Wednesday 1 December 2010

In Conversation with Inoui Design Collective

As seen in SNAP, December 2010


Amber Kingsnorth & Kyla Bidgood


Amber Kingsnorth and Kyla Bidgood of Victoria's own Inoui Design collective are fun, fresh, vivacious and talented designers. Inoui took the Victoria design scene by storm when they opened their doors earlier this year to residential, hospitality and commercial clients alike.

Both graduates of Vancouver Island University's Interior Design program Kyla and Amber are both registered designers and members of IDIBC and IDC. Amber is also a LEED certified designer - they certainly have their design credentials covered! After realizing the wonderful chemistry and passion for design that they shared while in their previous careers in other successful firms, they decided that they would make great business partners, and thusly, it wasn't long before Inoui was born. Inoui is described as having a focus on " interiors with a creative and sustainable edge"; their ingenious ways of incorporating repurposed or eco-friendly materials into projects is never obvious, they are used as focal points or flow seamlessly within the space for a fresh and crisp, yet inviting and welcoming result.

I'm very pleased to have this interview to promote our local talent; please read on to get in on the conversation….

Iván Meade - You have a really cool design studio in the heart of Fernwood - What was your favourite local find when designing your space? Where did you get this item – how long have you had it?


Amber Kingsnorth - I would say that our chairs are our my favourite find. These are vintage pieces that a friend passed along to us and were used in their original green velour fabric in our first office space.  When we moved to the Fernwood studio we couldn't leave them behind so we had them reupholstered with a vibrant Marimekko print on the backs.  Now they're the first thing that people notice when they come to the studio.


Kyla Bidgood - I'd have to say the 1950's book of house plans by BC Door are my favourite.  We found them at a store called Step Back in Vancouver while we were looking for old blueprints for an art installation, and fell in love!  We framed each of the blue and yellow covers and wall-papered a large panel in our washroom with the pages. 


imageInterior Design by Inoui Design Collective


Iván Meade - Why is it important/inspirational to you?


Amber Kingsnorth - The chairs are so comfy!  Plus the shape and style are so classic.  We wanted to come up with a way to make them suit our new space without compromising the things that we loved about them. By using such a large scale print on the backs, each chair is unique, showing a different piece of the pattern and combination of colours.


Kyla Bidgood - We love that the house plans are specific to BC. They each have names like "The Shawnigan" or "The Seymore", and come with a description of how they suit BC climate and landscape. Most of the homes are still contemporary by today's standards and modest in size, which was a great aspect of design from that era. It's a perfect example of how good design truly is timeless.




Iván Meade -  How does this item reflect upon your personal design philosophy?


Kyla Bidgood - Many pieces in our studio are on their "second life"; used in a new way or altered. It's something we keep in mind for all of our projects.


Amber Kingsnorth - We're always asking questions like; how can existing pieces be re-used, how can new pieces be adaptable to other uses later on and what happens to construction materials at the end of their useful life?


Kyla Bidgood - Re-useing materials not only conserves resources, clever applications of repurposed goods can make for interesting and thoughtful design. That said there is always a need for new items and materials, so when buying new we look for quality pieces that may have more than one potential use or are recyclable.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective


Iván Meade - What was your first experience with design?


Amber Kingsnorth – My dad is a carpenter, growing up I’d go to his workshop on the weekends where he’d let me work on my own little projects, as well as clean up the shop. He’d often ask my opinion on what he was working on (usually top secret gift for my mom). It the first time I realized how much planning and thought went into design.


Kyla Bidgood - My first experiences were through artistic pursuits in both art and dance. I was a major bun head, taking 9+ dance classes a week and performing in a local touring company. Through dance I became aware of pattern, shape, repetition, restraint and composition; all components of design.



Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective


Iván Meade - What is the story behind Inoui Design Collective? How did the two of you meet?


Kyla- We met while attending Vancouver Island University (formerly Malaspina). Although we were a year apart, I noticed and admired Amber’s work. From there we both did the post-ed requisite stint in the design department at Chintz & Co and later we both worked for Kimberly Williams Interiors. After leaving KWI, we kept in touch here and there.


Amber- In December 2008, unbeknownst to each other, we were both reading the same business book at the same time (The Boss of You written by Vancouver web designers Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears), with the other in mind as the perfect business partner. We met for coffee, each with the ulterior motive of proposing a partnership. Our conversation went a little something like this…

- “I just burned through this really great book called The Boss of You”
- “Oh my god, so did I.”
- “We should be business partners”
- “Um, yes we should!”

We agreed on the name Inoui (French word meaning out of the ordinary) as we felt it reflected both our personal style and our approach to interiors.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective


Iván Meade - As a new business owner - Do you consider being young in the business an advantage or a disadvantage?


Amber Kingsnorth – Both. On one hand we don’t have a long company history behind us, or an extensive portfolio to demonstrate our skills. The need to prove ourselves only makes us work that much harder. We’re both professionally registered interior designers, and build on that accreditation through continued education and involvement in the design community.


