2nd Annual Avenue Design Challenge

One space. Three designers. Dozens of cool decorating ideas you can take away.

The catch: The designer only has a limited time – less than two days – to take an empty shell of a room and turn it into a place of warmth and character.

Three local designers, Al Black, Brie Stachniak and Chantal Ross, each took on the Avenue design challenge. In just a few days, each of these designers was able to move in (and move out) an entire room’s worth of furniture and decor items. We photographed the results. Now it’s your chance to see how three different designers with unique influences take on the very same space. 

Al Black

The first thing most people ask Al Black about his decor company is why it’s called Above the Bank. The interior designer, with decades of experience designing homes worth anywhere from $500,000 to $15 million, has a ready answer. In the ’80s, he owned a dcor store called Claywork Studio that had two locations in Edmonton and one in St Albert, located in the historic Bank of Montreal building. So, his new business has a connection to the company that he sold in 1987. 

Black is also president of Christopher Clayton Furniture & Design House and, along with designing homes, he’s worked on the dcor for doctors’ offices, restaurants and many commercial spaces. He prides himself on keeping up-to-date on the latest trends through twice-yearly buying trips to Chicago, New York and North Carolina.

And, the latest trend he noticed inspired his look for the contest. “Right now, the matte brass and bronze is really hot in the States,” says Black. Touches of brass are scattered throughout the space, with bronze detailing on the chandelier, the bedside table and the bedside lamp.

Black went for a mid-century modern style with clean lines, plenty of black and a blend of masculine and feminine aspects. “I think women forget about their husbands when it comes to decorating the bedroom. They make it overly feminine and it sometimes makes men uncomfortable,” says Black.

It’s also a space that combines both formal and informal elements. The chandelier, lamps and textured bedding create elegance reminiscent of a 1950s parlour room, while the curved sofa provides an air of comfort. “It’s different than putting a chair in your bedroom. With the sofa, you can curl up and read a book.”

While Black was able to blend several seemingly opposing elements, the result is a cohesive room that, he says, worked out quite seamlessly. “My favourite part was seeing the whole thing come together – from the initial plans on the paper to seeing what the room looked like with the actual furniture in place.” -Caroline Barlott

The Source

del Adora (10344 134 St., 780-989-5334, deladora.ca)

Fleur de Lys pillow, $360, by Hope & Phillips.

Pillows (15X20), both $190, by Daniel Stuart Studio.

S & D pillow, $445, by Charm.

Pillow, $325, by del Adora. 

Legna pillowcase, $160, and sheet, $645, by S.D.H. 

Coverlet, $1,260, by Bella Notte.

Gold tray, $100, by Arte Italica.

Bugera Matheson Gallery 

(10345 124 St., 780-482-2854, bugeramathesongallery.com)

“Aspen Panel 2” painting and “Aspen Panel 3” painting, both $1,800, by Barbara Amos.

“Afternoon Rain in Siena” painting, $4,200, by Bill Gingles. 

Cosafina for Gift & Home Ltd.

(10508 109 St., 780-428-1415)

Wool throw, $295, from Stansborough Limited. 

Designers Library

(16108 114 Ave.,780-489-4002, designerslibrary.ca)

Carpet by Jan Kath, distributed by Colin Campbell. (Price available upon request)

Chic Chic ReadyMades Inc.

(9939 170 St., 780-484-4888, chicchicreadymades.com)

Drapes Reece Heaven drapes, $240.

Christopher Clayton Furniture & Design House 

(10363 170 St., 780-488-7001, ccfurnitureanddesign.com)

Dana chaise, $2,169, by Weiman Preview. 

Cigar table, $221, by Worlds Away.

Davenport bed, $2,202, and Luxe box, $237, both by Global Views. 

Davenport night stands, $1,114 each, all by Brownstone.

Cyrano clock, $327, by Luna Bella.

Opaline decanter and glasses, $177, from Studio A. 

Magnifying glass set, $687, by Interlude Home.

Primo chandelier, $1,386, by Currey & Co. 

