Interview With Janice Long and Sue Pipes of Calla Design

Interview by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Jody Beck.

Ever wonder how the art of interior design and staging survives in today’s disposable online shopping and DIY culture? Just look to visionary, Janice Long, the accomplished Interior Designer behind Calla Design in Estevan Village. With over 35 years in the design business, Long is preserving the craft of personalized service with carefully curated products and professional interior design services. Together with Interior Designer, Sue Pipes, the creative collaborators have hand selected each product to bring a sensorial experience to the charming seaside village. Offering some of Europe’s finest fabrics, luxury home fragrances from Antica Farmacista and vibrant original artwork, Calla Design carries Canadian furniture lines such as Martha Sturdy and Whittington & Co Furnishings.


How far back does your passion for design go? Janice: When I was about 10 years old my Dad would buy me coffee table books on art, architecture and design. I was so interested in homes and design, I started exploring the wooden frames of homes being built in our neighbourhood. I remember imagining how each of the spaces would be used. It was just in my blood to be interested in design and I’ve been in the field now for 35 years.

Sue: I knew from the time I could pick up a crayon that I was going to do something in the art industry. When I was about nine years old, my parents would take us to an old building with a hall where we could draw and paint to music. That was definitely a highlight of my childhood and really solidified what I wanted to do. I grew up in South Africa and initially went into textiles and graphic design and have been in the design industry for over 25 years. Most recently I was at Design One Stevens Interiors in Victoria for 15 years where I met Janice.


What is your approach to design? Janice: My approach is rooted in traditional elements paired with nontraditional patterns or fabrics. I try to stay away from anything too formal and am drawn to interesting pieces with texture. I love bringing in elements of the unexpected to add interest to a room. I’m passionate about creating rooms that are elegant in an approachable way and want to reflect the people that live there.

Sue: Colour really drives my approach to design. I tend to be more of a transitionalist — preferring classic design with a twist over predominantly contemporary stylings that don’t entirely inspire me. Janice and I are both passionate about fabrics — from the feel, the textures and patterns. I think it’s safe to say we are very tactile people.


Tell us about the inspiration for Calla Design. Janice: My business consultant, Iván Meade from Meade Design Group suggested I come up with a one-word name that would represent our concept. I came up with a long list of names and he helped narrow it down based on what was available for a web domain. People have responded positively to the name — the lily itself is beautiful and extremely elegant – it really spoke to the theme of our store.

Calla Design is more than a design firm, it’s a retail concept store. As interior designers, working from home just didn’t sound appealing — I just couldn’t see us connecting with clients that way. And if you have a design firm, people are hesitant to walk through the door, they think it’s strictly an office. One day the thought just came to me, “I’m going to have a shop.” I was pretty adamant about being in Oak Bay and a shop allows people to come in and browse; we can start a conversation and the process moves forward from there.

Most people come in to have a look and comment on the unique style and energy of the store. We’ve created a no-pressure, relaxed atmosphere where you can just shop or you can ask us about a consultation. We can do anything from furnishing choices and colour consults to window coverings or upholstery. I just love the interactions and the variety of projects we get to do.


Tell us about some of the brands you carry at Calla Design? Janice: We especially love our exclusive Canadian brands and our real excitement is for the European fabric designers we carry like Colefax and Fowler or Osborne and Little, for example. We tend to see fabrics as art in itself as opposed to the more generic, mass-produced fabrics. We don’t want to stock items that you can get anywhere and are carefully choosing exclusive brands. We tend to source internationally in cities like New York and Birmingham, England for unique and exclusive items.


How would you describe the Calla Design experience? Janice: That’s exactly it — an experience. Shopping online is popular but I think people are looking for an actual service experience when shopping for their home. People want pieces that are going to last and you can only know that if you can see it, touch it and experience it. Our point of difference is that we are servicing people as designers, not store clerks. We have hand selected our products so we can speak to each item, the company, its history and values and that feels good to us. We are so excited about our latest connection to a floral artist with a silk clothing company in California.

But I would say the best part of the Calla experience is our personalized service and our community feel. The local businesses have been very supportive — people pop in the door to just say hello and chat. Some people say it’s their favourite store in Victoria and that feels good.


What does 2017 hold for Calla Design? Janice: We are excited to continue our loyalty to some of our unique brands we have established like Agraria from San Francisco and Whittington & Co Furnishings and we’re ready to go to market to source again with more knowledge about our client base. As the business grows, we would like to expand the offerings in the store as well as work internationally. 2017 is looking up!