Decorating & Design

Interview: Designer Sophie Burke

A string of awards and accolades has made Sophie Burke Vancouver’s design darling. Sophie’s timeless yet whimsical interiors have residential clients knocking at her door (and Suzanne Dimma was smitten with Burke’s Scandi-inspired tableau at IDSWest 2013). The designer’s sophisticated, eclectic sensibility is spot-on, something she credits to her days of globetrotting. After studying Art History at the University of British Columbia, Sophie jumped across the pond to London where she landed at Terence Conran’s architecture and design firm and worked on restaurant and hotel projects in Paris, Tokyo and Delhi. “Londoners are brave with their design choices. They aren’t too concerned with everything matching,” says Sophie.

House & Home: Your spaces draw from different eras and styles, what is the key to an eclectic look that’s timeless?

Sophie Burke: Try and keep the palette consistent. You can have pieces from different eras that stand alone but using similar colours acts as a common thread that sets the tone for the room and ties everything together.

H&H: How does the West Coast influence your aesthetic?

SB: We’re so immersed in nature here, it’s ten minutes to the forest or the ocean, so I use a lot of natural materials like bleached wood, cotton and linen. I love the driftwood look and incorporate a lot of whitewashed greys and cooler blues into my spaces.

H&H: What are your favourite Vancouver spots with inspiring design?

SB: I love the Homer St. Café, it has a classic yet vintage feel and a great energy. I love the tile detailing and use of marble, and also the interesting lighting. It also has that neutral black and white palette that I love. Hawksworth Restaurant is another favourite, it’s so sophisticated and elegant. There’s also a new shop in Gastown called Litchfield that has gorgeous dark black walls and a hand-painted floor. Mint Interiors has a Danish line called Muuto that I love, and Inform is a great go-to for classic furniture pieces, there’s always something inspiring there.

H&H: Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating?

SB: Decorative lighting can make a big statement so that’s usually an area I splurge on. Also, dimmer switches are critical and instantly change the feel of a room, so make sure to spend the bit extra on them. Vintage finds and recovering vintage pieces are great ways to save. Also, plumbing fixtures can be basic, they don’t need to make a statement, other things can do that.

H&H: Fill in the blank: The one thing everyone should have in their home is…

SB: Books. They tell a lot about you and a home should reflect its owner. Something that’s personal and meaningful to you is important, maybe something you found on your travels.

H&H: The one thing everyone should avoid in their home is…

SB: A TV in the bedroom!

H&H: Your interiors are refined but relaxed. How do you achieve that balance?

SB: I don’t like when anything is too precious, or when something can’t be sat on or used. My spaces also have an organic feel because of all the natural materials I use so that could be part of the relaxed look, and I don’t use a lot of polished finishes. Using muted, soft colours and layering pillows and blankets adds an element of comfort. I also love mixing in distressed antiques with more modern pieces.

H&H: What are some easy ways to change your home’s look for spring?

SB: Bringing in branches that are bursting into bloom sings spring to me! I also love putting hyacinth bulbs on the counter. Throw pillows in lighter, brighter colours and prints are an easy way to change your look for the season. I love chartreuse; it’s the colour of buds on the branches so really suits spring. I also love the ballet palette we’re seeing right now; greys and soft pinks add an instant shot of spring.

For more great B.C. style, visit our Best of the West gallery. Plus, get more of Sophie’s tips in our Christmas Decorating Ideas photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Janis Nicolay
2. House & Home May 2012 issue, photography by Janis Nicolay
3-4. House & Home November 2012 issue, photography by Janis Nicolay