Third Annual Avenue Design Challenge

Three Designers. Three Curveballs. One Room.

Three local designers – Nancy Korpany, Jacqueline Davis and Johanne Lewis – took on the annual Avenue design challenge. Curveball item in hand, each designer moved in and out of the space under strict time limits. We photographed the results.

The task: To design a living room in a Glenora home.

The catch: Each designer was given a fictional client and a curveball item that had to be incorporated into her design.

The winner of this challenge will be decided by Avenue readers. Check out the designs below, consider how well each designer showcased their curveball items, and vote for the winner.

Jacqueline Davis

Curveball: Mixed Couple
She comes from a Chinese family. He comes from an Eastern European background. They are hosting a party in a couple of weeks, where both families are coming together. They know they’ll be written out of the wills if they don’t have certain family heirlooms present. He has a Romanian woven table runner that can also be used as a tapestry. She has an Asian chest, with images of warriors on horseback. 

Eastern European Table Runner
Asian Chest

When Jacqueline Davis was presented with her curveball items – an eastern European tapestry and canteen, along with a Chinese carved wooden chest – she was thrilled rather than thrown. “They were items of sentiment, which I thought was fantastic,” says Davis. Clients who bring some types of items or ideas to the table give the designer an indication of who they are and what they like, says Davis, an interior designer and general manager at Ideal Home Furnishings.

Davis noticed two major things about the space itself – the need for dimension and the need for a focal point. She addressed dimension by adding three cathedral mirrors that open the space and incorporate dark metals, also seen in the side table and gear-shaped clocks. For a focal point, Davis commissioned a marble fireplace in a classic design. While she had some ideas for her design before seeing her curveball items, Davis mentions they played a role in her decisions: “The richness of the colours from the tapestry and the richness and history from the chest was a great combination.” 

She set off her curveball pieces by incorporating natural elements. A prevalent feature in the space is the abundance of greenery. Rather than using colours from nature, Davis explains that she opted to feature nature itself, seen in a variety of topiaries and plants. The organic elements are carried through textiles such as the animal-hide rugs, fur pillows and a wool couch. The space contains a lot of layered texture, from the different textiles to various metals and finishes.

Given the history and sentiment behind the curveball pieces, Davis says she wanted to create something with soul. “You want to be able to have a conversation about your things, not just have things,” says Davis. Among those interesting story pieces is a marble fireplace that contains material from dead coral reefs and a barn door made of reclaimed wood that is hung as art. She also incorporates a sense of play in decorative pieces such as jacks, chess pieces and birdcages. “Unexpected and whimsy, that’s kind of my thing,” says Davis.

The Source:

Ideal Home Furnishings
(4150 101 St., 780-489-9958,
Cathedral mirrors, sofa, coffee table, pine trees, clock gears, velvet wing chair, jacks, boxwood and fur pillows

Reside Furnishings
(10434 Mayfield Rd., 780-444-7800,
Crank table and Uncle David chess pieces

Christopher Clayton Furniture & Design House
(10363 170 St., 780-488-7001,
Tall floral arrangement, Brass magnifying glasses

Century Classic
(7807 127 Ave., 780-477-8433,
Brentwood fireplace surround

Blanchette Slate
(11577 149 St., 780-484-8738,
Marble slate

Urban Timber Reclaimed Wood Co.
(10336 111 St., 778-245-9663,
Reclaimed barn door

Flowers by Merle
(12634 Stony Plain Rd. NW, 780-482-1222,
Birch logs; Table floral arrangement

Chintz & Company
(10502 105 Ave., 780-428-8181,
Birdcages, Brass lamps, Designer’s Guild pillows, Cowhide area rugs

Nancy Korpany

Curveball: Great Grandpa Is a War Hero
The client’s great grandfather was a decorated First World War soldier. It is a great source of pride for the family, and a framed oval painting of great grandpa in his uniform must (tastefully) hold a place of honour in the room. 


  • Framed oval painting

Nancy Korpany wasn’t new to designing in a competition; just last year, she beat out several contestants to win the Southgate Design Challenge. The 27-year-old interior designer at architecture firm, Kennedy, obtained her interior design diploma from NAIT and has handled both commercial and residential spaces as a designer.

While clients who demand that certain items be included may seem challenging, Korpany says it’s not always a bad thing. She believes those roadblocks can sometimes push designers to consider different styles and, ultimately, help create a much more unique and individual result.

When presented with her curveball item – a portrait of a war hero in an ornate gold frame – Korpany found inspiration from a somewhat unusual source. “When I saw the picture and I saw the colours around it and how happy he was, I actually thought of my grandparents and what kind of furniture they had,” says Korpany. A particular floral couch her grandparents owned, as well as the hints of turquoise in the portrait itself, led her to incorporate bold colours. Those included the deep purple of the tufted sofa and the splashes of turquoise and yellow across the space. 

As for the portrait itself, Korpany created a gallery wall that placed the ornate gold frame among several black frames with angular lines. “I find that contrasting the clean lines with the ornate kind of creates a larger art piece,” says Korpany. She also adds that she brought in the gold hexagonal frames on an opposing wall in order to create balance and be respectful of the curveball art piece’s colour and ornate detailing.

