Friday, 30 January 2009

In Conversation with Bruce Wilson

As seen in SNAP VICTORIA - February 2009 - "Design Feature"

Bruce Wilson is one of “Canada’s 100 most talented designers” according to House and Home, and his work has been recognized internationally. His company, Bruce Wilson Canada, specializes in creating exterior and interior concepts for new homes. Bruce’s attention to detail and ability to create custom pieces for each of his elegantly refined spaces always results in a stunning building – inside and out, residential or commercial, in a style all his own.

Bruce Wilson

Iván Meade – "What is your favourite design find? Where did you get this item – how long have you had it?"

Bruce Wilson - My 2 Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs. I bought them at an auction in Denmark about a year ago.

Iván – "Why is it important/inspirational to you?"

Bruce -These chairs were designed in 1958 for the Radisson SAS Hotel in Copenhagen in 1958. What I like about this designer ~ and so many others like him at the time ~ is that he took a total design approach to the project that he worked on. In design spaces for his clients, he attended to every aspect of the project ensuring that everything turned out perfectly.

He not only designed the interior and exterior of the hotel, but created a harmonious line of furniture, lighting, carpets and other related furnishings. We take a similar approach in our projects. Typically when we are hired to design a house for a client, we create the landscape and garden plan, the architecture, a fully detailed interior including all the finished and materials, including the fireplaces, banisters, mouldings and other trim appointments, kitchen and other cabinetry. We are also asked to do the interior furnishing and decorating, providing a comprehensive and personalized interior.

Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair
Photograph by Iván Meade

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

Bruce – One of the biggest challenges facing a designer is to breathe soul into a project. These chairs are well used and the leather is worn in all the right places. They look like a couple of old friends and have history that new store-bought purchases cannot be expected to have. They add that element of ‘quirky’ that personalizes a room.

Iván – "Can you tell me more about your new design concept “Design Butler”?

The Design Butler provides people with an opportunity to have a slice of the creative work we are known for at a fraction of the cost. It is an affordable solution to design challenges of the average homeowner. For a flat fee, I will spend three hours with a client helping them with everything from selecting paint colours, to purging existing items or purchasing new ones, to furniture arrangement, lighting recommendations and even renovation consultation.

Iván - What was your first experience with design?

Bruce – My father was an appliance wholesaler and would bring me home refrigerator boxes out of which I would make houses. I would fashion doors, windows and window boxes and fill them with flowers from the garden. By the time I was 11 or 12, mother entrusted me to decorating the house choosing carpet, wall colours, furniture & fabric art and accessories.

Midland Residence
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Midland Residence
photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Midland Residence - Dining Room
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Midland Residence - Dining Room
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - Who or what has influenced your style?

– That’s always a tough question. It’s like asking about one’s favourite authour. Joe D’urso, Thomas Pheasant, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Michael Graves, Christian Liaigre & Issey Miyake.

It would be an understatement to say that my travels have influenced my work. I went to school in the south of France when I was 18 and lived in Rome when I was 22. Certainly my experience in architecture school in Los Angeles during the 80’s has shaped my approach to design. It was the hotbed of new design with the likes of Gehry & Morphosis leading the pack.

Moo Manor
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - What is your design process?

Bruce – I am not a designer who imposes my preconceptions on a client. If fact, my role in any project is to listen and interpret, provide supporting information and to make the process as pleasant as possible. I don’t take pen to paper until I have established a budget, a programme and wish list from the client. My only desire as a designer is to do my best work and to delight the client. I work hard to cultivate a good working relationship with my clients and most often we become friends. I take a very holistic approach to design, typically starting with a landscape plan, house design both inside and out and often I am retained to do the furnishing and decorating.

The Temple Restaurant
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - What do you consider to be your greatest strength and weakness?

Bruce – I have always struggled with paint colours. One time early in my career, I specified a paint colour for a 10,000 square foot office. The colour was fleshy and looked to be the colour of ‘bad nylons’. The electric blue trim colour I chose didn’t help. I walked in for the first time to meet with the client and I tried desperately to hide my alarm. The truth was, they liked it, but I don’t think I ever recovered from that design blunder.

Barclay Penthouse
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - What is the most unusual request that you have ever received from a client?

Bruce – That I would be available to read bedtime stories to the client. I’m not sure that his intentions were entirely noble.

Duncan Residence
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Duncan Residence - Dining Room
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - What project are you most proud of?

