Vancouver Chic: Interior Decorating Guide to Canada’s Most Beautiful City
The ironic uniqueness of Vancouver style interior design is that its emphasis is on the beautiful exterior views afforded by the city’s coastal mountain geography. Situated on the edge of the Pacific Northwest, this is a city where serene ocean meets imposing mountain, and where functional modern architecture is adorned with ancient indigenous art. In the mid-twentieth century, urban planners ensured that the skyscrapers going up would preserve the spectacular views and took care to protect spirit-rejuvenating green spaces, the most famous of which is Stanley Park. These sensibilities are reflected in Vancouver interior design, which is characterized by unobstructed windows and earth-toned palettes.
If a breathtaking view is available – as it often is in Vancouver – then it usually becomes the dominant design element. Ever-changing skies provide a dramatic backdrop to a room–from brushstroke clouds to indigo twilight to red orange sunset. Snow peaked mountains rise into the clouds above a calm inlet. At night the cityscape with lights aglitter takes center stage. Every component that goes into the interior design is chosen to enhance and complement the blessing of this wonderful setting, allowing one to take in the natural scenery from any vantage point in the home.
Large windows, often floor-to-ceiling, lend themselves to open floor plans for pleasing proportions. But the psychological makeup of the residents may play a role there, too; the expansiveness of the Pacific Northwest is matched by the adventurousness of many people who settle here. Proximity to the wilderness attracts daring outdoors men and women and the technology-rich business climate is a magnet for visionaries and entrepreneurs. This don’t-fence-me in approach to life might explain the penchant for open floor plans and unhindered traffic flow.
Stylish furniture with clean, uncluttered lines contributes to the open, spacious feel. Couches and chairs with chrome or wood frames that raise them from the floor leave ample breathing space. The inclination towards furniture that is inspired by Eames, Bauhaus, and other luminaries taps into the zeitgeist of the early skyscraper era, when optimism was high and architects aimed for the stars. Vancouver is a young, vibrant city where this spirit is still strong. Besides being beautiful and interesting, this matching contemporary furniture boasts added integrity in both its functionality and timelessness. Like the city itself, well-designed modern furniture is edgy and sophisticated without being pretentious.
Low, long cabinets in oiled wood complement the outdoors, and some wood – cedar for one – brings the clean scent of the outdoors in. A big open room can accommodate a long sectional sofa that would echo the lines of such a cabinet. A coffee table might then become the focal point and an opportunity for whimsy. With plenty of space, perhaps two coffee tables in different heights or shapes could be used as this might subtly evoke a mountain range. Or a molded plastic high tech wave-shaped table in ocean blue could be at home there. Any style chosen gives the opportunity to display, what else, a coffee table book!
David Suzuki, a Vancouver-based scientist and environmentalist of international renown, has a beautiful coffee table book titled The Sacred Balance: A Visual Celebration of Our Place in Nature that he wrote with documentary filmmaker Amanda McConnell. It is filled with nature photographs, drawings, and satellite images. It is based on the following seven elements: earth, air, fire, water, biodiversity, love, and spirituality and is, in part, about the native peoples’ relationship with nature and the link between the ancient and the modern. This philosophy could apply as well to Vancouver interior design. One way this is expressed is by decorating with the indigenous art of BC’s First Nations.
Indigenous art is nature-inspired and timeless in design, which corresponds extremely well with Vancouver interior design. Sculptures and totems, simultaneously primitive and sophisticated, animate big open spaces and their nature themes play off the views of the great outdoors. Indigenous art influences Vancouver interior design with its reverence for nature, and decorating with it is another way of bringing the natural world inside. It is also another way to link the ancient past with the modern present and the spirit world with the tangible world. Paintings by First Nation people add color and spirit to Vancouver interior design, complementing and adding drama to the soothing earth tones and scenic backdrops of the home.
The Pacific Northwest has a primal connection with its wilderness, mountains, and proximity to the ocean. It is often shrouded in clouds and has a mystical, spiritual air about it – thus its popular designation as “Lotus Land” to the rest of Canada, for whom winter is a far more unforgiving force. Vancouver is also a modern city of more than half a million people, a city of skyscrapers and technological enterprises. Both the ancient and the modern are expressed in the iconic Vancouver style of interior design. Clean lines, open spaces, and spectacular views create a home that is tranquil and calm as well as inspirational and exciting, echoing the calmness of an inlet in the shadow of a long-dormant volcano.