{So Canadian, eh? : Kerrisdale Design}

This week I am featuring an aspiring designer whom I so admire

Not only is she super talented, she has had three of her spaces she designed and styled published in the summer issue of Condos and Lofts by Canadian House and Home, made the cover of Oct. 2010 Style and Home and had a spread in this month's issue of Style at Home,
but is amazingly sweet as well. 

I have had the opportunity to get to know her through our various local blogger lunches, our work in organizing the Lifestyle and Design Bloggers West network  and she has even taken Nancy from Marcus Design and I to the local fabric wholesalers, where  she managed to snag me two generous samples of chaing mai dragon by Schumacher  - sigh... friend for life Karla!

So let's all give a warm Canadian welcome to the gorgeous...

{these photos are only a small sampling of her amazing sense of style, taste and design talent. I had a hard time choosing my favourites!}

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your education?

Well for starters, the dirty secret is that I’m not a formally trained designer! In fact I have a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management. My husband Jeff and I always dreamed of opening a home décor/furniture store here in South Surrey, and so that was the educational path I chose to reach that goal. I love business and new business development, and it was the perfect choice for me! I started my degree in 2004 and by the time I graduated four years later, I had produced 2 babies and a retail boutique! It was a really busy but really exciting time.

2. You owned a furniture/home decor shop, Kerrisdale Design, what inspired you to do so? 

It was simple really….I love furniture and home decor , and I love business. There was {and is} a huge gap in the market where we live for great designer quality home products, and the thought of bringing something unique to people was exciting. My husband and I also adore vintage and antique furniture, so reviving the more classic pieces {think old Duncan Phyfe sideboards etc} and adding a fresh feel with paint and hardware was something we enjoyed and wanted to showcase in the store.

3. Now you run and are the principal of Kerrisdale Design Inc. design firm {and write a blog under the same name}. What made you decide to switch from retail to a more hands-on approach in beautifying peoples' homes?

Interior design was really a natural extension of the store….people would come in and love what they saw in the store and want us to bring that “Kerrisdale” feel to their homes. The catalyst for making the decision to close my store and switch focus was twofold. First, a nasty economy at the time meant no one in retail was doing great, and since we were at a point where we were having to consider larger retail space, we felt that the timing wasn’t right. Secondly, baby number two arrived sooner than we’d planned on {Carys will forever be my best surprise ever!} and with two little ones at home being tied to set retail hours was not an attractive prospect.

4. You are a self-taught designer, what tips would you have for someone wanting to take the leap into the world of interior design? What have you learned along the way? 

A lot of people look at interior design and only see the ‘pretty’ stuff…designing a room, shopping, etc. What is important to understand is that it’s a business like any other, you just happen to be selling a creative product/service!  Kimberley Seldon always says that interior design is 20% creative and 80% business and I completely agree. For anyone starting out in this field its important to have an understanding of it from a business perspective – project management, marketing, client management, finance, pricing etc. in order to be successful.  Talent and a great eye for design are a wonderful starting point, but properly equipping oneself with the business tools and understanding required are what will determine success {just my two cents!}

5. What are you most proud of {other than being a mom to very beautiful children}?

I’m proud of my design business in the sense that it’s a comeback of sorts. For me closing my store was a difficult decision. Really difficult. As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, my store was a dream of mine, so to make the choice to close it wasn’t easy. Though I know that many, many of the most successful people out there have been faced with challenges in their careers, I couldn’t help feel like I’d failed. It was something I’d worked towards for years and it was gone. Couple that with having two young kids at home, and I went through a period {like many new moms do} of questioning who I was, my abilities, and my direction. Though without a doubt being a mom was {and is!} my number one job and joy, I had a desire to do something else, something just for me, and something that put my skills, gifts, and ability to use.

And so I started my design business, when Ben {my son} was 2 and Carys {my daughter} was a few months old.  I was blessed with some amazing first clients {our dear friends} who let me design their place. They believed in my abilities and entrusted me with their money, and I worked my butt off to create for them a beautiful space that felt like home. This past fall House & Home featured their place in their Condo’s issue this past fall {read about it here}. Since their job almost two years ago I’ve had such an overwhelming response from people approaching me to work with them on their homes, and I am amazed when I look at how much work I have, and the wonderful projects that have come my way.

So without a doubt I’m most proud of this new business that has grown over the past two years, but really when I think about it, maybe PROUD isn’t quite the right word. Because though so much of my work has gone into its growth {many, many late nights, early mornings, and long days}, I know that its God who has given me this new start, and I’m truly thankful every day for the gift it is.