Grande urn, $522, by Global Views.

Roses, $177, by Forever Green.

McElheran’s Fine Furniture 

(10155 124 St., 780-448-2026, mcelherans.com)

Hadley table lamp, $859, by Arteriors Home.

Brie Stachniak

For the Avenue design challenge, Brie Stachniak wanted to create a room with “sexual tension.” She achieved this by bringing in both masculine elements, like the horse’s head, and feminine elements, such as the chandelier. Even the colours used in the room – the silver and chocolate curtains, for example – represent yin and yang, says Stachniak. 

“Your eye moves around the room because of the tension,” says Stachniak. The conflict is even reflected in local artist Riki Kuropatwa’s piece “Rabbit and Dog,” which is all about sexual tension, says Stachniak.

She also layered different textures with lots of interesting visuals, such as the horse head. Stachniak kept the bedroom modern by including elegant pieces, such as the sleigh bed and the heavy armoire. “The bedding is very luxurious. The sleigh bed was to get the weight and scale of being masculine but the leather and slope is very feminine,” she says.

While she wanted the room to have yin and yang, it was also important to her that every piece in the room could work both on its own and in harmony with the other items. “What makes good design is when you have so many fabulous articles in your room that can stand alone but when pulled together, they harmonize.”

Stachniak hired an assistant, Katrina Walker, to help her carry out her vision. They filled the room with some eclectic pieces, such as the baker’s rack with industrial wheels. “I’m not a ‘matchy’ designer,” says Stachniak. “I like using lots of different materials, different woods, elements, et cetera. I’d say I’m a Swiss Army knife instead of a plain blade.”

After she gave birth to her son in 2010, she realized she was ready to start a new phase of her life, following her passion for residential and commercial design. Stachniak started her company, Flip Interiors, the following year. After landing a contract with Marcson Homes to decorate show homes, Stachniak achieved a big residential milestone – choosing the dcor for a lottery home in 2013. -Sydnee Bryant

The Source

Jillys Boutique

(14227 23 Ave., 780-413-4079, jillysboutique.ca)

Mirror, $421, by Ren-Wil, and horsehead, $157.

Swish Flowers 

(14225 23 Ave., 780-437-7493, swishflowers.com)

Floral arrangements and birch planter pots (Prices available upon request).

Refinery Clothing

(14263 23 Ave., 780-988-0012, refineryclothing.com)

Moss birch branches, $25 each, antler champagne bowl, $565, bench, $700, statue bust, $150, arrow dcor, $60, and armchair, $800.

Urban Barn 


Grey Portman jewellery box, $69, and tray, $49.

Broc frame, $56, and Cozy candles, $9 to $12.

Squirrel cushion, $29, bird forest cushion, $46, Owl Eyes toss cushion, $29, and Grey Betina throw, $49.

Topaz Juan small vase, $59, and large vase, $59.

Lanterna table lamp, $119. Chocolate Jamie drapery panels, $49 each. Grey Delight drapery panels, $29 each.

Park Lighting

(10353 170 St., 780-434-9600, parklighting.ca)

Mystic chandelier, $2,057.55.

del Adora

(10344 134 St., 780-989-5334, deladora.ca)

Bella Notte sham, $328, Signoria Masaccio sham, $175, St. Geneve Bocelli sham, $138, Winesome sham, $152, and chestnut sham, $118.

Dormisette sheet, $140, and Signoria Raffaello bedskirt, $260, Peacock Alley Majorca Squiggle throw, $390, and Shupaca Alpaca Desert throw, $195. Churchill Linen pillow, $175 and sham, $215, Stratford Velvet pillow and Ivana pillow, $190, all by Daniel Stuart Studio.

Cottswood Interiors

(10940 Mayfield Rd., 780-453-3447, cottswood.com)

Two square ottomans, $372 each. Bassett mirror, $99, rack, $299 and end table, $507. Stanley Chalkboard chest, $399, and Alloray Baristo rug, $599. Aberdare bed, $6,255, by Thomasville.

