October 9, 2015

A world inspiration

Interior designer Effie Genovese draws from her travels to turn homes into imaginative and nostalgic living spaces

Story LESLIE PETERSON
Photos Arlen Redekop/PNG

If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design. Ralf Speth, Jaguar CEO

She has just finished a yoga session at an Ontario cottage resort, an idyllic setting overlooking a lily pond. It’s peaceful contemplation for a woman who rarely stands still. Effie Genovese’s Space Agency Design is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of Vancouver’s leading interior-design companies, with major projects stretching from the south of France to Palm Springs, Southlands, Shaughnessy and, most recently, Kits Point.

With its exterior of bleached shingles and white trim, the three-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot cottage-style home blends effortlessly into its seaside locale

Her two passions, aside from friends and family, are travel and transformation. She incorporates design details from different cultures and eras into her imaginative canvases, whether Parisian belle-epoque or Hamptons beach house. She plucks materials from flea markets and exotic locales — pieces with attitude. The key to good design? Not money and not mainstream, says Genovese. She uses words such as personality, soul, surprise, spontaneity and tension.

“I follow my instinct and my eye and my inspiration comes from a lot of different things that at the time I’m not aware of,” she says. “It’s a sort of osmosis and it could come from fashion or graphics or vintage shops. It’s a mood. I’m a big Tom Ford admirer. It is also about how something makes me feel rather than style or color. I enjoy walking into a room and seeing elements of the past reinvented.

“As you get older you get more nostalgic, so I like the idea of recycling, sourcing items from second-hand stores and online. You’ll see a lot of vintage elements in my homes. I’ll refinish and recover furniture I’ve had for years because good stuff really lasts.” Her latest venture, a Hamptons-inspired Kits Point house, is one of four collaborations with Vancouver’s Formwerks Architectural. It’s a sort of homecoming, she says, given that she grew up in the neighbourhood.

With its exterior of bleached shingles and white trim, the three-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot cottage-style home blends effortlessly into its seaside locale. “It’s more of a summer house,” she explains. Large windows provide plenty of natural light, even on a cloudy day, and a south-facing sunroom’s eclipse doors open up the back, leading to a two-level terrace. The design of the house, Genovese explains, has taken inspiration from a house in southern France, her mid-century Palm Springs place and Kitsilano itself.

“I always make reference to old Parisian flats because I love that era, and then I make it look modern. “I chose a lot of warm colors here whereas my older palette was cooler, with more greys. It was important to incorporate the feeling of warmth from the beach, so kitchen cabinets are warm walnut and I’ve used bronze glass for the stairs with burnished gold railings.” Previously a duplex, the Kits Point house has been rebuilt as two single-family homes. It’s among seven the designer has completed, including a 5,000-square-foot Southlands beauty, a complete renovation with classical architectural details.

Her perspective on design in Vancouver: “We have a lot of creativity in this city. There definitely are some great architects, especially some of the renovation projects as well as the modern ones. And some amazing clothing designers: Lululemon, Hershel, Wings and Horns, Kit and Ace and Aritzia, to name but a few,” she says.

“The landscape of design in Vancouver is changing; it’s been a slow process. We’re very unlike most cities, definitely more organic, in part because of our very natural and beautiful landscape. It’s not as competitive as other cities, not as ‘in your face.’ You can settle into it. Like Kits Point being developed, but slowly. “In other places, it would be just complete rapid change, but here you still have a nice mix of cool little untouched bungalows and new houses. I really like that about this place.”

“I’ll refinish and recover furniture I’ve had for years because good stuff really lasts.” Effie Genovese

 

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