My Digs: Sholto Scruton

Ever wonder what the home of a creative dream team looks like? This month’s My Digs checks in with furniture designer, Sholto Scruton and his graphic designer wife, as we tour their Strathcona heritage house and on-site workshop. An eclectic family home filled with a mix of sought after design treasures and the artists own pieces, this space exemplifies what a thoughtful restoration can offer.

What is it:
A 1930 brick Four Square with four bedrooms and a separate studio in back with a rich history of colourful characters including bootleggers, entrepreneurs and artists.

Furniture designer and maker Sholto Scruton of Sholto Design Studio, his wife, graphic designer and writer Berit Hansen, and their son Finn.

Major selling feature:
The neighbourhood, Strathcona, is amazing. You know your neighbours and people say hi to each other on the sidewalk. And the workshop was the icing on the cake!

First thing I changed:
Within 24 hours of taking possession I ripped down a newer wall separating the living room from the dining room to create a more open space that fit our furniture. We also had the whole place painted white, creating a clean palette to imagine what our home could be.

Feature I brag about:
Its proximity to downtown and the fact that we can both walk to pretty much anywhere we need to go.

That one conversation piece:
The upstairs bathroom reno. We did our best to replicate the original but make it suitable for 21st century living: adding a bath, shower, heated floors and more storage. With help from Richard Scott at Status Ceramics in Seattle, we replicated the 1928 tiles, and we found or designed 1930s reproduction fixtures.

The décor:
The house is pretty unique with a varied history, so we didn’t want to erode the integrity of the 1930 design. On the other hand, we also appreciate a modernist style, mixing mid-century modern with contemporary design pieces. Because the house is painted white throughout , we’ve been able to introduce spots of colour and make the place more hyggelig (A Danish word that typifies good living and is missing from English.)

The story behind the art/antiques/collectibles:
Most of our furniture is from Berit’s parents, like her father’s 1965 Hans Wegner Papa Chair and mother’s Peter Wessel Norwegian lounge chair from the same period. A few of the pieces, like our credenza or the coffee table, I’ve built for our place. We learned on a visit to the Louisiana museum, outside Copenhagen, that we both loved the work of Poul Kjaerholm, particularly his PK22 chairs and bought the pair soon after we met. Most everything in our home is somehow connected to people we love or admire.

Owning a house can be a lot of work. There are still a host of things we are excited to do.

Neighbourhood haunts:
Benny’s Market for their delicious sandwiches during the work week – I recommend the grilled soppressata Calabrese which I often eat in the Strathcona community garden orchard when the weather permits. Oyster Express for amazing grilled cheese sandwiches, Harvest for their hazelnut noodle soup, Matchstick Café for coffee and an almond croissant on the weekend and Mamie Taylor’s for their namesake cocktail and fried chicken (I have a high metabolism). Oh, I almost forgot Besties – mmm.

Compared to your last place:
They are very different: Our old place was a large corner apartment on the fifth floor in the West End. We both loved it and the apartment was easy to take care of with a city view and you couldn’t have been more central. The house, on the other hand is 85 years old with lots of wrinkles and scars, as well as a ton of charm and character.

Favourite apartment/house/condo activity:
We love waking up in our home, especially when our four-year old son comes into our bed with endless questions early in the morning! It sounds lame but it’s a wonderful start to the day. Plus making waffles on Saturdays and working in my studio.

– See more at:

Five Finds for your Valentine

The Famous Heart Desk Collection, available at That Neon Sign ($300)

Lighting is often my favourite element of décor – but for me, nothing beats when creative lighting actually becomes the décor! When Andrew Hibb’s That Neon Sign first hit my radar, I was super impressed; I love his commitment to keeping an old school craft alive, relevant and chic in today’s design industry. It therefore came as no surprise to me to find out his relation to stylista-extraordinaire, Monika Hibbs, and that Andrew’s wife is also a designer. The Famous Heart piece has been a favourite of mine from Andrew’s collection – I think the perfectly imperfect silhouette has a very personal feel, seemingly from the heart. As it turns out, it is: the piece was originally hand drawn by Monika, then traced and created in neon by Andrew, and finally envisioned on a stand as a décor piece by Andrew’s wife. Available in almost any colour, each heart is a custom hand made and beautifully unique way to show your love to your décor-addict Valentine.

