Interview with Mari O’Meara

Words by Michelle Heslop. Portrait by Koyahni Collins.
Photos by Jody Beck.

How has being raised in a creative family shaped who you are as a designer? Growing up in a creative family has allowed me to understand different facets of creativity and that everyone expresses themselves differently. A broad understanding of creativity has given me insight into how to communicate with my clients. My job is to get to the essence of how my client’s express themselves. For some, experimenting in the kitchen through cooking might bring them joy while others covet their art collection and want to create a space to display it. Some of my clients focus on creating a particular feeling in their home or office. It’s my job to actively listen and understand how each person expresses themselves and discuss how I can translate their passions into their space.

How long have you been working as an interior designer? I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Interior Design from Malaspina University in 2011, the same year I had my first child. My son is always my marker for how long I’ve been a designer — it’s been seven years. Fortunately, I was hired at Jenny Martin Design right after graduation.

Tell us about opening your own design studio in Cadboro Bay. I still have to pinch myself. I never imagined having my own interior design studio, let alone a storefront with my name on it. My friend spotted an ad to take over a lease in Cadboro Bay Village, right around the corner from my mom’s restaurant. I have always joked with my mom that if I were to have an office, it would be in Cadboro Bay village so that I could eat at her restaurant. The best part about the studio is the ability to be keep my work life separate from my family life. I realize now just how important it is to be able to focus on one or the other, not try to juggle both at the same time. You spend a lot of time on the job site overseeing your projects.

What advantage does this practice bring to you and your clients? I make on-site visits during the construction phase so that I can ensure my clients’ wishlist is coming to fruition. It’s easy for items to get overlooked when you don’t keep current on all the changes. Unexpected issues arise and being on site really helps keep things moving forward. I enjoy the convenience of online communication but it is so much more efficient to problem solve in real life.

What guides you in making important design decisions? I enjoy keeping current on the latest trends in design but I find that the majority of my clients lean toward a more timeless look. My aim is to create a home unique to my clients’ taste which doesn’t often include trends. I listen to what they are drawn to in terms of colours and styles and this informs me when I’m choosing elements to reflect their personality. I always like to incorporate natural elements into a design which makes any space feel warm and welcoming. Whether it’s a contemporary space with wood finishes or traditionally styled with a neutral colour scheme, natural features always play an important role in my designs.

What is your greatest achievement as a designer? I would have to say when a talented design / build team and I were awarded with multiple CARE Awards for a single project last year. It was mind-blowing for me and so humbling to experience.

What do you do in your down time to keep you motivated and inspired? On my days off, you will typically find me enjoying the outdoors with my family. I’ve also recently started playing golf with a few of my colleagues and it’s a wonderful way for me to recharge outdoors for a couple hours. Inspiration is everywhere so I like to explore new places and expose myself to new things.