Category: Inspirational

Housewarming Essentials: Celebrating Shelter And Comfort At Covenant House Vancouver

Interior Design

I got to spend a lovely afternoon with Andrea BolenJennifer Hall, of Covenant House, and Joan, one of the amazing volunteers at the Covenant House Housewarming. 


  • noun

“a party to celebrate a person’s or family’s move to a new home.”

I believe that the intent and energy you put into your home or workspace has a powerful impact on you and everyone who comes there. I can feel it when I enter a space. What was the intention here? It impacts, it affects, it evokes feelings. Am I welcomed, safe, intimidated, awed, inspired, soothed, embraced? We always experience a feeling, whether it’s conscious or not. Take a moment to check into that place in yourself. Take a breath and see how the space makes you feel. Often this is how you can discern the intent of a space.

So, when you plan a housewarming to celebrate moving into a new home or workspace the intent becomes what you are sharing and celebrating and that’s what matters most. 

Housewarming at Covenant House. 

Me with Krista Thompson, Chief Executive Director of  Covenant House, Vancouver

On September 5th, I had the honour of attending the housewarming of the new Covenant House Vancouver, at 1302 Seymour Street. It is a brand-new building; a vessel to hold the love that is always at the forefront of the work done at Covenant House. It was conceived and built by a caring committed team that invited us to celebrate this beautiful space with them.

Covenant House is a home, created for the youth who come to it. No matter what their circumstances are at that moment in their life. They are unconditionally loved and accepted for who they are.

A Labour of Love 

Some of the warm and welcoming team at Covenant House

The conception and development of the new building was a labour of love. I could feel it in the building itself as I walked up to the new entry. Once inside I was surrounded by past and present staff, volunteers, board members, donors, the architect, building team and operations teams that coordinated the move and settling of the youth into their new home. Without a word spoken you could feel that the intent was to provide the youth with a home that honours and respects them. A home that lets them know they matter. That love is here.

The youth asked for safe access to being outside. The patios were a priority when designing the building.

Drafting A Plan That Shelters, Comforts and Protects

For the creation of the new building, there was a very important process of investigation. Covenant House asked the youth what they needed to feel comfortable, safe and respected. Their answers included safe outdoor spaces, doors that ensure safety, privacy for showering and a place to do their own laundry. They asked for what they needed to feel comfortable because that is what home is for. It shelters, it comforts and protects. This is a basic human need, and like any good designer, Covenant House asked, then listened and responded. 

Each material and finish was chosen with intention and purpose.  The end result is beautiful, not just because of the materials used, but by what was etched into it by the creators.                                                 

A New Hope

Brand New Covenant House on 1302 Seymour Street. Architect NSDA

My focus, and what I aspire to as an interior designer, is to inquire, to listen and respond. I am inspired and encouraged by this special kind of housewarming and I am deeply grateful and happy for all of us that our city has a home like this for youth who find themselves in need of support, love and comfort. May it be so for everyone. 

If you feel inspired to donate to Covenant House, you can give through a myriad of ways. Please visit Covenant House Vancouver for information on how to donate. 

Claiming Space for a Room of One’s Own

Interior Design

Claiming Space
for a
Room of One’s Own

Serendipity is so exciting! I heard the expression “She Shed” for the first-time last week at a meeting and then within two days heard it again! 

Grey Shed in a lush garden field backyard. It has double doors and looks like a creative space for someone to work in.

A space intentionally created to nurture and nourish your spirit is something I think everyone should have. Size doesn’t matter but the intention does. While talking with some women recently about the concept of She Shed or Room of her Own someone said one of the men in her life said,“isn’t the whole house the She Shed”? My response is this, do not mistake responsibility for proprietorship. Women in 2019 still do the vast majority of the domestic light and heavy lifting no matter what their living situation.

A room of her own as I define it, is a space intentionally created for the wellness of her creative force – her body, mind and spirit. If this happens to be her whole home then that is fantastic and aspirational but unfortunately not the norm. It is remarkable to me that the themes of Virginia Woolf’s – A Room of One’s Own are still so relevant today.

This is a graphic image that reads - Introverts Unite. We're Here. We're Uncomfortable and we want to go home

Our creative and spiritual needs are often placed second if placed at all. Kitchen tables, kitchen islands, the dining room table, a box on the bottom stair or under the coffee table or sofa, teetering on the edge of night stands. They become afterthoughts that cohabit with the things and activities in a home that will come first, like meals, laundry and school or work projects. We shuffle to the side our needs for creative expression and space to think and reflect and hope someday to have the space for them.

Recently, at DSID we have been working on a project for a woman who is kind, generous and devoted to her work of fundraising for the Ride for the Cure. She is inspiring and like all women with a purpose she uses most of her time focusing on the work she is doing. So that is where we come in to help create a space in her basement for her to do her work and to nurture her spirit as well as provide a space for the occasional overnight guest. 