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Tiffany Enchant Double Heart Ring, available at Tiffany & Co (pricing available in store)

It’s no secret that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and once again Tiffany & Co. has mastered the art of a perfect collection. The intricate detailing of each piece within the Tiffany Enchant grouping has been inspired by garden gates of the 19th century, offering a quintessentially romantic appeal. The double heart ring has captured my attention – cursive, feminine lines of white gold and diamonds create a coupling of intertwined hearts, making an ideal gift of love for the woman in your life. Old world elegance meets sophisticated modernity with the sought after Tiffany’s twist.

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Couple’s treatment at the Miraj Hammam Spa, 1496 West 6th ($295/couple)

For those of you not yet familiar with the tradition of hammam and gommage, trust me – you want to get acquainted with it. Seriously. And what better way to be introduced to this sensual practice of relaxation and invigoration than with a partner. If you are looking for a Valentine’s experience, the Miraj Hammam Spa – a South Granville landmark for those in the know – is offering a special couple’s treatment; partners will be invited into the marble hammam, which they will have to themselves for a 45-minute low mist, high-intensity steam before being led separately for an exfoliating treatment of authentic black Moroccan soap, as well as face and scalp massages with aromatic rose oil. Afterwards, the couple will rejoin in the Sultana lounge of velvet beds and silk cushions for Middle Eastern tea and sweet cakes. Heightened senses and true pampering at the Miraj Hammam create a memorable experience for both you and your Valentine.

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Neon Pink Heart Print, available at The Cross Decor & Design, 1198 Homer ($50)

Simple, graphic and bright sum up this super cute print, created by Banquet Atelier & Workshop. At roughly 20″x20″, this playful piece makes the perfect everyday Valentine, with just enough statement to shout out “I love You” when you walk in the room. The neon pink heart is given an amped-up chic look with a soft grey background (rather than the expected stark white), allowing it to take on a slightly softer edge to suit any decor. I’m picturing this as an ideal gift for the wee ones this Valentine’s Day – this would be a seriously adorable addition to any nursery or playroom.

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The Joy bracelet, available at Jen Ellis Designs ($38)

Timing is everything, and I love when it comes together like clockwork. Coinciding perfectly with Valentine’s Day, the Joy bracelet from local talent Jen Ellis has just launched as the newest addition to her designs. Chic, feminine pieces have become the cornerstone of Jen Ellis Designs, offering women ultra simple jewellery options that add the subtle finishing touches to an everyday look, or layer together beautifully for an elegant high impact. The Joy bracelet, available in either sterling silver or 14K gold fill, are a modern approach to the identity bracelets of the past; a streamlined interpretation, the Joy allows just enough room for a ‘sweet nothing’ to your love to be engraved.

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Home Is Where The Art Is: Jamie Bizness

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We’ve seen this column transition from a fashion-focused piece and a discussion on what décor trends are inspired by street style, to now  develop into a look at what is driving our local art scene; the column previously known as ‘street style’ will now be called ‘home is where the art is’, or HIWTAI for short.

Each month I’ll be sitting down with a local artist and delving into what drives them and inspires them, offering a peek into their work and how it is influencing design.

We’re kicking off this new artist series with one of the most prominent creatives on the scene right now, Jamie Bizness: surrealist illustrator, skilled painter and one of the best tattoo artists in the biz. Not to mention, one of the most beautiful spirits {and heads of hair} that anyone can tell you, you’d be privileged to meet.

What I love about working with Jamie’s art is the strong visual interest. The initial graphic appeal of his illustrations adds a gallery-chic element to any décor (I’ve used a large grouping all framed out in white) but it’s more about the intricate details that invite, engage and intrigue you; no matter how long you look, there’s always new details to find and you just can’t help but want to see more.

Who is Jamie Bizness?

Jamie Bizness is art.

How did you get started as an artist?

