Rooms to Remember

We asked four local interior designers to revisit their favourite projects and tell us why they were so special to them.

Creatives of all sorts keep portfolios of their work: Photographers and illustrators have albums full of their photos and drawings. Musicians keep demo reels.

For interior designers, though, it’s a bit trickier. You can’t just pick up a room from someone else’s home and put it in your pocket. For them, favourite projects live on in photographs or in memories.

This month, though, we asked four local interior designers to revisit their favourite projects and tell us why they were so special to them. Their reasons vary just as widely as their aesthetics and design choices, but it’s clear that, when inspiration strikes, some truly beautiful – and memorable – rooms can be the result. 

Karolin Mtivier

photography by curtis Comeau

hair and makeup by Jasmine Ming-Wai Ma

Karla Billey

Dawn Stiles

Etienne Grossi

Karla Billey’s Favourite Room

Living Room, Downtown 12th-Floor Condo

The prairies and the fjords came together when Karla Billey’s clients asked her to decorate their 12th-floor condominium a couple of years ago.

“The client is Scandinavian, so she actually thought about colours that reminded her of being back home and living there,” says Billey, who has 20 years of experience in the interior design field. “She thought of the greys, the neutrals, and then she thought of some of the colours that actually are here on the prairies that reminded her of some of that as well, the tans. It was actually ahead of trend in terms of putting greys into a space.”

Working in those neutral tones – like white, grey, black and tan – might be challenging to some designers, but Billey says it comes naturally to her.

“I think it’s because of the gradation of colour and the different textures you need to use within [that palette],” she says.

The living room of the condo might be small, but it feels much larger due to the floor-to-ceiling windows. The northwest-facing view they provide of the city “makes the room,” Billey says.

Another central piece in the room is a custom-made area rug that Billey first sketched and painted by hand, and became reality thanks to Monson’s Carpet Finishing, a local company.

“A lot of times, area rugs only come in certain sizes; you can have them cut down and bound depending on the pattern. But we wanted something unique to just them.” –Glenn Cook

Grey velvet sofas, leather accent chairs, floor lamps and end table, all from McElheran’s Fine Furniture; coffee table, glass end tables and sofa table, all from Posh Interiors; area rug designed by Karla Billey and produced by Monson’s Carpet Finishing; silk drapes, roller shades and toss cushions, all custom designed.

Etienne Grossi’s Favourite Room

Dining Room/Living Room, Single-Family Home in Oleskiw

When Etienne Grossi took on the task of decorating the main floor of a home in southwest Edmonton, he found out that his client was a big fan of American artist Mark Rothko. Grossi took his inspiration out of Rothko’s paintings and carried it into the rest of the space.

“He painted with colours – bold colours,” says Grossi, lead designer at Shantam Interiors, based in St. Albert. “Because [the client] loves them, his paintings inspired us to splash colours everywhere.”

That meant lots of brightly coloured items throughout the whole floor, like area rugs, throw pillows and artwork.

“I love it,” Grossi says. “That’s my brand, my style.”

However, all that colour has to be balanced. The walls and some of the furniture are painted white, and the hardwood flooring is very light, creating a canvas that allows each pop of colour to be much more dramatic. He also created contrast by using more traditional furniture pieces in what was otherwise a very contemporary space.

The focal point of the room, a fireplace, is surrounded by a concrete mantel, which was one of the few decor pieces already in place prior to the renovation. Grossi repainted the shelves around it to match the concrete, which unified the feature wall and created one large, cohesive visual element.

“It’s always a challenge to have something already there, but it’s not always difficult. But you have to deal with it the best you can,” he says. –G.C.

Saba Italia Ananta sectional, Saba Italia No Logo Light armchair, Vitra Eames elephant statue, Ligne Roset Hix Cloud rug, Saba Italia Piu coffee and side tables, Ligne Roset Vik chairs and Cobalt Martha Sturdy Keats oval tray all from Dwell Modern; 17th C. Priory rectangular dining
from Restoration Hardware; Diano White Globus light fixtures from Robinson Lighting and Bath Centre.

