The Curation

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July 2022

How Virtuous Design Helped Me Create My Dream Home

Nostalgia is key 

This article is a collaboration between vitruvi's Natural Habitat and Courant

Throughout our relationship, my husband James has consistently talked about the importance of “objects of virtue.” To be honest, though, those words didn’t resonate with me until a few years into operating Studio Roslyn: the interior design firm I cofounded with Jessica MacDonald. The moment of clarity came when I asked myself what deems a space successful. I realized it’s not the driving aesthetic, but rather all the special little moments that go into an interior, that create the overall experience. 

So, how can an inanimate object be virtuous? How can an object hold meaning more than its monetary or aesthetic value? I don’t have the philosophical answer to this, but the word that resonates with me in regards to understanding virtue is nostalgia. Nostalgic memories are usually associated with a wonderful time in your life—a positive experience or an amazing place you visited—and if that’s not virtuous, I don’t know what is. There is even something delicious about the way nostalgia rolls off your tongue; it sounds strong but feels warm, has substance—the same way a caramel slowly melts in your mouth, leaving behind that gooey sweetness you can still taste hours later. Also nostalgic, no? I digress. Back to objects of virtue.

Living, working, breathing, clawing your way through modern life can feel exhausting at times. I myself am an absolute sucker for the endless Instagram doom scroll; there is a constant need to feel “connected,” which ultimately leaves me feeling disconnected and empty. Call me old fashioned, but I believe in my heart of hearts that the magic of physical space, objects, touch, and in-the-moment reality can never be replaced. There is something so wonderful about being moved by a thoughtful interior, a piece of artwork, an old-growth tree, a tantalizing scent—that shit fills you up. As an interior designer, if you approach your work with the same intent as being moved by these things, I believe excellent design can be achieved.

In recent months, I have had the privilege of renovating my own home: a 700-square-foot 1980s apartment in Vancouver’s Hastings Sunrise neighborhood. This presented an interesting (and challenging) opportunity to practice our studio’s design approach in my own personal space.

Over the years, our homes have always been growing collections of things we love and that hold value to us: my grandmother’s watercolors; Aunt Connie and Uncle David’s paintings; James’ mom’s old textiles; his guitar collection; contemporary and local ceramics. The common thread through all these items is that they are meaningful to James and me—nostalgic, as they say. Armed with this, I started designing our home not with the intent to create a masterful interior, but to create a meaningful background to house our things (and us, of course).      

       It excites me when I come across a company that takes the same level of care and intention with its products that our team does with interiors. Something as seemingly simple as delivering scent in your home can be elevated if the vessel in which it is held is equally as appealing as the scent itself. At Studio Roslyn, we have been putting vitruvi products in our projects for years, largely because of their duality: these diffusers double as pieces of home decor. And the pleasure is now mine to have two vitruvi diffusers in my home. The Terracotta color I chose in both the Stone Diffuser and Move Diffuser compliments the rich tones I used in my space: burgundy, deep earth tones, and tonal greens. I even have a new morning ritual that has been a result of the renovation: when I wake up in the morning, I put on my fuzziest robe, kiss my doggie, walk to the kitchen, turn on my diffuser (currently with Golden Blend in it), and take three deep breaths. Intention setting—it’s real. Your surroundings impacting your mental health? Also real.

We also had the opportunity to add two sleek wireless charging pads from Courant to our home. Courant is another company that holds excellent design in the same regard as the function of its products. I keep the CATCH:1 in gorgeous brown Saddle leather by our bed for easy overnight charging; meanwhile, the larger CATCH:3 in Saddle leather sits on our kitchen island, and every friend who has visited us since the renovation has commented on this piece, exclaiming how smart and beautiful it is. I love how simple, fast, beautiful, and cord-free it is to charge my devices now. Another virtuous design win.

Beyond what I would call nostalgically-influenced design decisions, the most powerful part of our renovation journey has been the people behind it. My mom and dad uprooted themselves from our farm in rural Manitoba to come to the big city for three months and help with the project alongside myself and James. My dad is a talented carpenter, among many other things (teacher, horse rancher, and all around amazing human), and my mom is a real-deal Renaissance woman. Being able to complete this renovation with our family (my brothers Ben and Trent also took turns flying to Vancouver to help—an electrician and carpenter, respectfully), was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Putting physical labor and love into our home has made the byproduct of living here so special.

Nostalgic references in the design of our home were influenced by the existing 80s architecture of the building: salmon-pink elevators and a flagstone fireplace. These were inspirational jumping-off points for me. The kitchen has a bold granite countertop and backsplash with sage-green lower cabinets and birch plywood uppers, while vintage-inspired brown grasscloth-and-wheat-patterned wallpapers and mirrored walls are balanced with contemporary furniture pieces, such as our sofa. The result is an artful home—highly eclectic, but most importantly, personal to James and me. It’s filled with our objects of virtue that bring about that oh-so-warm-and-tingly nostalgic feeling.

I’ll leave you with this: be bold, be brave, have fun, and make magic.

Story: Kate Snyder
Photography: Jeremy Jude Lee

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