When Interior Designer Tamara Wouters is in New York, she has one can’t-miss destination: abc carpet and home. “New York is my #1 city for inspiration and abc carpet and home is my favourite store. I like that it’s eclectic; it’s just done so creatively. I met the owner once going up the elevator and I felt like kneeling down!”
Back in 1999, Wouters opened Peridot – a home decor boutique which itself became a signature stop for design-mad visitors passing through Vancouver. It was not as big as abc carpet and home, but it also impressed with its creativity, clear point of view and design confidence.
“I was trying to create a mix of modern and French pretty. I brought in antique pieces, but we would rework them. We’d take an old Louis chair, but paint it high gloss white or high gloss black.”
Wouters sold Peridot almost five years ago, though she remains supportive of its new owners and approach. She, meanwhile, continues to bring her keen eye and interior design magic to the work she does for Tamara Wouters Design. It is a thriving business that has grown through word of mouth. “A huge part of my job is trying to understand who the clients are and how they live.”
*Photos by Kim Christie unless otherwise indicated
To start building a design vision, Wouters will chat with clients and review any materials that they might have collected – their tear-outs, wish boards, pinterest accounts. She will also look for subtle clues: how the clients dress, how casual or formal they are.
Wouters will often be brought on by couples who don’t quite agree on interior styling. “That’s a huge part of the job. A lot of couples have very opposite styles. Trying to marry the two is more of a challenge for sure, but it always ends up coming together. There ends up having to be a couple of compromises on both parts.”
Wouters likes to take a collaborative approach in her work. Many of her clients come back to her each time they buy a different house. “Right now I’m working with a client and I’ve done a few of her homes in the past. She doesn’t live here. It’s all through phone calls and emails. The trust factor is so high that she just says: you know me. Just do it. It makes it really fun. It also adds more pressure, when they trust you so much. You feel like you have to absolutely hit it out of the ball park. You appreciate so much their level of trust, you don’t want to let them down.”
Over the years, Wouters has worked with her sister, Kim Johnston, who is also an interior design and an artist whose striking, streaked florals sell at Peridot. It is not surprising that the sisters took a design path given the creativity of their mother. “My Mum had a huge influence on me,” says Wouters. “She always created beautiful vignettes through the house. She loved beauty, she would always have fresh flowers. She has been my biggest inspiration.”
Wouters has also worked for years alongside Emma Comesotti, who now runs Philosophy Design.
Wouters has relished her collaborations with artist Patricia Larsen. “My style was always more glam. Then, Patricia and I became close friends and her style started to influence mine. I morphed into a more organic kind of glam. We’ve done a lot of styling jobs together for magazines. I would finish doing an arrangement of flowers and she’d come over and knock some down. I would fix and fluff the pillows and she would turn them around. It works.”
In her own firm, Wouters now works with two “amazing” staff: Space Planner Nita Hull and Junior Designer Courtney Hundseth.
Given that around 35% of Wouters’ work is on commercial projects, she also works closely with architects. “I do a lot of new builds as well. At that point, I’m very involved with the architect, trying to perfect the space planning. Once that is done, I’ll move on to story boards and budget spread sheets.”
She is particularly proud of recent work she did at Project Skin MD. “I worked with this amazing architect named Rene Katz.”
What advice would Wouters offer to home-owners tackling design projects of their own?
1. “What you edit is as important as what you add.
2. When furnishing a small space, small sized furniture can actually make it feel smaller and cluttered. If unsure, have a space planner help you with the ideal furniture layout.
3. Please don’t hang your art too high! If you are unsure of what height, google it. There are rules to go by.
4. If you are unsure of what your style is, do some research. Save photos from Houzz or Pinterest and eventually you will see a common thread of the type of overall look and feel you are trying to create.
5. It’s safest to keep your large pieces neutral in colour. It’s very easy to add lots of colours with pillows, art and accessories. That way you can always change it up whenever you get bored.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton