So Canadian eh? : Tania LaCaria

I love finding Canadian designers living abroad! 
As a former expat living outside of Canada I can relate to being a "foreigner" in another country. My time away from Canada gave me perspective on what it meant to be a Canadian, how we are unique. But more specifically I saw that we Canadians have a different approach to design, a unique "stamp" per se, which is why I started this series!

My guest this weekis a Canadian living in Panama! I was excited to stumble across her blog and then her design site after discovering her on Twitter.
Ah - the power of social media!

Please welcome 

Tania LaCaria from TLC Design & Decor

She is so....

Tania is also the creative genius behind Passport 2 Design, a blog that chronicles her journey of design, her travels and all the gorgeous treasures she stumble upon!

Tania gave me some photos of her work, which I find stunning! But what I noticed is the way she has adapted her designs to suit the location she is in. The first three photos, which are projects she worked on in Toronto have a different vibe than the other spaces from Panama. In Toronto, the spaces has a traditional, classical elegance with more subdued colour schemes as opposed to the sparse yet vibrantly coloured rooms of the Panamanian homes. A sign of a truly gifted designer, one who truly "gets" the space.








I am so thrilled to have been included in the So Canadian, eh? interviews! I love HodgePodge and love what Barbara is doing to help keep the Canadian design scene on the map.

  • Tell us a bit about your background? Your education? Has design always been in your blood?

Well, in a word, "yes".  Throughout high school, I knew I wanted be in the arts, but I actually thought I would pursue a career as a print-maker or painter. I went on to study Fine Arts at York University, and after graduating, decided that my true passion lay in design and architecture, but I didn't really know what kind of schooling would be best suited to me. I started my own decorating company in 2004 but soon realized I really wanted to be an interior designer and needed more schooling.  I have since graduated from the interior design program at Sheridan College, and funny enough, found an old yearbook the other day from grade 6, in which I had written "interior designer" as my future ambition. I guess I knew from a young age, but it took a bit longer to get to the finish line than I would have guessed.

    •    How would you describe your design style?

My design style is difficult to pin point - I find it constantly evolving with my latest design obsessions. For the most part, I adore modern and contemporary design that blends rustic, vintage and organic elements. Stark white walls, concrete floors and wood beam ceilings would comprise the skeleton of my dream house - but I know that I change my mind about my favourite design style as often as I change my socks, so I don't like to commit to a single design style.  I approach every project with a "less is more" mantra that nearly always works out in my favour, but I sincerely try to design for the client, and push the envelope only as far as I can within my clients' comfort zone. After all, they are the ones living in the space, not me.

    •    Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I would say that all of my inspiration comes from travel. I work in order to travel - it's more than a passion for me, it's a necessity. I've always joked that travel is my drug of choice, but the more I consider it, I'm not really joking at all. Travel has exposed me to different construction methods, unique building materials and a variety of interesting design and decorating styles. All these things come into play when I am working on a project, but it's more than just materials that inspire me, sometimes the ambiance of an exotic space can inspire me deeply. I strive to create a "feeling" in a space, more so than just a nice combination of finishes, and traveling the world has exposed me to many different inspirational environments.

    •    What tips do you have for aspiring designers to hone their skills?

Practice, practice, practice! Design is an art, and just like any other art or craft, it will get easier with time and you will get better with practice. A great way to practice is to re-decorate any room you can get your hands on. Offer to help friends out with re-arranging their furniture. Make your own bedroom your pseudo-studio and experiment with different wall treatments, colours lighting and furniture styles. Before you know it, you'll get a sense of what looks good and what doesn't, and you'll learn a lot of hands-on knowledge that school can't always teach you.

    •    What is one design faux pas that you wish could be banished?

Oh geez, where to start?! I'm going to say that colourful toilets and sinks are just as painful to encounter as berber carpeting in residential spaces. THERE, I said it. I hate berber, and I hate your pink toilet :)

    •    Tell us one thing about you that would surprise us!

I guess it's always surprising to people when they find out that I have been traveling and living abroad for over a year now, and as a result, I don't actually have a home! I'm homeless. Ok, fine, that's a little overly dramatic, but it's technically true. When traveling and working abroad, my fiance and I rent houses, and when we come back home to Toronto to visit, we end up staying with friends and family. While I'm so lucky that my family has always supported my lifestyle choices and has always welcomed me back into their homes with open arms, I find myself aching for a place to call my own *only* because I want to decorate and design it on my own terms :)

    •    What do you like to do in your free time?

