Vancouver, Canada's third-largest city and the only one that has both a coastline and rocky mountains, is consistently ranked among the world's most livable cities. Its urban-meets-nature vibe and mild weather make it an enticing place where many young Canadians relocate—among them a young couple, Sophie and Peter Collins. The newlyweds had no qualms about purchasing a home sight-unseen in the neighborhood of Cambie. The area had everything they wanted: leafy parks, young families, and a vibrant local scene—with new restaurants and bars popping up weekly. Though the house had not been renovated since it was first built in the 1960s, Sophie—a food and wellness blogger—had a clear vision of how she wanted to transform this two-bedroom house.
But to get this gut-job shaped up and family-ready, the young couple had to call on the help of interior designer Gillian Segal. Working with a large wish list, a small space, and a restricted budget, Segal was able to bring the couple's vision to life—and then some. Her goal: creating a warm and welcoming space that was both family-friendly and made for entertaining for the two gracious hosts to build a life in. We chatted with the designer about every aspect of the project. Take a tour—the kitchen is one that belongs in your "dream house" folder.
"The clients actually purchased the home sight unseen," explains Segal, "and it had not been updated (or taken care if) in the decades since it had been built (in the '60s). The house was unliveable as is, but the clients wanted to salvage the original structure and create a home they could start a family in and enjoy for years to come."
Jeff Martin Joinery Bronze Shaker Table (price on request)
To achieve this, the team focused on creating an open floor concept to maximize space. "Sophie and Peter love to entertain, so the new layout provides them with a great space for just that. Everything was essentially taken down to the studs and built back up again. To increase the size of the kitchen, we removed some windows, so we opted to paint the open spaces white to keep things light, bright, and airy. I’m a sucker for contrast, so black doors and windows and contrasting kitchen cabinetry really helped add personality and depth to the space."
"From a functional perspective, one of the most important goals was to provide the clients with a chef-worthy kitchen (they both love to cook) and a space where they could entertain family and friends," says Segal. "Our biggest obstacle was really about how to stretch the budget and create the look we wanted within that. A first-time home is no easy task for a young couple, so we really worked on getting creative with details to achieve an editorial look without breaking the bank."
For the countertops, Segal selected a manufactured stone counter to give the clients the marble look without any of the maintenance natural stone requires. "It is hard to compete with the texture and look of the real thing," says the designer, "so to counteract that we covered the entire wall in a beautiful marble subway tile."
"Sophie and Peter both have a love for traditional and rustic elements of design," says Segal. "However, since we were renovating an existing home full of midcentury features, our goal was to embrace some of the modern architectural elements of the space while incorporating some rustic, farmhouse style features to make sure this young couple felt right at home. Sophie has actually nicknamed their house #Vancityfarmhouse. They have planted the most beautiful and lush garden in the back where they grow most of their own produce—they took the rustic farmhouse vibe to a whole new level."
"We chose a more traditional cabinet profile on the kitchen to juxtapose some of the more modern elements and added small touches of brass on the pendants, faucets, and hardware," says the designer.
The designer wanted to make sure the couple would enjoy a true chef's kitchen with great appliances and durable finishes. "With all of the practical elements in mind, we wanted this space to have a rustic, inviting, and causal feel, which the open shelving really contributed to."
In the dining area, the designer focused on investment pieces that the couple could keep for years to come, foreseeing years of dinner parties and family dinners. "The space was really built around the dining table, made by Vancouver local Jeff Martin," explains Segal. "We made sure to keep the dining room open to both the living spaces and kitchen so that entertaining could feel social and inviting but not too 'precious'. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a party and feeling like you are in a museum—something the owner really stressed in the brief."
Matthew McCormick Dodeca Chandelier (price on request)
The kitchen also opens up onto a large open living space where the couple can host a party or snuggle up with a glass of wine and a movie. "My clients were Craigslist wizards," says the designer. "From finding their Sub-Zero fridge to their beautiful sectional, they were creative about finding exactly what they wanted for a price that worked with their budget."
Being resourceful helped the clients achieve a high-end look on a low budget. "One of our biggest obstacles was keeping the budget on track," says the designer. "Building or renovating your first home usually means a more restricted budget, but it doesn’t mean your taste is affordable. This project was all about doing everything we could to create a high-end product while being conscious of spending."
MTH Woodworks Bloom Coffee Table Style No. 3 (price on request)
In the living room, the designer infused her "modern eclectic" style to give the owner a timeless space that still felt modern and comfortable. "It’s all about embracing contemporary design while still paying homage to classic elements and details," explains the designer. "I love creating spaces that feel curated, collected, and above all, unique."
"My philosophy as a designer is all about helping clients find their style," says Segal. "While I bring my perspective and flair to each project, my job is to help clients create spaces that represent them and their unique lifestyle, experiences, and outlook. Whether they are traditionalist or minimalist, I set out to help them identify their own unique style and help them refine it to create something exceptional and original." Because the space was restrictive, the designer had to play jigsaw puzzle to fit their large wish list. "Somehow we managed to fit it all in and provide them with a space in line with their expectations for a single-family home."