Every year, the Interior Designers Institute of British Columbia showcases the talent, skills and innovation of our industry through their Awards of Excellence. The awards are revealed at the Shine Awards gala, a night of celebration amongst our fellow designers. It’s been an honor to receive awards for our team’s work on projects in the past. This year, we were delighted to receive an Award of Excellence for our design of Boardwalk Optometry and absolutely thrilled for our very own Tiina Vahtola who was awarded Interior Designer of the Year.

The Interior Designer of the Year Award is new to the show this year. IDIBC describes the award as being, “bestowed on the Lead Designer whose submission is deemed by the Judges to display the most outstanding interior design among all submitted.” At Cutler, we already knew that we had a gem in Tiina. We’re so glad that the rest of the world knows it now, too.

To learn more about Tiina’s work and how she’s reached this exceptional point in her career, our team decided to ask her some questions and share what we learned.

Congratulations on being IDIBC’s Designer of the Year! How does it feel to receive this honour?

It’s really exciting to receive this prestigious award. I am so grateful to work with such a supportive and collaborative team at Cutler, and for all the individuals that have contributed to making me the designer I am today.

When did you know that you wanted to be an interior designer?

I grew up in the country, in a Scandinavian style home that my parents built. It was bright and open with large south-facing windows, pale wood flooring and a tongue and groove ceiling. It was so unique from my friends’ houses, which were typically more enclosed with small windows, dark walls, carpeted floors and heavy drapery. This made me notice at an early age how you could be affected by your environment. I feel like interior design was a part of my upbringing, even if at the time I didn’t realize it.

Do you tend to drift towards a specific design style?

One of my favourite parts of being an interior designer is tailoring spaces to fit each clients’ own unique brand, vision or personality. Interior design is an integral part of the culture and vibe of a community and affects how people interact and share memories. It forms the history of a place and I find that so fascinating. If we designed spaces to only fit our own individual style, it would be pretty boring.

What do you enjoy most about being a designer? Was there ever a turning point in your career where you felt like you’d “made it”?

I’m feeling pretty good right now, ha!

Interior design allows me to be creative on a daily basis. Since a young age it was important to me that I picked a career that allowed me to do that because work can take up such a large portion of life. It only made sense to pick something I loved to do.

Starting at Cutler was a pivotal point in my career. I had just taken some time off and was determined to find a workplace that aligned with my core values. Our environment allows designers in different stages of their career to contribute and give input in all the design phases. Everyone is dedicated to their craft and that energy is contagious. We support each other and push the boundaries of design so we can be even better.

Why is being a Registered Interior Designer important to you?

I think right now it’s more important than ever to be a RID in BC. The industry is shifting rapidly as our professional body, IDIBC, pursues legislation. Without our support, they wouldn’t be able to prove that our profession deserves an act that protects our title and allows us to perform our services.

Where do you find inspiration?

In today’s digital age and living in an urban environment, being inspired can feel like an exhausting task. There is so much information at our fingertips. I think it’s more important to find ways to quiet the mind. Going out into nature or meditating allows me to absorb information and inspiration, and find space for new ideas. If I feel stuck, I try to focus less on finding inspiration and then it usually finds me.

What advice do you have for young aspiring interior designers?

The three most important things I’ve learned:

Remembering to listen – This is so important because getting to know your client and what their needs and wants are is pivotal to the success of a project. You gain their trust when they know that you have their best interest in mind.

Having a solid design concept – This is the roadmap throughout the design process and is integral to an exceptionally designed space. It provides rationale behind your design decisions when presenting to a client and keeps you on track when making decisions along the way.

Trusting your gut – I was once told not to try to read someone else’s mind but instead go by my own instinct. It’s less about trying to figure out what the client or another designer would do, and more about what you feel in your gut is best for the project and the client. Don’t forget to ask yourself, “What do I personally think is the best solution?”

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