6.  Who and what inspires your designs, your blog and your art?

As far as design goes, I’m inspired by other designers of course {Victoria Hagen, Darryl Carter, Thomas O’Brien, Colleen McGill, Michael Angus to name some favs} who have a classic, timeless, and clean aesthetic and who enjoy mixing both new and old. I’m inspired by seeing design and style in other places….I’m a bigSan Francisco and Napa Valley fan, and {though I’ve never actually been} I am in love with the whole Hamptons vibe – preppy, beachy, simple. Although a great fabric can be a wonderful jumping off point, I’m not as big into prints {as say a Sarah Richardson}, and so I’m often more attracted to creating a certain mood with different textures, finishes, lines, etc. I adore design blogs and magazines, and they are a constant source of inspiration for me.

I write my blog about things that interest me, things that I’m excited about, as well as everyday occurrences. I have a love –hate relationship with my blog to be honest. I love writing, and I love the interaction with people it can bring. I like sharing projects with readers and getting their input. I hate not having enough time to spend on it, however! As you know Barbara, to fully develop a blog can be a full time job, and I already have one….fitting in time to write on top of that is hard! When I meet a new client though and they tell me how much they enjoy the blog and how they feel like they already know me just from reading it, hearing them say that certainly inspires me to write.

For art, its again something where I am trying to create a piece with a particular mood/feel and so when I paint I’m trying to pursue that through the use of colour and texture. I like painting for a particular client {ie. commissioned work} and knowing the space where the art will hang….I find that more inspiring and motivating.

7. Not only did you run a successful home decor shop, currently run a busy design business but you also paint where your art has graced the walls of rooms featured in Style and Home. What inspired you to start painting? 

I come from a family of artists and creative people….art and creating things seems to just be something we do J. I started painting when I was on maternity leave with Ben. I wanted a particular style of painting for our place, and decided I’d paint one myself. I did, and was pretty happy with the results…and kept getting complements on it by visitors. So {this is where my business brain kicked in} I decided I’d try selling it to see if I got any response. I started pretty simple, and posted an ad on Craigslist selling it for about $500. An hour later I had a ton of emails in my inbox with people wanting to buy it and asking about other pieces I had available. And so it began!

8.  If you were given the opportunity to meet anyone or do anything, what would it be and why?

I would adore spending a few days shadowing one of my favorite designers like Victoria Hagen. Since I don’t have formal design training I’d love to see how someone like her {who studied at the Parsons School of Design} approaches a project, both from the design and business/project management perspective.

9. You are a very talented and busy woman, how do you balance family, your art and your work?

Ahhh Barbara….I’m come to the conclusion “balance” might be something always sought after, never fully achieved! This is an area I feel like I’m always trying to improve in. Here’s what I’m learning: Decide what things really matter, and don’t stress about the rest. There are only so many hours in a day and oh so many demands being made {all you other mothers out there know what I mean!}. It’s important to me to be a good wife, mother, friend,  while being a successful designer. I want to have the time to spend with my kids and play with them. I want to be the one to put them to bed every night, and I love cooking them dinner. I like having time to go out with my husband for dinner once in a while and to have moments to chat throughout the day.  I like having our friends for dinner regularly, and meeting Ben and Carys friends and their moms for playdates. What does this mean? It means that if I want to have time to do these important things, then some things will get less attention. And for me ‘balance’ means that there are just some things that have to give. My house may not be as clean as it should be, I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like, and the laundry pile may forever be a large one! And I’m learning to be ok with that. Balance also is asking for help from people {my husband, my family, my friends}, not feeling like I have to do everything…..delegating!

10. You have a very inspiring journey, what has surprised you along the way, something you never expected when you ventured into the world of design and blogging?

I never expected to gain such a wonderful support network. I started my design business solo….just me, working from home. Support at that stage amounted to my 2.5 year old agreeing that he thought the fabric I’d chosen was good. But as time has passed and I’ve made more connections with other bloggers and designers, I’ve realized what an amazing network exists. I have other designer/blogger friends whom I meet regularly for coffee and we chat about projects, challenges, and ask each other’s advice on different business matters. The Design and Lifestyle Bloggers WEST network that we’ve started is another example of this – like-minded people who encourage and assist each other in growing. Very cool, and just a whole area I never considered a couple of years ago.

