Amie Thomas named her interior design studio Moss and Oak (www.mossandoak.com). "Moss represents the artwork: objects, furniture, the decorative element," Thomas explained. "Oak is the structure: the interior space, the plan and the architectural elements. I'm pursuing an interplay between the two."
"I have been working with other design firms - I was employed by an architectural firm before moving to Bowen," she said. "Now I have my own business because that gives me a more flexible schedule." For her business, Thomas is looking to get more residential contracts - she also offers a workshop in the fall.
"The workshop is intended to get people familiar with my name," Thomas explained. "It also allows me to help people realize their ideas at a lower price." She adds that many people have great ideas and not everyone can always afford designer fees.
The first workshop Thomas offers starts in November. For the eight-week-program, the focus will be on specific interior design projects. "People bring in an idea for one room of their house," Thomas said, adding that she thinks kitchens might be too complex for the scope of the sessions. "I will share my sources and my contacts and we do field trips to the suppliers. I'll also use my expertise to help the participants implement their own interior design projects."
The workshop is organized through the Bowen Island Arts Council and held Saturdays at the Gallery at Artisan Square. "I'm really excited to see what types of spaces people are bringing in. I'll run the classes according to what they want," Thomas said but adds that she would prefer a diversity of spaces. "We can all learn from each others' ideas and come away inspired."
For most of her career, Thomas has specialized in kitchens and bathrooms and she likes this kind of work. "For those spaces, there are so many things to consider and small details can have a big impact," she says. "I've been an interior designer for seven years. Before that, I was a set designer for five years."
Asked about her favourite projects, Thomas mentions two: a Boffi kitchen she designed a few years ago and a newer project on Bowen Island. "When I worked for a design firm, one of our clients was Inform Interiors and they asked me to design a Boffi kitchen," Thomas recalled. "It was a high end residential project. The cabinets were all built in Italy and they were beautiful." Thomas adds with a laugh, "It was exciting to be part of a project with such an established firm. And it was gratifying to see your design completed without corners being cut." As much as Thomas enjoyed doing high-end work, she also realizes that most projects are subject to budget constraints and she enjoys the challenge of finding the best solution for each situation.
The other project is a kitchen on Bowen Island. "We used bamboo for the cabinets and counter tops," Thomas says. "The main idea for the space was to bring the outside in. The property is situated higher up on a mountain hilltop overlooking Howe Sound and we didn't want to do anything flashy to take away from the gorgeous surroundings. Everything is quite subtle."
Thomas' work is not limited to designing interior spaces, she also designs furniture. "I've designed custom-made chairs, tables and desks. Sometimes a project just involves redoing a fire place. I work on big as well as small projects, from macro to micro," she said. "I understand that big changes are not always easy in this economy.
"It takes a lifetime to collect beautiful objects and sometimes, the best course of action is to utilize existing objects that can be restored or re-upholstered. Rather than starting new, I can help extend the life cycle of an interior space," says Thomas. "I don't want to design something that needs to be removed in a short span of time. I'm aiming for a timeless aesthetic." Thomas has a fine arts background and brings her artistic expression to each project - she also is passionate about sustainability issues and always looks at energy efficiencies and healthier options.
Thomas also does staging - preparing a home or space for real estate purposes. "I often suggest adding a fresh perspective to the property and I can beautify where it is needed," she said.
"I love beautiful objects but I'm not a decorator," Thomas says, adding that she leans towards the minimal as opposed to clutter. "With my company, I'm looking for local artists and artisans to bring in and create a bit of a community. I'd like to provide a place for creative furnishings and art to be represented. When I get to a point of decorating a home or a space, I'd like to have an artist whose work I can draw from." In the time she has been working on Bowen, Thomas has already identified a few go-to people, mostly through referrals and examples of their work.
Thomas explains that the idea behind her classes is to offer an affordable option for people and adds that she is helping them realize their own design ideas, not hers. "That would be too time-consuming for me but I will offer suggestions," she adds, "It will be fun to be part of projects and it's always inspiring to share ideas." The course starts on November 3. It involves sessions at the Gallery at Artisan Square as well as trips to Thomas' suppliers.
This is one of the benefits of hiring a designer as her clients can get a 15 to 40 per cent discount on materials, according to Thomas, who believes that this sum easily justifies paying design fees. Even if people want to transform their home with their own ideas, consulting an interior designer can pay off.
"Even if people do it on their own, they sometimes want to explore what a designer would do. A friend wanted to reconfigure the house but didn't know where to start," she said. "A designer often brings a fresh perspective on how to reconfigure spaces. That might include moving walls or moving furniture and making it flow a bit easier. I often look at adjacencies for this purpose."
Thomas adds that she often deals with clients who have recently purchased a home and need to make changes to be able to live there more comfortably.