Free time? What do you mean? ;) When I have a spare couple of hours, I like to write. I have somehow fallen into a position as a freelance writer and have been a columnist for Women's Post magazine and  ZOUCH Magazine and Miscellany for a while now. Writing helps me express myself and organize my thoughts, and it's a bonus that other people actually care what I have to say, because if I wasn't writing for magazines, I'd likely be journaling to keep myself sane anyways.

    •    What goals or aspirations do you have for your design business and/or your blog?

I want my blog(s) to continue to do well and grow in traffic so that I can continue to justify putting so much work and effort into it. My design business, TLC Design & Decor, is a one-lady operation, and while I have been busy with design contracts over the past year, my goal is to be able to maintain the same traction in the industry next year, no matter where I'm living. I'm really impatient, and like to see IMMEDIATE results, but I know that growing a business (and a blog, for that matter) takes time. The ultimate goal for Passport To Design or some of my other blogs would be that they are so successful that I can rely on them for a steady (and decent) income. Being a full-time "blogger" is a dream I'm sure many fellow bloggers share. I like to believe it's possible.

    •    If you could meet anyone or do anything who or what would it be? 

If I could meet anyone, I'd want to spend a day with the Dalai Lama - he's just so darn inspiring! If I could do anything (and I'm going to take major liberties with this answer), I would freeze time and continue to travel the world without losing time back home with loved ones.

    •    You live abroad in Central America, has living there changed the way your approach design? What challenges have you faced?

Absolutely. Living in Panama has been a wonderful experience, and working in Panama has been a real challenge, especially when it came to overcoming the "unknown". Initially, I didn't know where to source furnishings and accessories/lighting, and I had no idea how to find trustworthy tradespeople in a new country. Luckily for me, time, patience and a lot of hustling allowed me to figure things out in Panama; but the "bigger" challenge I face is working on professional design projects while conducting business in a foreign language. As a result, my Spanish is off the hook! (Ok, not at all, but my "design vocabulary" has come a long way in a year). I have the same challenges with construction and tradespeople here in Panama as I would in Canada, but communicating is always more difficult. Luckily, there is always google translate.

    •    What are your views on the role of Canadian design on the world stage? Do you feel that Canadians have a unique sense of style, the way we design and decorate our homes? If so, what do you think sets us apart?

I am so proud to say that there are so many talented Canadian designers creeping up on the radar. At first I felt as though it was taking Canadian designers a little bit longer to break out into the design industry scene, but unlike some other Canadian industries (like Canadian film or music), our Canadian designers are featured on international design shows and are gaining the confidence of the international design industry.

I think Canadians' sense of style can be attributed to their ability to embrace diversity. Just like we have embraced our cultural diversity, we have embraced many different design and decorating styles. Canadian's love modern design and traditional design; we decorate with natural materials and man-made finishes; we love our rustic wood cottages and our glass-and-steel condos. While I can confidently pinpoint what some other cultures tend to prefer when it comes to design style (for example, most urban Panamanians love modern, minimalist decor with sleek lines and shiny finishes), I am happy to say that Canadians like a little bit of everything. I wouldn't expect anything else from such a culturally diverse country that accepts and celebrates cultural difference.

Wow, this interview was so much fun, thanks so much for the opportunity, Barbara! This was fun and an honour to be included in a roster of so many talented Canadians.

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your life and what is it like to live and work abroad. So jealous of your nomadic life - would love to just explore the world living here and there.

Tania not only do I enjoy reading your blog and all the wonderful tidbits you share but I love your blog design as well,
it is like a well travelled passport.

XO Barbara


  1. What an interesting interview. I have to say that Panama is a country I know nothing about (other than its location) so I'm hopping on over to her blog to check it out.

  2. Barbara, thank you for the introduction to a lovely Canadian designer! I had not yet come across Tania's blog!! I am often jealous of that nomadic lifestyle as well, so cool to see the world! Will be hopping over to visit Tania's blog now :)
    Nancy xo

  3. How lovely! These rooms are fabulous! Have a beautiful day, Kellie xx

  4. Yay! What a wonderful surprise I had this morning when I checked in with HodgePodge and found my interview here. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Barbara! I'll do my best not to let this interview get to my head ;) LOL

    *Tania @

  5. It sounds like Tania has an exciting life!! I'm going to pop over to her blog to check it out!

  6. What an inspiring interview! Loved meeting Tania and hearing about life abroad through your blog, Barbara. The turquoise walls, and the rock wall in her Panama spaces are awesome!

  7. Thank you all so much for the kind words, everyone :)

  8. Wow great job...Thanks for sharing Tania & Barb! Wonderful l work...Love how Tania incorporated the rock wall with the lush colours in the Panama home!


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