I was first inspired by my aunt, who was also a professional artist. At a young age when I showed interest, she taught me artistic techniques (I remember when I was four or five, being fascinated with her ability to draw Ninja Turtles). I guess this is where it sort of all started. Throughout my childhood art was everything; in high school I sold my first piece, giving me a taste of what being an artist as a career was all about. From there I created a line of custom painted hats called Thinkink, and this is in some ways what brought me from Alberta to Vancouver.

I sold a lot of street art when I was first starting out here, and was introduced to Red Gate Studios, a local art society. Red Gate opened up opportunities for me to explore collaborating with other artists. Some of my favourite artistic unions have been working with Rylsee on a show in Brazil, and collaborating with Caroline Weaver.

What mediums do you work with?

Art for me has always been about drawing. I recently completed a year-long project in which I created an illustration every day; the result was a good number of notebooks filled with my illustrations that I intend to translate into a book at some point in the future. A collection of these illustrations are being shown at Red Gate studios (855 East Hastings), for a show called “Works on Paper” opening on Thursday, Feb. 5.

It was after I had established myself as an artist that I discovered and developed my parallel career as a tattoo artist. I sort of stumbled into tattooing, rather than pursuing it with the traditional paths: an artist lent me his tattoo machine and I played around with the discipline, tattooing both myself and anyone who was interested in a free tattoo for me to learn with. Tattooing takes up my main focus these days, although I make sure to create time for drawing everyday; I’m seeing more of my illustrative art influence my tattooing. I’m moving away from straight interpretations of other people’s [tattoo] ideas, more into an artistic style of my own that people seek out. I now have an independent tattoo business that I’ve been running out of the Lords of Gastown compound in Railtown for about a year; I’ve also worked with them designing T-shirts for their clothing brand.

If you could describe your artistic style in one word, what would it be?


Do you have a favourite place in the city that inspires you?

Strathcona as a whole, but specifically MacLean Park, provides a place of calmness and balance for me. I strive to achieve these things in my daily life, so spending time in this environment is super important to me. I also love hanging out at Beer Island.

What colour best describes your personality?

Black. It’s what I use primarily in both my work and in my wardrobe.

How would you describe Vancouver’s artistic community?

Vancouver has a lot of artists; a lot of great artists. And a lot of potential. However, I see a lack of collectiveness between groups of artists. Vancouver could offer a stronger art scene if it were more of a full community of artists banded together; we would have more to look at and be a stronger force.

If you weren’t doing this for a living, what would you be doing?

I have a strong interest in sociology, what people do and why they do it. Social change is a big focus for me and I try to incorporate that into my art, but if I had a different path it would definitely be motivated by social change. Art is about consciousness, making people aware; if I wasn’t doing this through art, I’d be doing it in some other way.

What is your goal with your art?

I think it would be for me to work with as many mediums, forms and artists as possible. To put my work everywhere on everything. Collaboration is a huge focus for me right now.

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Designer Files: The New Industrial

A few weeks ago I shared an article that discussed which design trends from seasons past have had the strength to move forward into 2015.

One of the bigger décor looks that is finding traction is the industrial look – but it’s not the same heavy aesthetic that dominated the scene a few years ago. This refined “industrial” has a fresh feel that I’m looking forward to incorporating into upcoming projects.

To get a full insider scoop on how this trend has evolved, I asked some of Vancouver’s most talented artisans in the woodworking field to share their thoughts on the new industrial style.

Clint Moroz, The Longwalk Lodge

How have you seen the industrial trend evolve?

When this trend first became popular a number of years back, it didn’t gradually gain attention – it took off immediately and at a mass level. Seemingly every home, restaurant and shop had adopted the trend in a big way; we saw heavy pipes, rustic woods and distressed metals combined in everything from shelves to wall cladding to smaller household items.

As we look forward at how the trend is adapting to current styles, we are seeing an “industrial” that is much less stark and brute. Industrial pieces now are taking on more of a Scandinavian, clean aesthetic by comparison, and have looked to a new approach in order to remain relevant.
We are still seeing reclaimed woods, but they are being paired with more interesting design elements, such as painted metals in a bright palette, or coloured resins rather than the heavily worn bare metals we’ve seen in the past. The industrial colourway and combos of a few years ago became too monochromatic, especially when used in lofts (or other industrial-inspired spaces).

