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.


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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