I studied the established rules of interior design and learned how the fittings, finishes, furnishings and architectural features of structural spaces should incorporate the 7 elements of design to include: space, line, color, texture and pattern. I questioned numerous aspects of the traditional interior design world; mainly the substantial waste generated by the construction process and subsequent subjectivity of what constituted good vs bad design. I was drawn to green design principles but unable to find many options at that time. Out of principle (and lack of money) I collected materials exclusively from thrift stores nearby in order to piece together presentation projects for every class. I can still remember the look of distain on my professor’s face upon realizing that my fabric sample boards choices were actually recycled old bed sheets.
Upon graduation and after the birth of my son, I put my design degree on hold to pursue a vastly different career path with my husband as co-owner of a reforestation company. Our tree planting operation was responsible for the intentional restocking of forests that had been depleted through deforestation (logging) in remote wilderness areas of Northern Alberta ,Canada. The logged cut blocks were accessible only by helicopter; thus making this industry a challenging and unique one. The job was twofold: getting the fragile seedlings into the blocks and also transporting our employees safely to plant them by hand into the ground.
We worked around the clock during the summer months in grueling living conditions then reaped the rewards of a nomadic, unconventional existence for the remaining months. We lived in small mountain towns all over British Columbia Canada, as well as Mexico; where we spent winters living in a tent then trailer with our infant son.
And then my daughter was born. I did not think life could get any better.
But a highly contentious divorce shortly thereafter translated into tumultuous times to include losing everything we had built together and near foreclosure of our home. Our extravagant, 5000 square foot structure with custom indoor climbing rock walls and cantilevered hot tub on a cliff was a massive, manic mistake.
After the dust settled, I relocated to Lake Placid NY with my new love and renewed career opportunities abound. It was an exciting and inspirational time; notably because eco/green design had gone mainstream. A LEED gold home and HGTV award proved that green design dreams could come true.
More time passed.
Then came a call from a satellite phone in the middle of the arctic ice brought me to my knees and changed everything. My son’s near death experience while working for a high end Arctic expedition company and subsequent severe mental health diagnosis made me question everything I have ever learned in my professional and personal life.
Yet out of the darkness comes an acknowledgement that tragedy can present purpose and profound growth. I began to reconsider my own humility and home during our devastating ordeal in a room of the 6th floor of a locked psychiatric ward, by his side for 23 days.
A manicured lawn, perfect paint colors, large square footage and fine linens did not matter much in those moments. An open window to see the forest, smell the flowers and feel the sun directly on my face was all that I wanted and what he needed in our darkest days.
It occurred to me that the physical space in which we found ourselves directly attributed to our collective mental wellbeing and frightening fragile steps of his recovery.
Upon leaving the surreal, sterile locked ward with lack of windows; I began to consider the psychology of design and how interior spaces directly affect our mental and physical well being.
I learnt through first hand experience that our indoor environment has a direct impact and plays a significant role in our mental health.
I also learnt through near foreclosure proceedings as a single mother with two young children, that acquiring a home you can not truly afford while weathering the storms of life is a recipe for disaster.
Home needs to first and foremost be affordable for it’s human occupants. Creating the habitat of your dreams is easy when you have an unlimited budget. But true creativity and artistic accomplishment comes from reaching deep for resources and accepting the restraints of your budget.
I embrace the call to change the way we design by creating homes with a strong sense of relationship to their natural surroundings. From the framing of the walls, down to the forks in the drawers; I leave no stone unturned. My curated collection of consciously crafted products are comprised of essential elements of the earth and allow occupants to forgo all non necessities in order to live a more meaningful life with less stuff. This is the singular most sustainable thing I can do as a designer in order to set up opportunities for humans that inhabit my homes to live their best life.