Yanic Simard on creating custom

When you hire a designer the space they create for you is, of course, custom. But the elements in that room — are they a carefully curated collection that will work in your space or are they custom made, just for you?

YP NextHome caught up with celebrity designer Yanic Simard, principal of the award-winning boutique firm Toronto Interior Design Group (tidg.ca), to ask him about custom pieces, and he’s given us some amazing insight into creating the best custom essentials for your home.

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YP NextHome (YPNH): Why custom?

Yanic Simard (YS): My idea of comfort is living in a space that feels right — a personal retreat where you end up at the end of the day, and it just feels good. Going custom is the best way to achieve that.

YPNH: Custom can be costly. Are there cost-effective ways to get custom looks?

YS: Upholstery. Custom upholstering an entire piece of furniture, such as an armchair or a sofa, can quickly add up. But focusing on something simple, like the seats of dining chairs, can be a small investment with a big payoff.

This approach also gives you the opportunity to create a lot of looks that you are unlikely to find in a store, such as matching your drapery to a chair back for a statement that says “custom,” loud and clear. This also provides an opportunity to use a small amount of high-end fabric for accents and apply a plainer and more durable material to high-impact areas, such as the seat, for the best of both worlds (and a balanced budget).

YPNH: Are there areas where you more strongly recommend going the custom route?

YS: Drapery. As with upholstery, custom draperies can require investing in materials and labour. However, a custom drapery treatment is by far the best way to achieve an elegant look, especially for windows of an unusual size or walls that do not perfectly suit a pre-made panel. This is why custom drapery is generally considered worth the investment.

In many cases it is possible to extend a ready-made panel instead of starting from scratch. In much less time than it takes to make a panel from scratch, a seamstress (or skilled DIYer) can cut the bottom of a packaged curtain and attach a panel of a second fabric, creating a perfect length, colour-block statement without the full price tag.

YPNH: Do you recommend customizing pieces of furniture?

YS: Creating a custom piece of furniture for a client is many designers’ dream, but it can sound more like a nightmare for homeowners. The cost, time, imagination and decisions required can make choosing a custom piece seem overwhelming compared to simply dropping by a store and walking away with a new find.

YPNH: Are there any design issues that are more easily overcome with custom options, where you tend to prefer custom?

YS: Mirrors for the bathroom. Custom inset mirrors solve a lot of issues in bathroom design. They expand a space visually, and they also replace a large area of tile, allowing a seamless, fully tiled look without requiring as much material to be purchased. When you use a mirror wall to wall or floor to ceiling — and skip the frame cost — you’ll save even more while getting a perfectly polished look.

It’s a good idea especially in a compact bathroom, letting you splurge on a smaller amount of must-have stone and doubling the look of it.

YPNH: What are some of the current trends in customization?

YS: There’s a big trend to upcycle, so if what you have is in good condition, customizing the finish is becoming a popular option. Beautiful, colourful cabinetry can be rare, especially in the exact hue of your choice. In fact, you’re more likely to find a dated or drab shade if you’re living in an older home. If the existing units are in good condition, having the fronts sprayed with a new finish can be very reasonable in price compared to a full replacement.

The same can be said for salvaged vanities. Whether your look is eclectic, traditional, modern or rustic, a salvaged furniture piece used as a vanity can make for an excellent twist in any bathroom. A simple coat of paint (or just a sealant to keep worn-in character as is), a few cuts and a basic block vessel sink can transform nearly any furniture piece into a bathroom vanity. You can also try adding a solid slab to create a more traditional countertop, or take an inexpensive cabinet frame and replace just the doors to achieve a unique look while still providing plenty of closed storage.

YPNH: Are there any customizations that are particularly influenced by the client?

YS: Art — this is definitely one element that needs to speak to the client on another level. In a Miami condo space I recently designed, I wanted to bring a sense of South Beach artistic flair without letting it swallow the budget. I found high-resolution images created by a local artist online and had them printed directly onto acrylic. If you want to customize art for yourself, ask a local printer what materials they can print on, and try something fun, like canvas, cloth, parchment, plastic or even wood. The result will be unique art pieces with a true artistic story, but without the art auction price.

And of course, there are also many good reasons to buy a one-of-a-kind original piece of art from your local gallery.

Sometimes just a little change goes a beautifully long way.

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