Monday, 19 July 2010

Victoria’s Design Scene: An Inside Look

Early in the year an article that I wrote filled the pages of YAM Magazine – Today I am posting the complete content of the article with some new additions.


I am often asked the same questions – What do you think about the “design scene” in Victoria? Who are the best designers in Victoria? Is Victoria a good market to work in? Is there much competition in Victoria? 

I think “the design scene” in Victoria has drastically changed since I began Meade Design Group in 2002. In seven years I have seen the main group of designers evolving and growing, while constant newcomers are bringing new and fresh design options to the market.  When I started my firm, I kept hearing the same five names over and over again, but as time passed and I became more part of the design community the list has grown.  And this makes sense: Victoria is evolving into a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city considering its relatively small size. A diverse, competent, and celebrated design community is what one would expect in a city that offers such high quality cultural resources and entertainment.  What other city our size has such fantastic Opera, Ballet, Theatres, Museums, and Art Galleries?  Victoria even has commercial districts with distinctive styles and purpose like Antique Row, Lo Jo, and the new Design District.



When I was invited to brand and create the image for The Design District I thought it was a great opportunity to evaluate the design scene in Victoria.  I got to learn who are the designers that shop in the area?  Who are the design enthusiasts that go there every weekend?  Which couples do you see looking for bargains or for that perfect piece for the vacant corner in their home? What are the stores in the area that are bringing new customers and educating potential clients? 

I have also witnessed Victoria design clients becoming savvier and more design conscious. They have access to many of the resources that we designers have to inspire us and keep us up-to-date with new methods and materials; the internet, television, magazines and of course local design stores all contribute. Designers have had to raise their game and evolve to stay on top.  However, informed clients are also better clients: they make for better projects by pushing their designers to imagine outside of the box and to introduce new concepts that keep the trends moving. 



Interior Design by Meade Design Group

Being a good designer is not just about being able to create a beautiful space; it is also a designer’s responsibility to put their clients’ desires into a functioning design, and to bring the best value possible to the space. Victoria clients may have gained some skills in figuring out what they want their homes to look like but designers are still needed to make it happen. The creative process to find the right solution for a room, producing the best floor plan, sourcing a complimentary set of fabrics, creating a focal point that will make a room memorable or even just finding the right piece of furniture or an accessory in Victoria are all things that designers do and it’s not easy. Victoria is a growing city, but you really need to be creative in this town to find sources; after all, we live on an island. Although the Internet and all the products in the world are only a few clicks a way, it’s still not an easy job to fulfill our client’s shopping lists. 



Interior Design by Bruce Wilkin Design



Interior Design by Amie De Toro

I think what is critical to a designers success in Victoria is not being fantastically creative or gifted – although those attributes are important – it is to have have great resources, team members and trades people.  A good designer is also organized and can take a project from concept to completion while keeping their client happy and producing a space that will become the next show piece to inspire more people to line up outside their door. 



Interior Design by Sandy Nygaard

I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview many of the best international interior designers for my blog like Barbara Barry, Jonathan Adler, Vicente Wolf, Kenneth Brown and many more. I have also been able to interview the best local interior designers and I am proud to say that Victoria has amazing and significant talent that has gained international recognition.



Interior Design by Kimberly Williams



Interior Design by Robyn Meredith Bryson

Kimberly Williams and Robyn Meredith Bryson have both been featured in Architectural Digest, one of the top achievements you can receive as a designer; Bruce Wilkin and Bruce Wilson made the top 100 list of the best designers by Canadian House and Home as well as having their projects featured regularly in the magazine; I have been fortunate to have one of Meade Design Group’s projects appear on HGTV’s TOP TEN as the 6th best games room in the continent  for our project in Maple Bay, and Robyn Meredith Bryson will be in a future episode of the same show for the award winning home, “The Radius Residence”. Sandy Nygaard, JC Scott and Teresa Ryback are all featured in Spectacular Homes of Western Canada by Panache.  Amie de Toro is a new Victoria addition with amazing international exposure, her work and home accessory line has been published in Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home and many more, and she is part of the wave of designers new in town.

Yes, the Victoria “design scene” is very rich and vibrant indeed.  Most Victorians probably are not aware of all of these local accolades because most of the aforementioned designers are also quite humble (what’s any design community without a diva or two?)  However, all of them have earned their status as being among Victoria’s best through their designs evident in Victoria’s finest homes.  