Have you noticed a shift in the attitude of consumers toward industrial pieces?

Definitely. Previously, people were jumping on the industrial trend without actually thinking about if and why they liked it. It was about having everything industrial, rather than considering how the trend would work for them.

Clients today are being more selective and seeking out pieces that speak to them and suit their own personal style. We are happily shifting into a modern eclectic movement, a design approach that is encouraging people to mix, for example, a custom industrial table with a Victorian sofa in a contemporary setting; we don’t have fully “industrial” or “mid-century” homes anymore – we use pieces from different eras that all are representative of our individuality. The mass production items are less in demand, while craftsman pieces are what consumers are interested in.

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Benji Nesdoly, Field in Town

What are you working on right now – what are you excited about within industrial/ custom woodworking?

I’ve been busy building new products and focusing on building up my collection. I’m all about working with new materials – taking the skills and styles that I’ve refined and trying them out with fresh materials.

Currently I’m really interested in working with hardwoods, I’ve been testing out combining beautiful Peruvian walnuts with complimentary woods to make unique combos (think: a stellar walnut with striking white woods). I’ve worked a lot with stains in the past, but now I see the direction moving toward letting the natural beauty of the woods take the focal point, so mixing the natural elements to create interest is where I’m seeing the look go.

You’ve been designing and creating for about a year and a half – what do you see as the future direction for Field in Town?

I think it’s really important as a designer to constantly be refining and improving your skill set. It’s all about the learning curve, you have to try in order to succeed, but also you sometimes have to try and fail in order to get a fresh perspective and see things in a new way. I keep gaining experience, and the more I do, the more I love it; the more I love it, the better my skills get. It’s a really positive loop.

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Craig Pearce, Union Wood Co.

How has the aesthetic of the industrial look has evolved since you began in the industry?

In my opinion there was a certain amount of crudeness to the industrial look, back in 2009 when I began making this kind of furniture. I think with the trend catching on that the crudeness has been exploited a bit. Our customers are looking for a more refined product, but still have interest in the industrial-style furniture.

What are you excited about in terms of industry trends moving into 2015?

There is so much I’m excited about in the industry trends. So many great materials, and so many willing clients these days. I’m really into seeing what other people are doing, and with social media, it’s so accessible. It’s inspiring to see others creating, and keeps me, as a creator, on my toes.

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My Digs: Alexis LaBonte


Being a designer doesn’t kill the common curiosity to see how designers really live. In fact, it might even amp up the insatiable desire to peek into the homes of other industry people and see how they are living, loving and applying all the trends and options available within décor.

This month we check in with local talent Alexis LaBonte of Design LaB. Alexis keeps things chic in her Yaletown condo, a pad she’s called home for the last eight years. The space has seen many transformations (we designers can’t help but continuously redecorate) – but I’m all over what she currently has going on.

This condo plays up West Coast warmth in a minimalistic setting, but has been styled with details to fashion a glamourous overall appeal. Clean lines in a monochromatic warm grey palette mixed with a strong art collection establish a creative yet polished space; Alexis has adorned her walls with her own art (both paintings and photography), pieces that her (artist) mother created and an eclectic mix of Etsy prints. My favourite part of this pad? The dining chairs – a Craigslist find that found new glory with a soft emerald velvet reupholstery facelift. *swoon*

What is it:
A one-bed-plus-den Yaletown condo.


Alexis LaBonte, I am the owner of DesignLaB Interiors; design geek; lover of photography, tennis and a good glass of chardonnay.

Major selling feature:
After hunting through every one-bedroom in Vancouver at the time, I walked into perfection. Office space with large windows, a west facing balcony that you could put a barbecue and two chairs on, floor plan that has entertainment on one side, privacy for bed/bath on the other, they do exist! Being steps from the seawall and a couple blocks from Yaletown’s core is very convenient.

First thing I changed:
I attacked the “builder’s beige” with more accent walls and added new lighting. The colours have changed a few times since I moved in, wallpapers gone up, come down…you get where I’m going.  I love a good house project.