Mood Board showing fabrics, goods, furniture, colors and drawings.

In my own life we recently moved our office/studio from my home into a new space that we lovingly call “plump space” because it isn’t actually plump at all… it is a sweet little laneway house and we love it. Tiny but mighty with potential! This left me with an empty room in my home and more space in general. So rare is an empty room in my life that to be totally honest it overwhelmed me. I raised four children – and then downsized to spaces from 500 to 1000 square feet, this does not usually add up to empty rooms. I noticed that my first reaction to the empty room was to start planning what I will put in it. A sofa, a sofa bed, a murphy bed, the TV? 

Then it occurred to me to ask myself what do I need from the empty room? What would feel great and what would serve me? Wow! I teach and preach this in my work as an interior designer – what use of your space will serve you?  But somehow applied to my own life it was revolutionary since my default thinking is always – what would make everyone else comfortable? What would my family want or need when they come here? What might a guest need? As I grapple with this issue of what do I want?

I have left the room empty and I find myself standing in it sometimes feeling delighted by it and at the same time confused by it. But what I am clear on is that it will be a room of my own. Which is so exciting to me and reminds me how important this is. It is my time to define what will inspire and nurture me – give me space to be. To reflect and dance or stretch or just sit on the floor and meditate.

What might you need to create this for yourself? What intention would you need to set for yourself? What tangible things would you need? A small alter to sit by and take a few moments – a blanket or yoga mat to stretch out on before bed – a chair of your own with a few things near it that make you feel good. What physical changes might be possible in your home to chisel out some space for yourself? 

You are worth taking the time to consider it if not take action to define and create it. Consider this the note from the principal to go ahead and create some space of your own.

Wondering (thinking) about hiring an interior designer?

Interior Design

Wondering (thinking) about hiring an interior designer?

What an interior designer really does and a glimpse into the interior design process.

Before you hire an interior designer, make sure you know what they can do. One of the most common experiences of my work/life as an interior designer is navigating what people think or believe I do versus what I actually do. 

What people think/believe I do is influenced by what they watch and read, what industry they work in and of course, past experiences. So, part of my work is navigating this belief and inviting the client and, in some cases contractors and suppliers into a productive design and planning process. 

I love my work and I see it as a powerful way to help people improve their overall experience of life by making their home and work spaces nurturing and enriching. Over the 25 years of my interior design practice I have noted that there is a spectrum of what folks imagine an interior designer does – I am half kidding and exaggerating a bit about this, but you will get the idea…

 At one end of the spectrum we dominate the process without regard for the client’s aesthetic, their needs or their budget – we swish in wearing fabulous clothes and wave our hands around demeaning what is and demanding what we want…

 At the other end of the spectrum we are magicians – still wearing fabulous clothes – we will make the giant leather sofa fit, the ceiling stay up without a wall, the sink work without a drain and lamps work without a cord. Ta Da! 

Complete DSID Kelowna Project – 2018

While every interior designer has their own style of working with their clients, there are some foundational things that should be standard in every project. Whether it is a construction project or a furnishing project, these are not options but requirements.

  •  Accurate measurements
  • To scale drawings
  • Detailed specifications

 It may not sound sexy or glamourous to most people, but the drawings and specifications we create for you become your contracts and agreements with everyone that works on your project, even you. Knowing what is expected and required keeps everyone on track and makes for the long-term success of the project. It respects you and your vision.

 I know I am taking the shine off of the glam of interior design, but we are planners – we are specifiers and we use our creativity to solve problems and make things beautiful.   

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” ― Brian Tracy

 So really not swishy or sexy. It is actually very practical and full of common sense which is confusing when you notice how media portrays most interior designers. But here is the truth as I see it, interior designers are professional interior planners…with really good PR.

We know that everything in a space relates both in form and function to everything else in the space and often beyond that to the exterior. We conceive and imagine in macro – the big picture but we work in micro – the multitude of details

 For example: when you say I already have my wall tile purchased – I think – does it have the right composition and transition possibilities for the application? You probably thought I wondered what colour it was – right? 

That is why it usually isn’t cheaper to do a bunch of the work yourself and then hire a designer to “finish it up”. We still have to understand all the existing materials and fixtures in order to finish the project. So, either we spend the time planning and sourcing from the beginning, or we spend the time understanding what is already in the works. In reality, most projects involve both. That’s why we get very excited about coming into a project that is in concept development – we can plan and make any changes “on paper” rather than during construction or worse, the implementation phases.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln 

You plan your wedding, you plan your finances, you plan your education, often with the help of a skilled professional. I appreciate how self-serving this sounds but making the investment of working with an interior designer is an investment in planning. We approach things first by understanding all the parts, figuring out how they all fit together and finally put it all together for you. Not for us, or our portfolio, but for you. After saying all that and knowing the outcomes of good interior design planning practices, it actually is quite transformative and magical.