Kyla Bidgood – We also saw a specific market in Victoria that wasn’t being addressed. Because we’re new and young, we’re also versatile. We don’t have a foot hold on one specific look or style, and we never will. One of the things we love most about the design process is learning about our clients, their needs and goals, personal likes and dislikes, and creating a look that is unique to them or their business.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective

Iván Meade - Do you think Victoria is ready for a change? Where do you see things going in the next ten years?


Amber Kingsnorth – YES. Since entering the field 6 years ago, we’ve noticed a huge shift in the design community. Designers are finally seeing each other as colleagues rather than competition, sharing ideas, sources, information, horror stories… and it’s great!


Kyla Bidgood – Collaboration breads innovation, and we think we’ll start to see like minded designers from different disciplines banning together on projects to create completely integrated design.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective

Iván Meade - What do you think Victoria is missing?


Kyla - Victoria has a wealth of super creative, up and coming artists and designers in all fields, but what we’re missing are projects to take advantage of that talent. We need to expand on and support developers, business owners and restaurateurs who are willing to break from the norm and try something interesting and new.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective

Iván Meade - One of the things that I truly admire of you as a team, as a business and as a colleague is your involvement to create a strong design community.  Why do you think is important to have a strong design community? 


Amber - Thank you Ivan! We’re inspired by designers like yourself who have broken the silence and created a dialogue within our community. Victoria’s design scene is mostly made up of solo designers or small companies with a hand full of people at the most. Why should we all be working in a vacuum when coming together not only strengthens our profession, but creates a pool of resources and support for everyone.


Kyla - Every time we leave a coffee date with another designer, or a design event, we feel inspired. We have so much to learn from each other, which is one of the reasons we’re working towards an island chapter of IDIBC. We hope that by creating opportunities for designers to come together regularly the inspiration becomes contagious.
Iván Meade - Your interiors definitely celebrate restraint and order. To what/whom do you owe this influence?


Amber - We both agree this started with the head of our Interior Design program at VIU, Bodil Ellins, who instilled in us that interior design is not only surface decoration, it’s about functionality. The first step in any project is to analyze the space and it’s users. The look of the space is always a product of it’s function, not the other way around. Choosing lighting, materials and finishes that compliment the bones of the design enhance the users experience in that space.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective


Iván Meade - What does “design value” mean to you?


Kyla - Design has value in all sectors, but is most measureable in commercial and hospitality. Innovative spaces foster word of mouth, which market a business long after the guests, clients or customers have left. A well-planned, well-executed interior contributes to the success and profit of any business, and should be cohesive with a brands identity.


Amber - A space that creates ease of use for both staff and patrons sets itself up for success. Often times people become so accustom to working in a certain environment or to a specific series of movements to get tasks accomplished, that they can’t see how it could be improved.  Having a trained and objective eye gives us the ability to identify those areas and create spaces that are more efficient, productive and enjoyable.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective

Iván Meade - What is your next design venture?

Kyla & Amber - We have a number of exciting projects in the works, including one in our own neighbourhood; Fernwood Coffee’s Parsonage Café. The owners are very passionate about their business and the community, and we’re excited to be working with them on improving and expanding this local mainstay.


image Interior Design by Inoui Design Collective

Iván Meade - Lastly, you are starting to create a stunning body of work with many mediums and styles, what would you like your legacy to be?

Amber & Kyla - All we can say Iván, is that we hope our likenesses will be forever captured in finely painted velvet portraits, mounted above a roaring fireplace at Inoui World Headquarters.

JK  To be honest, we just want to love what we do everyday and know that people are enjoying the spaces we’ve designed.

I invite you to discover INOUI design collective work at their website



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


Koo and Poppet said...

Great interview with two incredibly talented women!
I love the framed book covers and the metre stick risers!!


Thanks! Sarah, but they are not only talented, as you know Amber is also participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer for the Designer Survivor Tour - Big talent and Big Heart are hard to find now days.

If you want to support Amber in her extraordinary goal please donate online now.

Inoui Design Collective said...

Thanks Sarah, it was great to see you last night - we have to do that more often!

Ivan, you're the best! ... we're so honoured to be included among the other amazing designer's and artists that you have interviewed. Thanks for the plug for the ride too. Let's keep those donations rolling in! :)

Anoushka M said...

The office chairs are amazing!

Tonia said...

Great interview! Their work is really inspiring, love those gals!

Gillian Ley said...

Kyla and Amber are designers to watch! Brilliant!!!

Echo said...

Love these ladies!

A wonderful interview to read - I have to say that my favourite part is at the end though - any mention of velvet portraits defintately gets a big laugh out of me!

Gaile Guevara said...

Great interviews! Inspiring to have the Meade Design Group share with us what makes our industry a better one. Delighted to see your series of interviews. Happy to get back on line again to connect with all you lovely creatives. xo