Feature I brag about:
My view and balcony are worthy of bragging rights. I can see the trusses under the Granville Bridge, False Creek and the sunset. Get your camera ready.

That one conversation piece:
My dining room chairs, my best craigslist find to date. They were Canadian-made, likely from the ’40s/’50s, which I re-upholstered. They ended up being a bit of a splurge, but I love them. They are the punch of colour in the space.

The décor:
The revolving door that is an interior designer’s décor, of course! I have pretty contemporary neutral pieces that create a fresh yet comfortable vibe. I love a soft palette with accessory pieces that give it a bit of personality.

The story behind the art/antiques/collectibles:
I have surrounded myself with accessories pieces from my grandparents and artwork from my Mom, most things I have come with a story. Other art pieces I’ve painted myself as well as photographs I’ve taken in my travels. I’m constantly moving, adding and subtracting things; it’s become sort of a joke amongst my friends.

It’s rare to find a Car2Go in my area, otherwise I really have no complaints!

Neighbourhood haunts:
Tartine Bread & Pies is a neighborhood favorite, I go home just to get lunch there. I’m really looking forward to the Vancouver House development to bring in more food and beverage options. It’s still the quiet end of False Creek where I am.

Compared to your last place:
I was living in a rental building in Toronto… I’ll leave it at that.

Favourite apartment/house/condo activity:

Hanging out having a glass of wine or cooking/baking, but doing both is preferred.

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Five Finds for a brighter decor

Amulette Pendants, available at Nineteen Ten Home, 4366 Main. $180 – $320.

Lighting is always my favourite part of a project. Once you get past the first level of lighting a space – the task lighting, such as overhead pot lights – you are able to play a lot with the next levels of lighting like pendant lights, table lamps and floor lamps to create the ambiance and enhance the décor style you’ve decided on. I love how these Amulette Pendants (shown here in both the bohemian and craft paper styles) are smaller pieces with a subtle yet statement effect. Handmade in Montreal out of paper, these lights offer a softness that plays easily to boho décor, nurseries or ceiling-hung bedside lamps in a feminine bedroom.


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Vintage Dowry Rugs, available at Much & Little, 2541 Main. Prices vary.

Pieces with a story, a previous life, are the best way to add personality to décor. Vintage items of any kind, carefully mixed with contemporary designs add an overall layered feel to a space that suggests the design has been well curated over years, and is more of a collection rather than a grouping of functional pieces. Textiles are one of the more interesting items to introduce as vintage, as they offer stressed palettes, pattern and texture that a new version simply can’t match; even in the most modern of homes, a vintage throw or – even better – area rug adds a sense of style that cuts the cold of modern minimalism without being intrusive. These handwoven vintage rugs, originally created as dowry offerings from Turkey, are ideal, as they offer a wide colour range and heavier weight, making them both visually complimentary and functional for most décor.

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Bkr Bottles, available at Float Yaletown, 1059 Cambie. $33.

I’m totally that girl who’s guilty of not drinking nearly enough water throughout the day. Part of the reason is that traditional plastic water bottles taste too “plastic-y” and many reusable bottles are too sporty and don’t tuck easily into my bag, When I first saw these Bkr bottles at Float Yaletown, I was first drawn to the pretty colours; I love the ombre range of the muted blue colour options with fun names like Detox, London, and Dive. But when I actually picked them up, I realized that they were super functional as well – lightweight glass (to avoid that dreaded plastic taste) protected by beautifully coloured silicone covers and a sleek size and shape that allows them to easily tuck away into any bag or purse. Perhaps this year will see a change in my water habits after all, with the style-meets-function Bkr bottle.

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Normann Copehnagan Geo Jars, available at Vancouver Special, 3612 Main. $13-14.

It’s a designer’s delight when everyday household items take on a stylish aesthetic – so often a space can be beautifully put together, but then when the functional items are put to use, the décor is interrupted. When I saw these jars in the window of Vancouver Special, I had to pop in to check out the collection; available in a soft but playful palette range, these jars can be mixed and matched. The line offers a milk jug, a sugar bowl, and a jar with lid (all shown here) and also includes serving trays, larger bowls and other utensils. Created out of a resin type material, these pieces are both durable and totally irresistible.