“I really wanted it to be eclectic, and using so many different artisans here in the city kind of helped create that,” she says. Her design also mixes textures, combining the thick wool of the rug with softer textiles on the pillows and throw blankets. That mixture helps soften the space, Korpany says, and adds an element of warmth.

The design includes a few military-and-vintage-inspired pieces to pay tribute to the portrait, such as a small concrete camera, a military plane and a collar-shaped tie rack repurposed as an art piece. “It’s an army showcase without being nostalgic and over-the-top,” says Korpany.

The Source:

Concrete Cat,(5608 82 Ave.,
Octavia small solid colour bowl, Camera

Lydia Stewart, (780-221-7820)
Love is Blind artwork

Jason Blower, (
YEG illustration

Inspired Home Interiors, (11807 105 Ave., 780-482-6040,
Grey chairs, glass decanters

Chris Brodt, (
Sling coffee table,

Made In House , (
Asterisk side table, walnut clock

Jessica Fern Facette,
Woven throws and custom toss cushions

Henry’s Purveyor of Fine Things, (10216 124 St., 780-454-6660,
Purple couch

Loyal Loot (
Log bowls and leather collar

Designer’s Library, (16108 114 Ave., 780-489-4002,
Area rug

Mike Lam Design (9911 72 Ave., 780-468-3318,
Pure Hall table

Mod Pots, (
Granny cups and granny vases

Dwell Modern, (10549 124 St., 780-488-6464,
Felt Pillows

Home Sense, (300 Mayfield Common, 780-487-9042,
Fur Pillow

Johanne Lewis 

Curveball: Honouring Heritage
The clients are a couple who have strong aboriginal backgrounds. They celebrate this in the art that they collect. They have two pieces that are special to them; a modern portrait of a prairie First Nations chief, and a piece of Haida wall art – both of which must be featured in the room.


  • Portrait of First Nations chief
  • Haida wall art

Maureen Wright and Johanne Lewis – the Mo and Jo behind their design firm, MoJo Designs Inc. – have been working together for five years. The two co-owners seem to share a brain, constantly finishing one another’s sentences as they discuss the spaces they have designed.

Originally from England, Lewis confesses that she wasn’t familiar with First Nations art, and had one initial reaction to her curveball pieces: “Oh my God.” She sat down to brainstorm with her team and eventually came up with some elements that would honour the heritage of the curveball pieces without turning the space into a caricature. 

“I think when you look back in the day, when these people were roaming the land, they were using the leather, they were using wood, so [we were] trying to use those things that they may have used back then,” says Lewis. They were also trying to keep the space rustic and incorporate natural elements while also giving it a modern edge, she says.  

Wright mentions the woodworking vignette series that MoJo Designs Inc. recently set up in its store. The vignettes contained pieces from local artisans, and MoJo returned to the same artisans when seeking pieces for this space. The coffee table and side tables are handcrafted and designed to look like raw slabs of wood, the grain visible and the edges organic. The shelving contains a similar rustic feel that is modernized by the inclusion of dark metal pipes. 

Lewis and her team also tried to pull out some of the colours of the curveball painting, she says. Since another art piece may have competed against it, Lewis and Wright incorporated colour in the area rug and pottery throughout the space. 

“Natural elements tend to be all those browns and caramels, so we needed something that would give your eye relief from all those natural colors,” says Wright. 

Many of the small art pieces, borrowed from the Alberta Craft Council, reference organic and natural elements. From the wood buffalo and polar bear sculptures to the copper piece that Lewis points out, which can be interpreted as either a leaf or a canoe, the design honours the spirit of the curveball pieces by keeping a strong focus on nature and the land.

The Source:
Reside Furnishings, (10434 Mayfield Rd., 780-444-7800,
Megan leather chairs and Ellington console wall unit

Signature Lane Interiors, (10915 170 St., 780-453-2200,
City Craft leather love seat and Teak coffee table

Urban Timber, (10336 111 Ave., 778-245-9663,
Reclaimed wood stumps

The Area Rug Gallery, (#100, 17834 106 Ave., 780-483-1992,
Hand-made Indian wool centennial rug

Jack Lumber Co., (9820 90 Ave., 780-686-1052,
Metal industrial floor lamp

Prairie Boys Supply Co., (10657 116 St., 780-498-2668,
Wood base floor lamp

Mojo Design Inc., (1, 10340 134 St., 780-455-5229,
“Looking Through The Trees” art work, terrariums, “The Egg Holder” soap stone carved hand

Alberta Craft Council, (10186 106 St., 780-488-5900,
Ceramic tile art, Trojan buffalo by Voyager Art & Tile, ceramic plate and stand by Janet Grabner, metal boat by Daryl Richardson, hand-woven blankets by Ilya Oratovsky, raku bowl and raku shallow bowl by Patricia Hartnagel, polar bear raku by Lisa Wilkinson, vortex glass vase by Jeff Holmwood, chlorite inukshuk by Allan Waidman, fused glass landscape by Lisa Head-Harbidge, blown glass vase and blown glass bird by Darren Petersen, blown glass vase by Nicole Tremblay, ceramic vase by Joan Matsusaki

*Voting has now closed for this design challenge. The winner will be announced in our May 2015 issue.

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