The Centre Spread

Every good design has a story. With a new client, the story always begins with discovery. We get to know what our clients like, what they can’t stand and what makes them really hum. We then begin to develop a “Design Anchor”- a word or phrase that summarizes their style and preferences- and like a good thesis of a story, this anchor guides our design. After we have the design anchor we begin to hammer out all the details.

Part of that hammering involves “feature design.” This is the part of the story where we focus our attention on one element of the house, a fireplace, or a custom wall unit and get creative in designing something that will really champion our design anchor. This element becomes the centre spread of our storybook.

Last week, we gave you a sneak peak into one of our latest completed projects. On our social media feeds we got a lot of comments and feedback about one of the features of the house- the fireplace wall. This week we wanted to spend a little more time telling you the backstory that lead to this incredible feature.

Prized Possessions

renovation inspiration

When we first met our clients, they brought us into their home and immediately we were blown away by their collections- art, sculpture, pottery, tapestries, dishes, and furniture. From around the world, this couple had collected things that not only looked incredible, but they clearly reflected their passion and depth of character. It didn’t take long before these items provided us with our design anchor: “Old World Charm.” It captured the story beautifully.

When discussing their plans for their new home’s renovation, we talked about what elements they wanted to include in the design, and it was clear that these prized possessions needed to be on display. And so in all aspects of the design, we made space for these items to be on display, from cabinet units, to glass doors, to full gallery walls.

Two Feature Design Options

When it came to designing the living room, we knew we had to do something extravagant. With pen and paper, Will got to work and begin to design a “feature wall” surrounding the fireplace. The creative process brought him in two directions.

feature wall design

The first direction was more traditional. Following a craftsman style, he designed a closed entertainment unit for the television and audio components and then an open shelved unit for display items. The look was pleasing and predictably inline with Old World Charm.

feature wall design2

The second direction took a bit more risk. With open boxes for all components, this design put everything on display. Fashioned out of reclaimed barn beams the boxes gave both a nod to the old country but committed to the modern era. The square, mitered corners added contrast to the soft curves of the fireplace and made both the displays and the fireplace their own feature element, while still remaining complementary.

After much deliberation, the second design was chosen.

The Craftsman

a work in progress Master Craftsman

When we brought the designs to the craftsman who was going to be building the boxes (he also was the project manager) he was skeptical. As a skilled artisan, he appreciated the creativity and the originality, but he wondered if the choice was too aggressive and had lost touch with the “old world charm.” Putting aside his personal preferences, he began to build the boxes. One after the other he worked tirelessly to make each angle perfect, while working with completely imperfect materials. Ordering the glass shelves became a nightmare as each one had to be measured and templated precisely to fit into the custom boxes.

During the installation, the client began to doubt. “Have we made the right choice? Maybe we should have stuck with the tradition…is this really going to fit?” There was some turbulence in the air..


But then the moment arrived when all the display boxes were up, the glass was in, the LED “paper lights” were installed and the Bali Dancer was set in her place. Like a harmonious choir, the entire building team gasped in awe- it fit. All the pieces fell in place and the risk was rewarded with stunning beauty. Without even knowing it, it was the feature wall that they had always dreamed of.


Which airplane will you choose?

When doing a renovation, there is a creative journey that needs to be traveled. As a homeowner, you have to choose an airplane to get into and though you have an idea of where you want to land, you have no idea how to get there. You are at the mercy of the pilot so you hope and pray that you chose the right plane to get you where you want to go. There is a huge element of risk and an even bigger dose of trust.

In this story, before taking off towards “old world charm” Will offered our clients an opportunity to fly in a comfortable jet or to take the four seater biplane. The client could have chosen the jet and most likely would have felt quite comfortable along the way. But instead they chose the biplane, experiencing some turbulence and some mixed emotions along the way. But when they arrived at their destination, it took their breath away. The bumpy journey drifted away because they had landed.


Bringing our clients in for landing is one of the greatest and most satisfying parts of our story. It’s not always an easy ride, but when we have the chance to land with our client, it becomes well worth the journey.

We would love to join you on your journey towards landing. If you are interested in finding out what shape your plane would take, we would love to start the process with you. Fill out our contact form and we would be happy to start your story today.