Interior Design by TD Swansburg



Interior Design by JC Scott



Interior Design by Gillian Ley Interiors 


But one may ask who these designers are? And, what makes them so good? Furthermore, who am I to give the answer?  Well, I am a designer myself and being an insider gives me the opportunity - from the professional and personal point of view - to share my thoughts about a great group of colleagues.

Victoria is a city of 300,000 and there are 75 designers within the yellow pages so you have an amazing designer for every 4000 people, not bad! The design community in Victoria is very supportive, as I mentioned earlier, we consider each other as colleagues rather than competitors; we have annual get-togethers and commend each other on achievements and often collaborate. Because of this, I have been able to enjoy the company of most of the designers in town and have found the role that each plays within the “design scene”.

Each designer has an immediately recognizable style and they really know how to merge creativity and business acumen.  This great group of local designers has attained success, as they continue to experiment with new approaches and take risks. 

There is also a group of superb independent designers who bring a sense of sophistication to Victoria:  Sushan Egoyan, Pauline Van Blokland, Pat Wickware-Tweten, Gillian Ley, Colleen Buker, Eleanor V.Smith, Susan Hargraves, Design One-Stevens, Barbara Gergel, Beth Krupa, Monika Kurc, María Leupelt, Ines Hanl, Danielle Campagne, Denise Hamalainen, Diane Kennedy, Wendy Wilson and Arlene Hart have all become established names in the Victoria design market.


Interior Design by Susan Hargraves



Interior Design by Colleen Buker

I also would like to mention Citta Construction, Christopher Developments and Zebra Design, who are better known for their refined architectural design work, and InSpace and Axis Design for their excellent commercial designs.


image Exterior Design by Christopher Developments


Interior Design by Zebra Design

But who are the new faces?  The new kids on the block?  The ones to watch?  The new generation of designers in Victoria is energetic; they are not just stylish they embrace technology and are savvy in social marketing tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Technorati - each of which are becoming important  parts of their business lexicon.  Names like Lana Lansboury, Tonia Di Introno, Leah Rourke, Jenny Martin, Tamara Radick, Heather Draper, Ben Brannen, Acacia Interior Design, Danisha Rice, Amanda Forrest, Inoui Design and many more that I have not met yet.



Interior Design by Tonia Di Introno Design


imageInterior Design by Inoui Design Collective 



Interior Design by Inhabit Design



Interior Design by Jenny Martin

As you can see Victoria there is no shortage of great designers.  You may be wondering how one goes about choosing a designer.  The majority of these designers have websites and you can surf in the comfort of your home and browse their portfolios. Some of these designers also have blogs so you can have a peek into their everyday life and maybe even learn more than you want to know.  Ultimately the designer will be a person who will match your personality and style.  Some designers offer free meet and greets to review their portfolios giving their perspective clients an opportunity to see if they are a good match for them and their home. 

A decade ago the sophisticated residents of Victoria had few options to consider when looking for a designer to transform their homes. Now, there is a wealth of options. The designers of Victoria are not just talented individuals; they are a diverse community that shares the goals of making this city a better place – even if it is just one room at a time.   I hope with this article, to recognize the inimitable talent and creativity of these designers and salute my colleagues with respect.  



Ivan Meade is a local designer and principal of Meade Design Group, a multidisciplinary interior and graphic design studio in the heart of downtown Victoria

MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011


katiedid said...

Victoria is one of my favorite cities. It is beautiful with a European flair, and I visit whenever I can. It is great to hear that design is flourishing there and I am glad the hear you are a big part of it all!

Dale at Hospitality Design Inspirations said...

Wow, what a great and insightful article Ivan! Through your blog, I have been exposed to Victoria designers I had not previously known about. So you have done them (and yourself) all a great favor.

When I moved to BC in 2006, we looked at Victoria seriously as the place to call home. At that time though, I just didn't see enough support or enough of a market with large commercial firms to fulfill my hospitality design needs. However, after reading your article, I wish I knew then what you are telling us now. Because wow, Victoria designers are definitely world class, and the design community there looks like it is going nowhere but up!

Leah Rourke said...

Great article Ivan, Victoria sure has changed over the last 7 years. Thanks for the mention too!

Wilson Unique Interiors said...

Thank you Ivan for the mention. It was a great read. It is designers like yourself in the industry that makes it all worth while. Bravo to you!

Wend Wilson

Amber Kingsnorth said...

Another great article! ... and so nice to see so many of the local designer's work shown all together. Thanks for including Inoui - we're so glad to be a part of this amazing group of entrepreneurs.

Echo said...

It's great to see the whole article all in one place! The photographs really illustrate what you are saying well too - kudos!