Karolin Mtivier’s Favourite Room

Teenager’s Bedroom, Single Family Home in Cromdale

Working on a tight deadline, with little space, can encourage creative solutions. Karolin Mtivier favours the room he designed for a teenage girl for just that reason.

With their daughter headed off to camp in Quebec for the summer, Mtivier’s clients wanted a brand new bedroom waiting for her when she returned. It was a fun gig for Mtivier, who, after designing rooms for adults and dredging through the technical aspects of kitchen renovations, was ready for some levity.

“When it’s for adults, their design needs to be better than everyone else somehow. It’s more competitive,” says Mtivier. “But kids are just happy with something new and cool. I think, to surprise a kid and see their face, see that you made them happy, is just more fun.”

The challenge for Mtivier was that, in only 20 days, he would have to dismantle, design and rebuild everything in the room. Combined with the limited space in the room and the large number of personal belongings to store, the once simple task became a Tetris-like puzzle.

One big challenge was how to create a workspace for the artistic student, giving space to draw and do homework without crowding out the brand-new closet.

The solution? “I thought of modifying what was actually a dresser. So we removed the drawers and refinished the thing – then attached it to the bed,” says Mtivier.

“When we have to do things quickly, and we don’t have time and don’t want to spend $8,000 on a custom bed, I got creative on coming up with creative ideas to make it work.” –Cory Haller

Carpet tiles by Flor; bed frame, night stand, desk, closet, storage unit and wall shelves all from Ikea (modified); textured wall and ceiling
by Wall Flats; vintage desk chair; duvet cover and clock from EQ3; cushions from Crate & Barrel; dog sculpture from Chintz & Company; hexagonal wall shelves (modified) and desk lamp from Bouclair Home; horse painting by Emilie Lamache.

Dawn Stiles’s Favourite Room

Kitchen, Renovated Old Strathcona Heritage Home

When Dawn Stiles, principal at, sat down with Grant Moore and Dana Antaya-Moore to discuss their vision for their kitchen, she was already acquainted with the space – she had known the couple for more than 20 years. “It was all about the people on this [project]. It was creating what I knew they would love,” Stiles says.

She knew the couple had a passion for entertaining and cooking, so working with them and with Rdl World Class Kitchens to help deliver their dream kitchen was a rewarding process. “It’s this great design space that I get to keep enjoying because it so reflects who they are, and their love of hospitality,” she says.

The original kitchen in the Old Strathcona heritage home was tiny and dark, so the first step involved blowing out the back wall of the home and extending the space about 10 feet into the backyard. To add additional light, windows were installed in the backsplash.

The overall aesthetic of clean, rectilinear lines – down to the square pot lights – was a must for Moore, an architect, and the layout that Stiles created catered to how her clients wanted to use the space. “Because they love to host, they really wanted it to be functional and inviting and open so people can gather around the countertop and all be together.” –Adrianna Szenthe

Cabinets from Rdl World Class Kitchens; concrete counters by Jesse Poettcker at Slab City Studios; walnut dining table from IZM; shelves and chairs from Ikea; kitchen side table from Hothouse Design Studio; Innit Acapulco green side chair from Hudson’s Bay; AGA Pro+ range, Lienherr refrigerator, Faber range hood, AEG steam oven and Asko dishwasher, all from Avenue Appliance; Dasal recessed light fixtures from Wow Lighting; monorail light system by Edge Lighting; Soft Strip SS3 LED light fixtures from Mexx Lighting; dining room pendant
from Gabriel Ross (Victoria); flooring by Kentwood Floors; stools by Magis Italy; windows and doors by Loewen; Solarflective Teleshade window coverings from Allwest Commercial; kitchen sink by Kohler; kitchen faucet by Riobel.

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