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IN CONVERSATION WITH SUSAN HARGRAVES – IN MEMORIAM

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry


Susan Hargraves

Susan Hargraves


Susan Hargraves was without a doubt one of  the most well recognized Residential Stylists in Victoria. Her ability to mix styles, her deep knowledge in the decorative arts and her ability to create functional furniture layouts had caught the eye of recognized magazines, as well the Oprah Winfrey show.

I had the pleasure of meeting Susan a couple of years ago when she approached Meade Design Group to create the graphic identity for her new venture as a Residential Stylist. Since then, we shared a friendship and a common interest in interior design.

Sadly Susan passed away Sunday, November 29 – Susan was a very inspirational woman, a great colleague, and a very supportive friend. I will always remember her smile, her love for her family, her wonderful trademark red/blonde hair, her class and of course her impeccable style.  Many years ago I had the opportunity to interview her and my last question was: Lastly, you have already created a stunning body of work with many mediums and styles, what would you like your legacy to be? Her answer was – Ask me later. I’m just getting warmed up! – That was Susan, I am sure she is already redesigning Heaven.


Iván Meade – What is your favourite design find? – Where did you get this item – How long have you had it?

Susan Hargraves – My favourite design find is my latest project – an 8′ Ikea closet that I had customized to work in my space. It was placed on a plinth to raise it up to fit with the architecture of the room and given elegant , long brushed stainless handles to tie in with other cabinets in the room. The interior organization provides a place for everything, making it easy to store and access the things I need. It allows me to make a small space functional.


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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – Why is it important/inspirational to you?

Susan Hargraves – It is that perfect Modernist fusion of form and function – exquisite design, clever storage and affordable price.


 

Susan Hargraves Interiors


Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – How does this item reflect upon your personal design philosophy?

Susan Hargraves – I believe great design should be readily available to everyone. That’s why I created the “Rooms That Work” package.


 

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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade– For our readers who don’t know – Could you please explain in your own words what a Residential Stylist does?

Susan Hargraves –A Residential Stylist is responsible for the look and feel of a space, the things that meet the eye. My personal approach is to first focus on the floor plan. Until that is working, the room will never feel right. Too often people neglect this step and keep adding things to the room and can’t figure out why it doesn’t work. In fact, a Stylist may choose to reduce and remove decorative elements to create a more pleasing space.


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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – What was your first experience with design?

Susan Hargraves – As a student at the Emily Carr College of Art in Vancouver, I designed and and built a houseboat. I’m leaving out the all the wonderful chaos that preceded – literally turning my room and my parent’s house upside down every time a creative idea struck, which was fairly often. My mother was a realtor on the West side of Vancouver and I was her favorite assistant – probably before I could talk! I was in and out of houses all over the city, including historic mansions in Shaughnessy, estates on Southwest Marine Drive and wonderful West Coast Contemporary glass and Douglas Fir experiments climbing the mountainside in West Vancouver in the Sixties. I cultivated an eye for beautiful homes early on, as well as a deep appreciation for a range of styles.


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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – What are you excited about right now in the world of design?

Susan Hargraves– The trend toward smaller, more sustainable homes.



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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – What is your design philosophy?

Susan Hargraves – Great beauty shouldn’t require great cost.


Iván Meade – You have been approached by Oprah and many other reputable media outlets, what do you think makes Susan Hargraves such an interesting story?

Susan Hargraves –When I was first approached by the Oprah Show, they had seen pictures of my 396 sq. ft. condo in The Vancouver Sun. They were amazed that anyone could live comfortably in such a small space and that they would do so by choice. It is all very contrary to the “bigger is better” notion that so permeates North American culture. My passion for small spaces grows out of experiences traveling in Japan and Scandinavia. I saw firsthand the relationship between beauty and simplicity, and experienced the liberation that comes from having just enough space. Since that time I have experimented with living in small spaces – some even smaller than 396 sq. ft.- and have developed a deep understanding and appreciation of what it takes to make it work. These days, I like to think in terms of “right-sized” – where all the space is fully utilized – rather than small. That is the ideal.


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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – Sometimes people think that eclecticism can be too busy and overwhelming, but your interiors are warm and very liveable. How do you achieve that ?

Susan Hargraves – I like to think of my interiors as more edgy than eclectic. It’s true I like to add pieces that don’t “belong”, or that are unexpected – chrome and glass in a wood-paneled den, antiques in an industrial loft – but that’s what gives a place character. The key is that the mix is deliberate, not random. It is also restrained. I like to layer, using client’s special pieces, but they need to be worked in very carefully using all the principles of design – color, symmetry, balance – to achieve a cohesive harmony. I also borrow from Japanese interiors and use the practice of rotation, keeping pieces special by having them on display for a period, then replaced by something else. That keeps a room from being static and cluttered.


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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – What are the best tricks you can give to our readers to make a small space feel larger and more inviting ?

Susan Hargraves –Take it to the limit in terms of style. Maximize the drama. Often small spaces have high ceilings. Use the full height both practically and aesthetically, taking cabinetry and drapes floor to ceiling, for eg. Use scale, especially over-scale, to advantage. Don’t assume you need a “condo-sized” sofa in a small space. Often a four seat sofa on a long wall is a better choice. Go for luxury. Buy the best pieces you can afford, because in a small space you will see and use them often. Get the floor plan working —- really working. Think about how you want to live in the space and organize the room to that end. Use multi-functional pieces to maximize options. Be wary of high-contrast, especially between cabinetry and walls. It can chop up the space and make it appear smaller. Use similar tonal values to provide variety. Create purpose-built storage so that everything can be put away. Showcase pieces that have special significance to you. Include something organic, wild, textural. Leave breathing space around things. Edit.


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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


Iván Meade – Is there any designer and/or architect from the past, you appreciate a lot?

Susan Hargraves –Growing up on the West Coast in the Sixties, I was profoundly affected by the West Coast Modern movement, particularly in the residential work of architects like Arthur Erickson and Bing Thom. It was their use of raw, organic and indigenous materials that created such a strong sense of place, a tribute to this unique corner of the world.


 

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Interiors by Susan Hargraves


 

Iván Meade – Lastly, you have already created a stunning body of work with many mediums and styles, what would you like your legacy to be?

Susan Hargraves – Ask me later. I’m just getting warmed up!