– The Vancouver AIDS Memorial. I won the commission in an open competition to sculptors, artists and designers around the province. Arthur Erickson ~ my lifelong hero~ chaired the jury and voted for my entry. It was an unpopular project at the time ~ fuelled mainly by homophobia ~ and it was a struggle that required tireless commitment by all those involved. My proudest moment was at the unveiling where I was asked to speak about my experience in completing the project.

Vancouver Aids Memorial
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - I have to say that your “Aids Memorial Installation” in Vancouver I believe it is one of your most beautiful works. It was really interesting to see something modern, minimal and clean looking depicting a message of hope. How did you arrive at the design that became your end result?

Bruce – It was a strange and wonderful process ~ the brief was simply that it had to be a names memorial and there was no site chosen. Feeling under pressure to address such an important task, I looked to a playwright friend who had passed away from the disease. He spoke to me in a dream. He told me that it had to be about the names, removed. I knew it had to be indestructible and would be subject to vandalism and graffiti. For this, I chose a bridge-building material called Cor-ten ™ steel, which develops a protective coating of rust. Graffiti could be pressured-washed away and I design the panels and footings to withstand extraordinary forces. The names were water-jet through the steel, giving the otherwise opaque material a diaphanous quality, and creating an interesting light play.

Baynes-Channel Residence
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - Speaking of Vancouver, you have recently opened a second studio in Yaletown. How do you find the market in Vancouver different from Victoria?

– Vancouver has proved to be a difficult market to break back into, even though it’s my hometown. I have enjoyed the phenomenon of being a medium-size fish in the small pond of Victoria. I have done mainly retail design in Vancouver for the Boboli-MaxMara group. I recently completed a sweet boutique for them downtown called Blubird, a brand new store concept for them. Having said all that, we have a couple of houses under construction in West Point Grey for a developer-friend. With luck, they should open up some possibilities for us.

Donington Farm
Drafting courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Tuscan Villa
Drafting courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

View Royal
Drafting courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - You are extremely well know for your residential spaces in Victoria, but what some may not know is that you have created some of the most beautiful retail spaces in Vancouver as well. When you are designing retail spaces you often have to follow the requirements of the brand, how have you achieved cohesiveness between your style and creativity and the clients needs?

– Certainly retail and office spaces are the most design-intensive because there is an overriding need for function. These are working spaces in every sense of the word. Such projects really separate the men from the mice. Only a Master can find harmony in the requirements you have outlined. I love doing them, because they are always novel and challenging.

Suburbia Studios
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson

Iván - How do you help your budget conscious clients achieve an expensive look without breaking the bank?

Bruce – I started out in design during the recession of the early 80’s, working with shoestring budgets. Once such project was for my employer at the time ~ KARO ~ for whom I designed their 10,000 square foot offices. We built the entire project for $20 per square foot at the time, which barely gets you paint and carpet in today’s market. I created a simple floor plan which reversed the normal layouts for office at the time. The offices were centered in the middle of the space while the open workstations lined the perimeter, by the windows. I spent a lot of time in lumber yards and hardware stores seeking humble construction materials and industrial fixtures and fittings. That same year, I won the best in show from the IDIBC, a new category they created for my entry.

Nyren-Russell Residence
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Wilson Canada

Iván - What do you think most Victoria homes will have in the future?

Bruce – Sustainability and energy efficiency. I plan to be a certified LEEDS consultant this year. I think the era of concept-driven architectural expression is drawings to a close. It will take a backseat to greener buildings. Here is a link to TED that everyone should see:

Iván - What would be your dream project if you were given carte blanche? (Would it be a whole home or just one room? Would it be commercial or residential? And what would you do with it and in what style?)

Bruce – I have always dreamed of designing a public building, in particular, an art gallery, a performance art hall or a museum.

Nyren-Russell Residence
Photograph courtesy by Bruce Wilson Canada

I invite you to discover Bruce Wilson stunning body of work at his 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 BC –

MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Library : Dwellings [ Living with Great Style ]

I would like to introduce a new feature to the blog: The Library.

This is a two part addition, the first is a new widget that has been added to the right hand side of the page where you can purchase some of my favourite design books through; the second part of this new addition will be a new type of blog entry which will highlight one of these featured books.

The first book I would like to feature is Dwellings : Living with Great Style by Stephen Sills and James Huniford.

Dwellings : Living with Great Style takes you through New York based interior designers Stephen Sills’ and James Huniford’s principles of design. Each page contains a new design lesson in a clear and easy-to-read manner. The authors touch base on everything from integrating home electronics to designing on a budget, to sophisticated styling, all the steps necessary to create an attractive and timeless home.

Stephen Sills & James Huniford

This book is truly beautiful, every detail has been taken care of. The covers have been wrapped in a subtle and elegant, neutral linen bound with a semi-gloss white which has been debossed to resemble an interior moulding. The pages are filled with well written and informative text which has been illustrated with stunning photographs of Sills Huniford Associates interiors laid out with a cohesive yet visually interesting approach to book design.

Fifth Avenue Apartment

Each of their interiors not only showcase striking aesthetics but also a sense of comfort (never too stuffy), personality and completeness. There is not one image where a surface has been overlooked and each room has a stunning focal point with perfectly styled vignettes.

The book has even inspired the designers to start their own collection of furnishings and selected vintage pieces that can be purchased through the Dwellings Home website, many of which can be found in Dwellings : Living with Great Style.

Bedford Home

I highly recommend this affordable hardcover to anyone looking to further their understanding of design principles or even just to refine their own design style.

Please visit to learn more about Stephen and James or to learn more about this great book and corresponding furniture line. Since summer of 2008 they have gone their separate ways but you can check their individual website at Stephen Sills and James Huniford.

MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Eye Candy of the Week

226 Tulip Family


Autoban Built by De la Espada

Gold-plated steel


Metal rods form an hourglass shape, topped with a simple yet stylish lamp shade… Another example of Autoban’s ability to take classic materials and update them for today’s interiors. Available in three heights. - De la Espada

226C small d.15 3/4" x h.33 3/7"
226F pinch d.15 3/4" x h.57 1/8"
226M cone d.15 3/4" x h.61 3/7"

Hot & Spicy !

MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In Conversation with Tareq Abu Ghazaleh

Qerat has been one of my favorite design finds since I started blogging. This reputable company was established in 1995 in Amman, Jordan and specializes in furniture, textile and interior design.

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh, the principal of Qerat is a multitalented designer, entrepreneur and blogger. His pieces, to a large extent, are handmade using very old and intricate techniques in a new contemporary way while maintaining a respect for his culture.

I enjoy following his blog [ qerat ] daily to see all of his new projects and experiences. We have also created what I consider to be a technologically advanced pen-pal style friendship, sharing ideas and design philosophies.

Please see my interview with my friend Tareq below.

Iván Meade - What was your first experience with design?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - First experiences for most designers are normally at home. There we feel comfortable to move things around. The parents notice some talent and they start asking you to do more things. I think this is where talent is spotted and confidence is built, if you are lucky that is. I was lucky that my parents took my opinion about design issues at home at a very early age, and I recall being eager to help. But, my first “proper” project was my apartment in Los Angeles, and my first real project was building our family home in Jordan.

Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - Your furniture pieces are stunning, I think they are a beautiful blend of classic and modern as well as your heritage – what inspires you for these pieces?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - Each period and each piece has its different inspiration. I know for a fact that our rich heritage has definitely affected my designs especially lately, but it is also a combination of so many different factors. It is a combination of things seen and loved along the years coupled with admiration for great designers from different eras combined with wanting to break boundaries and be unique by introducing your own sense of style that is innate in designers. I constantly ask myself the same question, since in many cases I really can’t pinpoint where inspiration for a specific piece came from. Inspiration is such a complex thing, sometimes it comes from a small part of a photo, a tree leaf, an animal or a piece of discarded equipment. Any of the above might ignite your imagination to create something that has nothing to do with what you originally saw; a good example would be our spider collection. The train of thought of the human brain is always fascinating to me. The way you reach somewhere foreign and new without knowing how and where you started.

Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - Do you have a favourite piece in your collections right now? If so why?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - As I am sure you know from yourself a designer is rarely satisfied, we always feel that we can do better. You have one favourite piece and then the following period it’s another, we crave beauty and change. But if I had to name a few, it would be 2 pieces that have remained to be favourites for a long time; one is the “O” coffee table and the designs that followed it within that range. I don’t know why but it just talks to me. Perhaps also knowing that it is a difficult piece to make, made me like it even more. The other piece would be the Ha Wao with the contrast of wood, stainless steel and Arabic calligraphy that looks very abstract.

Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - What is your design philosophy?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - I am going to risk answering this the way I really see it. I don’t think we should as designers have a philosophy that is set in stone. We can have broad lines of how we would like our direction to be. I think if I do I will be confining myself to preset borders that after a while become deeply ingrained and I start wanting to respect those borders to maintain a “philosophy” rather than wanting to break these borders and grow, even if that meant moving out of the lines of my philosophy. We have see many designers start one way to later evolve and move from their initial style. However, having said that I do like certain styles more than others. I find myself comfortable in the clean straight lines of modern architecture and furniture. I like simplicity that is not naïve or empty. A piece has to say something to me to design it and make it.

Photographs courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - I find the Jordan River Project quite fascinating; there was a similar project that I was a part of in my hometown of San Luis Potosí, México. Could you please brief our readers on the project and your experience?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - This is an amazing project that was created and is chaired by Her Majesty Queen Rania. Last year Her Majesty created an advisory board that was asked to revamp the whole line of products of the foundation, and I was asked to be a member of the board and to also create a collection of products that would utilize the women’s skills. The project’s mission is to empower women and to help protect women and children by providing them with ongoing sustainable projects by using their handwork skills. It was an emotionally and professionally challenging & fulfilling experience. Sometimes we know about something but never really appreciate it until we are in close contact with it. I was deeply moved by these strong women, and deeply satisfied by exploring new design areas.

Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Her Majesty Queen Rania at the Jordan River Project
Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - Your textile designs as part of the Jordan River Project are absolutely stunning. What was it like going from working with furniture to fabrics?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - At qerat, we already design and make a huge collection of soft furnishings, so that part was not entirely new to me. However the new part for JRF was that I had to create a range of designs from scratch meaning I had to choose fabrics and then create designs that would go on the fabric in ways of embroidery or appliqué and decide on the color of everything from the plain base fabrics to the color of the thread used. I also had to work with the ladies of JRF for the first time and we both had to try techniques that are new to us both. At the beginning it seemed daunting but then it turned out to be lots of fun.

Pillows - Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Robes - Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Bedding - Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - You seem to have many successful design ventures including not only your furniture but also soft furnishings, lighting, textiles and interior design. What would you like to tackle next?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - I think if you are passionate about design there is no end to your ambitions and aspirations. I have always dreamt of designing everything that I use in a house and perhaps even outside a house. If and when I have more time I would like to try designing things that are a total departure from what we do at Qerat. Maybe jewelery design or a bit of fashion design or leisure wear, for example I designed a few robes for JRF, so I might expand that a bit. I like the fact that designers now feel freer to dabble in whatever they feel like. Armani is doing kitchens and mobile phones, Starck does luggage and whatever he dreams of, and fashion designers are creating hotel interiors. The borders are thinner and transparent; the world is utilizing the creativity and the sense of beauty of designers in different areas.

Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - I notice that we have very similar tastes in designers and design books. Who are some of your favourite designers?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - They are many and I keep discovering new ones everyday. With so many blogs being published daily the amount of talent you get introduced to is unprecedented. But to name a few, I really like Vicente Wolf, Kelly Hoppen, Phillipe Starck, Barbara Barry and Rabih Hage, Patricia Gray and last but not least Ivan Meade.

Photograph courtesy of Qerat

Iván Meade - Good answer ! What are you excited about right now in the world of design?

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - The world of design is not only VERY exciting it has become confusingly exciting. There are so many beautiful designs and so many excellent designers that you get confused as to what excites you. However, what I am excited about now is that there are no “trends” in the real sense of the word. People and designers alike feel very free and confident to express themselves without feeling the need to adhere to a certain style. I like this liberty.

Photographs courtesy of Qerat

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

Tareq Abu Ghazaleh - Iván, isn’t that too early to ask?

OK, I would like my legacy to be the first Jordanian furniture designer that becomes internationally known for his designs and to set the road for younger designers from our small country to aspire for higher goals.

MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011

Monday, 19 January 2009

Five Wallpapers I am in Love with Right Now

While sourcing materials for a clients project I found several unique papers that may not work for the project, but I had to share them with someone.

Which one is your favorite?

Mulberry - Wall Covering

Mulberry - Damask Wall Covering

GPJ Baker - Geometric Wall Covering

Cole & Son - Fornasetti Wall Covering

Cole & Sons Wall Covering


MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011