Riki Kuropatwa 


“Rabbit and Dog” painting, $850.

Chantal Ross

You’ll never see a white duvet on designer Chantal Ross’ own bed, considering she has a child and a dog. It wouldn’t stay white for long. Taking part in this design challenge allowed her to work with colours, textures and themes that she normally wouldn’t use at home.

But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t experimented with designs in other homes; after all, she’s been designing since she went to NAIT, spending her first year in Architecture and her second in Interior Design Technology. She graduated at 19 and, 10 years later, opened her own design company, Chantal Ross Interior Design & Consulting Inc., in 2003.

The room she designed for this challenge focuses on warm, inviting colours and textures inspired by a trip she recently made to the Jasper Park Lodge. “Their beds are wrapped in these glorious duvets,” she laughs. Paired with the white linens, the walnut bed becomes very “R and R” and luxurious.

The side tables are also walnut, and the woodbox beam above the bed is made from a Douglas fir. The hollow beams have a lot of design versatility, says Ross: “If I had more time on the challenge, or was doing work for the private residents I would have suggested ordering beams to put on the ceiling.”

Adding textual elements to the room was very important, she says, pointing out the hammered metal spheres and velvet pencil-ball cushions. The large rug was custom made in Argentina using top-quality cowhides. The cream hue juxtaposes nicely with the dark cork floor.

The chrome legs on the mink chair and ottoman add an accentual contrast to the deep earth tones of the rest of the room, and the handmade iron table is the perfect complement to the warm theme of the design. The table is also an art piece, designed to create a more open feeling to the space. 

“I had the idea of boutique-hotel-luxury-getaway in mind, because everyone needs to do that once in a while. And if you could do that every day in your own house, that would be glorious.” -Eric Silver

The Source

The Woodbeam Company 

(780-940-4065, woodbeams.ca)

Box beam. (Price available upon request)

UpperWoods Furniture Company 

(14129 130 Ave., 780-455-7054, upperwoodsfurniture.com)

Bed, $2,895, from the Definity Collection.

Two-drawer nightstand, $1,070, and single-drawer nighstand, $800, both from the Definity Collection.

Savoy shams, $149 each.

Throw, $298.

Shams, $149 each.

Velvet pencil ball cushions, $169 each.

Set of three silver spheres, $49.

The Daffodil Gallery  

(10412 124 St., 780-760-1278, daffodilgallery.ca)

“The Giants of the Mountain” sofa table, $5,500, by Paul Reimer.

“The Sneetches” painting, $1,775, by Tara Higgins.

“Fence Line” painting, $500, by Meghan Dauphinee.

Christopher Clayton Furniture & Design House 

(10363 170 St., 780-488-7001, ccfurnitureanddesign.com)

Mink chair, $1,938, by Lee.

Mink ottoman, $1,159, by Lee.

Accent table, $895.

Lamp, $567.

Vintage lamps, $977 each.

Designers Library – Trade Resource Centre

(16108 114 Ave., 780-489-4002, designerslibrary.ca)

Cowhide area carpet from Argentina. (Price available upon request)

Rainbow Draperies Ltd. 

(12508 126 St., 780-478-4919, rainbowdraperies.ca)

Silk pleated side panels. (Price available upon request).

Hudson’s Bay Company 


Leaves sheet set, $185, by Calvin Klein.

Luxe duvet cover, $210, by Glucksteinhome.

Readers’ Choice

Rustic elements give Brie Stachniak’s room an inviting feel. She wanted her room to mix the masculine and the feminine, to have “sexual tension.”

Chantal Ross wanted her room to have the feeling of a country inn, with warm colours and an emphasis on creature comforts. But her work is modernized with clean lines. 

Al Black’s mid-century modern look is accented by brass. His work features a lot of black and white, which allows for any accent colours to stand out.

Three different looks from three different designers. Now, the question: Which one do you, the Avenue reader, prefer?


The winner will be announced in the May issue of Avenue.

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