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Vintage Pink Marble Stoneware, available at The Collectors Vintage India, 4413 Main. $50-65.

I am admittedly a décor junkie for all things beautifully global; so when I recently stumbled across The Collectors Vintage India pop-up shop on Main Street (located in the old East is East building), I was immediately blown away. From trinkets to textiles to large furnishings, this boutique offers a beautiful collection of all of my most coveting things. I was particularly intrigued by the bowls – originally used for mixing flatbreads, these pan-shaped dishes are handmade from marble for a beautiful finish. The shop has a few of these in their collection in a range of grey and natural tones, but I couldn’t resist the muted pink. While they were originally used for cooking, I’m picturing these as layering pieces or trays, adding a touch of global glam to any décor.

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Designer Files: design trends to watch for 2015

As we jump into a new year, there is always an abundance of ‘shop talk’ within the design community about what the hot trends will be for the seasons ahead. While some key elements have a strong shift, others remain the same and carry forward with a new importance in décor. By taking trends or styles that are currently within our homes and bringing them into a fresh year, we are able to achieve a more eclectic feel that offers stronger visual interest than swapping out everything for a new look.

I had a number of favourite design trends from this past year, some of which I’m stoked to see transition into 2015 and get a new spin. There was a lot of diversity within 2014 décor styles, which makes it fun to reinterpret popular ideas for a fresh take. From colour to hard finishes to textiles, 2015  design looks like it’s set to offer a beautiful amalgamation of styles that we have already seen and loved. Here are a few that I can’t wait to see stick around in a big way:

Mixed metals

It began with the introduction of gold a few style seasons ago, replacing the monopoly chrome had on décor; then we saw copper elements surface and take over for a short stint. This created décor dilemmas, however, as people weren’t sure how to introduce the new metals without replacing all their previous finishes. Thus, the trio of metallics joined forces and created one of the strongest trends to come out of décor in a few years: mixing metals together to catch an ultra-glam appeal. This has allowed designers and décor fiends alike to choose metallics in a carefree fashion, blending them together to create unique looks.

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Industrial elements within modernity

The industrial look was huge for 2012, with every- and anything rustic taking storm over décor; the following year nearly abandoned the trend, but it started to creep back in for 2014 in a more subtle way. As we look ahead how to use industrial elements for this year, we are seeing the heavy details of re-purposed and found items being used sparingly and paired with softer, modern spaces to gain balance within a room. Rather than everything having raw edges or rough finishes, we see one or two feature industrial pieces standing out within a simplistic space for an overall organic feel.

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Masculine and feminine harmony

It’s an age old décor battle: the ultimate bachelor pad approach vs. the super femme touch. I often play mediator for clients that can’t find a way to agree on the design of their space – it tends to be that men prefer less fuss, more neutral colours and supreme comfort and functionality, while their female counterparts place emphasis on layering, tonality and more intricate details. Last year, however, we saw a compromise – an introduction of a style juxtaposition between the masculine and feminine elements, hard edges mixed with soft finishes to create an unexpected (yet beautiful) effect. This will stay strong for 2015, offering further exploration into the marriage of male and female design tendencies.

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Ethnic influence

Human nature often encourages us to look outside our own cultural norms for creative inspiration; we saw 2013 and 2014 décor explore Central Asian (Ikat, anyone?), Egyptian, Native American (most commonly Navajo) and Moroccan style. A global outlook on design stimulation is carrying us forward into the new year, although we are seeking a hyper-local approach to receiving it. I’m looking forward to the discovery of new cultural influence for the year ahead.

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Bright whites

For me, nothing creates a dream space faster than a fresh canvas to work within – gallery white walls combined with hard finishes, cabinetry and flooring that mimic are the key elements to my favourite designs. The benefits of using crisp white details are plentiful – the illusion of more space, increased light reflection and a a perceived openness even to the most tucked away nook. I look forward to fresh white details being incorporated into different design elements for 2015, and encourage the idea of mixing whites within applications and finishes – matte with gloss, white counters with white cabinets, and a variety of décor bits in a range of whites to finish off a space.

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