Coffee With: Sarah Keenleyside & Lindsay Konior of Qanuk Interiors

Q&A with Sarah & Lindsay

Casaza: How did you get your start?
Sarah Keenleyside:
After graduating with my environmental design degree from OCADU, I was working as Candice Olson’s design coordinator on her TV shows Divine Design and Candice Tells All for several years. I loved the exposure to so many residential projects season after season. It was a crash course in design solutions with each project we would complete. Once I felt confident enough to go out on my own I started my first firm Sarah Keenleyside Designs.

After two years of running that company, Lindsay and I teamed up and formed Qanuk Interiors Inc. Two design heads are always better than one! Collaborating with someone you trust helps you push design ideas that you might not have the confidence to present to clients without that second opinion. Lindsay and I often ask each other, “Is this crazy cool? Or just crazy?” 😉

Kitchen Design by Qanuk Interiors
Design by Qanuk Interiors

Lindsay Konior: I was influenced by my mother; she would take me to antique markets as a kid and I think I caught the design bug then. I learned about colour and materiality from her and I’m convinced that inspired my career path. After graduating OCADU I worked freelance for some prominent Toronto designers eventually securing a gig with Fleur-de-lis Interior Design. The principals, Eric and Peter, specialized in a high-end contemporary aesthetic with a nod to art deco detailing and finishes. My five years there provided a solid foundation in the design world and gave me the confidence to branch out. Sarah was a respected peer and friend at OCAD so I reached out to her and the rest is history!

C: How would you describe your style?
S & L:
Qanuk’s style is Modern Eclecticism with a nod to our Canadian roots and its diversity. We tend to be drawn to mid-century modern design but keep that look fresh with paired down natural materials that are native to Canada or inspired by our landscape.

Bedroom Design by Qanuk Interiors
Design by Qanuk Interiors

C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
S & L:
We scour the internet and magazines constantly. We are both very inspired by travel. Not only does it allow you to regenerate and avoid creative burn out, it inspires new material use and architectural detailing that you may not have considered previously. Also walking the diverse neighborhoods of our city of Toronto allows you to see inspiration in the urban environment that you might otherwise just pass by if you are not looking.

C: Favorite room in the house?
My favourite room is the kitchen. It’s the heart of the home and where everyone always congregates whether you like it or not. Because of this, we tend to design kitchens with a more casual approach that incorporates artwork and object display the way you would decorate a living room. Yes, a kitchen needs to be utilitarian but it can also be beautiful and comfortable.

LK: I would agree with Sarah; my kitchen opens up to my living room via an arched drywall opening. My living room is sunken so my kitchen acts as the stage when entertaining. My kitchen has a retro ’80’s vibe which I love as a juxtaposition to my more mid-century furniture pieces.

Living room Design by Qanuk Interiors
Design by Qanuk Interiors

C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
S & L:
Clashing colours and patterns. Done tastefully with some restraint, it adds playfulness and personality to any space.

C: Recent project that inspired you?
We had clients that unfortunately lost their home in a 3-home fire. Nothing was salvageable. They loved their neighbourhood and saw this as an opportunity to build from scratch their dream home. They were open to some really cool custom ideas we came up with and even had the sense of humor to let us incorporate a Shou Sugi Ban accent wall in their living room. This is an ancient Japanese treatment of torching cedar plants to help preserve them. The result is a dramatic charred black textured wall. We thought it was a cool homage to their original home.

LK: Currently we are working with a client that is letting us go bold with colour. We just installed a fuchsia pink stair runner and dark teal pantry wall — not something we get to do every day!

Bathroom and bedroom Design by Qanuk Interiors
Design by Qanuk Interiors

C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
S & L:
We have always be drawn to florals. Flowers have had a consistent presence in interiors for centuries, and we like that you can push the design in so many directions based on the style of floral, colour range, and scale. Seeing as the bones of our interiors are quite modern, the addition of an unexpected floral really adds some personality.

C: What is “good design” to you?
S & L:
Listening to your clients’ needs and creating interiors that they would have never imagined that still touch on all their requirements. We feel that the foundation of the service we provide as designers is creating functional and practical environments that are so visually pleasing that you don’t even realize it!

Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water | Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
“Falling Water” created by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1964. Lindsay and I did a pilgrimage to this property a couple of years ago and it did not disappoint. It’s the most beautiful example of designing into your environment and a perfect time capsule of mid-century design at its peak. I would then vacation in the post-modernist mansion from the ’80’s film Ruthless People. If you haven’t seen this thing it’s hilarious and amazing!

LK: The home of Danish architect Finn Juhl. He is one of the godfathers of Danish design, starting in the ’40’s. His home is a perfect blend of his own designed furniture, along with many of the greats of the era. The whole house has a warmth to it highlighted by the organic finishes like rustic wood floors, natural brick, and stucco walls. The natural finishes allow the fun pops of colour in the wall paint and area rugs to shine. I would die a happy woman in this home.

Finn Juhl's home
Home of Finn Juhl | Courtesy of Kinfolk

C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
S & L:
A great music playlist, comfortable seating and an endless supply of good food and drink.

C: Best advice for DIYers?
S & L:
Know your limitations… Where your skill sets begin and end. We are all for getting your hands dirty and taking on projects yourself, but it is important to weigh the risk factor if your DIY doesn’t work out. Sometimes it can result in an expensive OOPS if it doesn’t work out. The internet is a wealth of knowledge for “How-To” videos, but once it gets to permanent finishes within your home, you should really hire a pro. You don’t want to spend the next few years looking at that janky tile backsplash you thought you could install yourself.

C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
S & L:
Make sure you get along with them. This goes for designers and trades. If you have a bad vibe early on or don’t feel like you are being heard, that most likely will only get worse once the pressure of a renovation is underway. You need to trust your designer and trades, so trust your gut.

C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
S & L:
We are really on board with a return to warmer colour palettes, straying from the cool greys of recent years. We are also adding warmth to projects through the use of texture on walls, with tile, and furnishings. In our high tech world, we are seeing a real desire for warm and cozy tactile finishes. We keep this look fresh with unexpected pops of saturated colour on items like a single occasional chair, throw pillow or great piece of art.

C: How do you take your coffee?
Americano with milk.
LK: Milk & honey.

Sitting area Design by Qanuk Interiors
Design by Qanuk Interiors

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