I have been interviewing interior designers for some time now. After a while it starts to seem like the same old rhetoric … the same old ‘I like to keep things current for my client’. And then I got a chance to interview Chrissy Cottrell. Well, let’s be honest. I got a chance to meet up with her after waiting for her to get back from Paris where she was on a buying trip for a client. But worth the wait it was.
We met up at the Opus Hotel Lounge in Yaletown (the coolest spot in the community where she works).
She had that Mona Lisa smile on while mildly complaining about the rain in Northern France and the endless French flea markets that specialize in antique/retro furniture, furnishings, and fixtures. Then she really smiled and said ‘But it’s still Paris.’
I began my interrogation of one of Vancouver’s top designers with the obvious questions. How long have you been in the industry and what made you decide to become an interior designer? To my surprise Chrissy explained that, like mine, her father too was a builder and that she also knew job sites since she was very young … we joked about how we knew Dad was doing good when there was butter instead of margarine.
So tell me about how YOU approach a new project, I threw at her (trying to catch her off guard). She proceeded to open her attache and pull out a series of papers and placed them in front of me (making sure to point out that she never has her clients names on confidential paperwork). Upon review, it became evident that this lady is much more than a furniture buyer. No, this lady is much more than an antique/furnishing specialist. Chrissy is the real deal. She explained to me that what I was looking at was a series of questions, psychological questions, that gave her an insight into what her clients tastes and interests are and more importantly … how her clients see themselves. Wow. “Tell me more.” I said.
People think so often that they should “Keep up with the Joneses.” but what they really desire is a space that is theirs and that at the end of a long day they have somewhere to come home to & put up their feet and feel truly comfortable in their surroundings.’ It is so sad that I cannot write words to make you, my readers, understand how obviously devoted Chrissy is to this truth. She continued to tell me that budget is not everything but that it is everything … get it. She would rather save time and money NOT knocking down walls to make a bigger kitchen or a bigger living room BUT rather do what so many Europeans do … build up not out.
What the hell does that mean?’ I asked. In Europe, she informed me, people tend to utilize space better by maximizing square footage to achieve what you really want instead of spending too many valuable dollars opening the space up. Example, taking curtains to the ceiling to make the room feel larger (at bottom left opposite page) … locating that perfect mirror to help open the space up (middle right opposite page)… finding that timeless/endless piece of art that lengthens the room (at bottom left this page).
So why do you like to go to Europe to make certain purchases for your clients? I ask. ‘I don’t always’, she said. ‘But sometimes we have to (referring to interior designers) in order to get those pieces that will reflect my clients personality as we talked about earlier.’
It seems that sometimes being good at her job is not only knowing where to go look for items that reflect her clients persona but also knowing the people that can direct her there!
OK, let’s talk kitchens … I said. Bright, white, dark, wood grain, or flat. ‘Any, and all.’ she said. Again, it depends on the client. Then Chrissy added that she likes a contrast of light and dark, and a continuity of colour (that you will see in the photo inset at right). Lately she likes to incorporate a brighter backsplash to the point where the possibility of shimmering silver can work. But when I told her that I recently photographed an amazing piece of property that had a kitchen that sported bright red cabinet doors (very modern European) she informed me that although she always likes to think outside the box she also has to keep in mind that her clients will eventually be selling their property and therefore tries to recommend not to go too far outside the box or the property will not be easily re-saleable.
So then, knowing our time was coming to an end, I quizzed Chrissy once again about getting outside the box … what about hardware. ‘How do you mean?’ She responded. ‘What about horizontally mounted handles instead of the all to usual vertically mounted ones?’ I love them she said, then paused. ‘But it would also have to suit my client.’ I just smiled.
We packed up our things and told each other that we would talk again soon. I handed her a previous issue and thanked her for her time as I walked out of the Opus.
I was still thinking of Chrissy, while leaving the lounge and I thought to myself ‘If I had to choose a nickname for this professional what would it be … ‘marble’, because she is not only beautiful inside and out, she is so very well rounded in everything she does.’