11.  Do you think Canadians have a unique sense of style and way we approach the design and styling of our homes? {I am trying to explore this idea, can't quite put my finger on it and am hoping to get some insight from other Canadians}

That is a fabulous question, and I’ve been mulling it over since you posed it. I don’t know if I have a definitive answer or not, but here are some of my thoughts. I think we have a definite sense of style that stems from our Canadian “personality” if that makes sense. A little more spare and conservative than our American cousins, and yet slightly more contemporary and modern too. Some of the styles we see in the US {Hollywood Regency, for example} are much more exuberant and flashy. Brighter colours, more pattern, and bolder furniture are definitely being seen on US design blogs, whereas on the Canadian ones you may see references to similar styles, but done in a subtler way. The west coast in particular I think has its own style, unique even from other parts of Canada, and nature plays an important part in design here on the West coast.

But like most things, with technology the way it is and the development of the blogging community, this is changing….I can’t help but think that that gap between Canadian style and US {for example} is narrowing. Canadian design magazine writers/editors are reading US and international design blogs and can’t help but being influenced by what they are seeing…and its hitting the pages of magazines that the average {ie. non design blog reading} person is seeing. It will be interesting to see how design and style continue to evolve.

Thank-you Karla for taking time from your busy life to be a guest today. You are someone I thoroughly admire because you are doing what you love with such success!

XO Barbara  


  1. Maybe I'm a bit of a dork for being the first commentor on a post about about myself :), but I am truly thrilled to be featured! I adore Barb and her wonderful blog, so a big thank you for including me in this fun series my friend!

    Just wanted to clarify, the Oct 2010 issue of SAH magazine featured the beautiful home of my cousin Kate Vance. I had the pleasure of getting to assist her with some styling and products, and we had a ton of fun prepping her home for the shoot! All credit for the stunning design goes to her though, very proud of my cousin ;).

    Thank you again for the lovely interview Barb!

  2. what a fantastic interview! Karla is truly an inspiration with all the success she's achieved in such a short period of time - a natural talent! :)

  3. Another fantastic interview Barbara! As you know I've met Karla a few times through the Design & Lifestyle Bloggers WEST network, but her answers to your terrific questions helped me to know her just a little better. Thanks!
    And Karla... you're awesome!!

  4. Another great interview! Love this series. And Karla's work is so inspiring! Fabulous.

  5. I just adore this series- a fabulous interview Barbara and thank you for the oodles of inspiration Karla- so great to learn more about your design journey.

  6. I agree, a very talented gal! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I ate up every word Barbara and Karla! Fantastic interview, Karla I admire your career path very much. So much talent!! Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

    PS. Barbara, I think you might be happy about my post for today :)

    Nancy xo

  8. Thanks for sharing yet another fab designer with us.

    Your interview questions are great; exactly what we want to know. Is your background in journalism?

  9. great post & interview ladies...it's so great to celebrate local talent! Congrats to you both.

  10. Mel,

    Thanks, my back ground is NOT journalism but I am flattered you thought so!
    My background is pre-medicine and education!

    Glad everyone is loving this series, I love meeting all these fantastic women {have to find some men to stir things up!}

  11. I really enjoyed this interview with Karla. She is an up and coming Canadian design star and it was so nice to get to know her on a more personal level. Her insight into balance in life was really inspirational - something i am always struggling with too.

    Congratulation to Karla on all her success and to you for a lovely interview.

  12. Thanks Barbara, it was great to get to know Karla a little more through your inspiring blog!

  13. Great questions & motivating answers!..Thanks for this!

  14. Great interview! I feel honoured to call Karla a friend. She is such a talent:)

  15. Wow, Barbara! Great interview. I was a big fan of Karla's store, and I'm so glad to have met her at the blog lunch earlier this month.

    It seems that Karla and I have very similar paths. I have a degree in Poli Sci, a business diploma, and I have a home decor store...oh...I also paint!!!

  16. Great interview! Being published three times in our Cdn magazines in such a short time is truly amazing - congrats Karla!

  17. Great interview, very inspiring. Thank you!

  18. Wow ladies, that was wonderful! x

  19. Gosh, I am hesitant to leave a comment because all the other comments already said what I want to write. But I will chime in anyway. I love Karla's articulation in her answers, very inspiring and honest. And I would have to agree that your questions were of journalism quality! I agree with Karla on the Canadian style, it is a little more subtle but very pulled together. But I must say, being an American, I love Hollywood Regency and all the fun colors that goes with it.


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