Not every midlife crisis is as stylish as Elizabeth Metcalfe’s. The Canadian designer waited until she was 40 to make her dreams come true and start her own design agency. And we couldn’t be more pleased about this decision! Imagicasa sat down with her to talk about the career switch she made at the turn of the century and how it was written in the stars all along. Elizabeth talks about her style, her work ethic and what inspires her.
How would you describe your style of interior design?
“When I was ten, a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto introduced me to the magnificence of Greek vases painted in 500 BC. Their simplicity resonated with me and sparked a love of the art and architecture of the ancient Greeks. It had a tremendous influence on my love for interior design. It is still the standard of how I define beauty. Today, many things influence my work. I've been incredibly fortunate to travel to beautiful destinations around the world, visited some of the world's most coveted art galleries, museums and gardens, and read well over a hundred design books. Evolving and refining are a constant in our design firm. Today, we're exploring more contemporary influences, but at the core there will always be simplicity of lines, strong silhouettes, classical proportions and an appreciation of beauty.” Are there any elements, objects, techniques, textures … that you keep going back to?
“It's never about a singular element; it's always about the interaction of objects, texture, and colour. We study even the smallest of details. The juxtaposition of light and colour; the relationship between negative and positive space; the importance of shape and silhouette, to create interiors that are intentional, confident, harmonious, and grounded in beauty.”
“Being open to new ideas constantly strengthens our company.”
Who or what inspires you?
“I've learned that it is often in the details that beauty is revealed. Designers see things that others overlook. Learning to see beauty in all forms came from the study of countless artists and designers. Art is something that needs to be experienced. I am especially drawn to Abstract Expressionism, developed in New York, during the 1950s and 1960s. Robert Motherwell, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin are some of my favourites. It's almost impossible to narrow down the designers that have influenced me, but I thank Thomas Pheasant, Joseph Dirand, Jean Louis Denoit, Vicente Wolf, Barbara Barry, Christian Liaigre and John Saladino for helping me find my own vision. I have a philosophy that imperfections are beautiful. It is often imperfections that make something unique and luxurious. I'd much prefer the fingerprint of a craftsman that tells me that this piece was hand-made, over something perfect made from a machine. We are committed to supporting the arts community whenever possible.” What is your process when (re) designing a room or even a whole residence?
“Everything starts with 'the plan'. Getting the bones right is always our first step. I'm always fascinated how ideas start and progressively grow into something even more wonderful and exciting. It's very rewarding, knowing that together as a team, we're richer and better than our individual talents. There's no need for egos at our office. We all believe that the more open you are as a designer to exploring different directions, ideas and methods, the better your work will be. Not only do we all grow and evolve as designers, our clients are the beneficiary of our partnership. Being open to new ideas constantly strengthens our company.”
“I've learned that it is often in the details that beauty is revealed.”
Do you prefer renovations (where you have to change what is already there) or new projects (when you have a blank canvas before you)? And why?
“Renovations and new builds both have their challenges and rewards and we always like to have a mix. I often get asked the question, what is your favourite type project to work on, and the reality is that all of them are different and exciting in their own way. We treat all projects with the same intention: to create something truly unique, memorable and lasting. It’s a wonderful feeling to present a proposal to a client that we know is exceptional. We have a belief that beauty is a positive force and is deeply beneficial to our life. Whether it’s a new build, a renovation, or a furnishings and decoration project, we work on creating a fully rounded design that captures our clients personal vision of the life they were meant to live. Our mission is to provide them with a design that they can't live without.” What is your relationship with your clients? How involved are they in the whole process?
“We place great importance on building strong relationships and a highly personalized experience to meet our client's individual needs. In the early stage of a project, we ask a lot of questions, and do a lot of listening. We need to have a very clear vision of their expectations on a number of levels. Budgets, timelines, services and business policies need to be fully discussed and agreed upon before we start the creative process. Over the years, as our reputation has grown, we are fortunate to have a clientele that places a great deal of trust in our work. They allow us the space and freedom to be creative, to push their boundaries and to design a home that is beyond their imagination and scope of possibility.” What can we expect from Elizabeth Metcalfe Design in the future?
“Being in the design industry is more than just my passion; it is my life. I am incredibly thankful for my team that lives and breathes design alongside me. We're a very collaborative office, where openness is welcomed, respect is honoured, and a commitment to quality work is at the core of every project. As our company evolves and moves forward, our foundation built on our strong values will remain. The world opens up possibilities that I can't even imagine, but isn't that always the dream?”