Q. When did you know you wanted to become an interior designer?
EV “Interior design is my second career, and my third degree. After studying fashion, I turned to Japanese language and literature studies, and then went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in business in order to start working. I worked in sales / marketing analysis for several years.
I have always been drawn to design in general, whether it be for fashion, furniture or architecture. It was these interests that have led me to Japanese studies. I was fascinated by this nation: its culture, its aesthetics, and its rigor.
And then one day, when I was already wondering about my career, my condo burned down and everything had to be redone. From day 1, I got involved in the renovation process and reorganizing the space. It was while designing a new wall unit that I realized that this job was for me. The necessary balance between the creative and the Cartesian was exactly what I was looking for. So I went back to school, and here I am today at LemayMichaud!”
How does this balance you mention apply to the life of a designer?
EV “It is important to know that before arriving to the final result of a project, the process is long. Of course, there are the major ideas at the beginning that require creativity in order to craft the story we want to tell through our design. The public only sees the finished product, the creative aspect, and this is quite normal. But you should know that there are a lot of elements to take into consideration beforehand and a coordination between different professionals (customer experience, specificities of the space, electrical and mechanical issues, etc.). It’s a giant puzzle where our role is to make all the pieces fit together through our design. It’s a process that can be very Cartesian, but it’s our creativity that will ensure that the result is successful.
When developing construction details, creativity and rigor are still required. In English, the expression says: “the Devil is in the details”. Indeed, well-designed and well-executed details make all the difference! In design, as soon as you feel something is “odd”, you know there has been a lack of fluidity in the design or in the execution.”
Q. Where do you find your inspiration for each project?
EV “Each project is shaped by its location, by its history and its roots … It’s crucial to feel that it is immersed in its context, and that the inspiration is specific and unique. This is something that we have seen more and more over the past few years. Even mandates that are guided by strict criteria have room for maneuvering and local interpretation. Several years ago, international hotel chains had identical standards for each of their addresses. Today, we can see that these same international players want to inject local energy into their projects. So, it is often the project environment that inspires me.
I am also very inspired by nature. When I was younger, I watched a show where the stylist would frequently say something like “if the color combination exists in nature, you can do it” – (Laughter). That stuck!
Usually, travel is also a great source of inspiration, spaces like restaurants, hotels, urban architecture, public places… With the pandemic, we definitely had to get inspired by traveling … remotely! Social platforms are great for that. However, I have a relatively strict policy in this regard. It is important, in my opinion, to come up with the idea for the project, to establish the story to tell before drawing inspiration from these platforms. It is very important that teams think together about the narrative framework before consulting visual inspirations to ensure authenticity in the design. This is what we owe the client.”
Q. Can the designer get the dreaded Blank page syndrome, like writers?
EV “Oh yes! I have some renovations to do at home and I am unable to choose the ceramic because I have too many options.” (Laughter)
“As mentioned earlier, when a client comes in with a project, we think about the story to tell. And the reality is that a project often comes with constraints of time, budget, space … This combination of the story and the constraints guides the interior design choices. Every action taken must support the story. It’s through this approach that we ensure we don’t get lost in all the possibilities of an interior design.
Since tastes are very subjective, following a narrative framework allows clients as well as designers to bring an objective view on a project. This objectiveness is necessary when we know that ultimately the client will have to be able to own the design, to tell this story over the long term. The idea behind the design isn’t simply to guide our choices.
At LemayMichaud, we are fortunate to have a graphic design team that is involved from the start of a mandate. This collaboration brings an interesting expertise that strengthens the interior design and vice versa.”
Q. You are now a partner at LemayMichaud. Did you think you would be here today when you decided to change your career path?
EV “I would say: neither yes nor no! I’ve always had a lot of motivation and ambition and I like to wear multiple hats. It is true that being a partner in our profession is an achievement. On a daily basis, it is a challenge that I enjoy taking on. However, it was not the ultimate goal of my career, but rather a logical continuation in the context of an architectural firm.
Being a partner at LEMAYMICHAUD offers a balance because it is a team with multiple and complementary talents, which is an incredible strength. I personally never wanted to be self-employed, working alone. The group energy is a need that drives me to surpass myself. It’s motivating and inspiring.
As a partner, the mentoring role also takes on more significance. Since Day 1 in the firm, I have been in awe of the willingness and the generosity of the firm’ professionals to share their knowledge. It allows the whole firm to grow. Participating in this continuous chain is a value that resonates with me enormously and that I hold dear.”
Q. What are the major considerations when approaching a project?
EV “For any project, meeting with the client is the foundation on which the success of the project is built. From the outset, we must establish a relationship of trust with the client and make sure we fully understand his needs and challenges. A good understanding of the vision and the brand will ensure that the space, through our design, will be an additional tool to communicate his message. It is our role to gather this key information and communicate it to the other professionals and craftsmen who will be working on the project.
Having said that, the relationship with the construction team is also really important. It is, after all, thanks to these professionals that it all comes together.
At the beginning of a project, you have to find the story to tell. We explore, we search, we test, and we start over again. However, the faster we find our story, the more everyone works in the same direction. Usually, we start with a general story that gets more defined as the project progresses, as the details are integrated, like a narrative that unfolds.”
Q. What is the most significant project that you have done as an interior designer at LemayMichaud?
EV “Good question… I would say the Calgary Residence Inn by Marriott. I worked on this project for almost 5 years, from start to finish. That mandate was a great source of professional development for me, it was a great learning experience.
One of the reasons it was so successful is the truly amazing relationship with the construction management team and the foreman. Anyone who works in the industry knows that a job site always presents unpleasant surprises. With the team, there was this willingness to always find solutions and have a positive attitude. This often led to not only finding really interesting solutions to problems, but also to managing them better.”
Q. You also worked on the Whitecap Dakota Hotel project in Saskatchewan. Can you tell us about the importance of a sensitive approach to a First Nations project ?
EV “On this mandate, we really had a great story to tell. The Whitecap Dakota being a First Nation of Canada, the narrative of the project had to have meaning for the community but also for the visitors. We wanted to bring an educational aspect to the design, so that visitors of the hotel would leave with a better understanding of the Whitecaps.
We approached this project with great sensitivity and respect for the culture of the community. The Whitecaps provided us with a lot of material on which to base ourselves. It was important for us to be totally in tune with their culture and beliefs. So, we drew inspiration from the history of the community, their culture and their relationship to nature to conceive and build the story behind the interior design. There were a few funny situations because some things we thought were innocuous, but actually had a whole other meaning for them!
This project really had an impact on me because we came out of it with a rich learning experience.”
Develop or create? Develop
Dreamer or realist? Dreamer
Favorite part of your job? Seeing the end result
What makes you want to wake up in the morning? All the possibilities of the day ahead!
Do you have a philosophy that guides you today? Seek balance
What achievement are you most proud of? For me, the Marriott!
Black and white or colours? Colours
Mies van der Rohe or Frank Gehry? Mies Van der Rohe
What architectural work would you like to be the creator of ? Avroko’s projects, as a whole, because they showed me the importance of telling a story through design.