating from Livingspace) within a few densely packed blocks.
Stepback 2936 W. Broadway, stepback.ca
“Stepback is one of our go-to places for really fun stuff. We’ve known owners Chris and Robin for a long time, and they have a great selection of vintage pieces. This antique drafting desk is a very handsome piece—a real jewel to find. We love beautiful, old pieces mixed with more contemporary, crisp ones—this would look great paired with an extremely racy modern stool,” says Ian McLeod.Livingspace 1706 W. 1st Ave., livingspace.com
“We’ve ordered some wonderful things from Livingspace. They’re great for accessories, or for splurging on one big item that becomes the focal point in a room,” says McLeod. “This light fixture by local designer Omer Arbel is a real statement piece. Its ideal location would be in an entrance stairwell with 25-foot-high ceilings, but it would even looking stunning from a nine-foot ceiling. This satiny, elegant, honed-marble MDF Italy Flow table feels like you could put almost any kind of chair around it. It’s a sublime use of a natural material in a contemporary way.”Viva Café 1555 Yew St.
“After hours of drafting at home, we love coming to Viva Café for a break—we’ve known Dawn, the owner, for years. We love the cajun chicken panino and the kale salad,” says McLeod.Wow Interiors 1823 W. 4th Ave., wowinteriors.ca
“We’ve known Wow Interiors‘ owners Ron and Kirsten for ten years—their store is great for finding large-scale items, like interesting lights, that really make a statement in a room. They supply vintage pieces to movies, so it’s very prop-oriented,” says McLeod. “These 1940s lights were originally used if you were lost at sea, but they were adapted for use in Hollywood too. They’d be a beautiful statement piece in a home.” Johnson is drawn to the glass-topped coffee table: “I love this mid-century modern coffee table that walks the fine line between contemporary and traditional. The wooden base is very organic—we love natural-looking pieces.”Fullhouse Modern 1545 W. 4th Ave., fullhousemodern.com
“The owner of Fullhouse Modern, Jennifer, has an unerring eye for clean lines in natural materials. Everything in this store is flawlessly elegant—there are no bad lines,” McLeod notes. “The Gus Modern Davenport sofa here is the perfect sofa—it’s tailored and clean-lined, and it floats up into the air on fine legs, which helps to lighten the look of a room.”Brougham Interiors 1855 Fir St., broughaminteriors.com