Since launching Project 22 Design, Vancouver interior designer Denise Ashmore has been creating stunning and thoughtful residential interiors that enhance the quality of life for clients.
“Working with homeowners and understanding what their needs are is really a great joy. It’s rewarding to make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.
The firm’s first significant project and first new build was her own home. Set high on a hill above Douglas Park in Vancouver, the property was purchased in 2010 with the goal to build a custom home. The project was completed in 2015 in collaboration with Measured Architecture and includes a 360-square-foot laneway house, which serves as the firm’s studio. The strong cohesive design earned the project a 2016 Interior Designers Institute of BC (IDIBC) Award of Excellence.
“Designing my own house was really the launch point of Project 22 and kick started everything. One project turned into another and we’ve seen steady growth ever since,” says Ashmore, who currently has a staff of two.
Born in Toronto, Ashmore had an early interest in architecture and design. After exploring architecture initially, she decided interior design was the right creative path and attended Ryerson University where she obtained a Bachelor of Applied Arts, Interior Design in 1994.
She began her career focusing on retail and commercial design at Shikantani Lacroix, a multi-disciplinary firm in Toronto. In 1996, she relocated to Sydney, Australia for a year before settling in Vancouver where she joined Karo Design as senior designer for six years.
But after almost a decade in commercial design, what Ashmore really wanted to do was residential interiors.
“I knew I wanted to work for Bob Ledingham. I waited for a job opening and begged him to give me a job,” recalls Ashmore with a laugh. It worked and she spent the next seven years at Ledingham Design learning from the legendary designer.
In 2010, she launched Project 22. “I’ve always wanted to start my own business and with the slowdown in 2008-09, I figured it was a good time and Bob was very supportive,” she says.
Having built a strong portfolio of projects located across the Lower Mainland and Whistler, Project 22 is marking its 10th anniversary this year.
“I’d always dreamed of having an award winning firm and I feel very fortunate that clients have given us their trust and freedom to do great projects. We’ve worked hard for it,” says Ashmore.
The boutique firm is selective about which projects they take on, normally managing about 10-15 at a time. Projects range from luxury mountain homes and new builds to small and major renovations.
Some highlight completed projects include a mountain home in Kadenwood, a new 4,400 square foot new build in Kitsilano, Vancouver and White Gold residence, a 6,025-square-foot vacation home in Whistler.
While each project is unique, designs focus on contemporary material palettes and an overall sophisticated coastal aesthetic that is winning the firm many repeat clients.
Ashmore explains they have developed a linear design approach to projects that walks clients through five phases from concept to construction.
“We try to break down the process so it’s manageable and understandable and easy for them to make decisions,” she explains. “It can be super overwhelming and that’s why someone hires an interior designer.”
With construction being allowed to continue during the global coronavirus pandemic, Ashmore says they have not seen any major impacts yet. A couple of smaller renovation projects have been delayed and the overall speed of construction work has slowed, but the firm has a number of large projects on the go including a family cabin, new builds and a major renovation.
“We are seeing steady work and expect growth once everything is back to normal,” says Ashmore, crediting good clients and a strong referral base for the firm’s success. “We put a lot of thought and energy into our work. We try to be unique and be approachable to clients. The designs are tailored to our clients’ needs.”
Her advice for someone contemplating a career in interior design?
“I think everyone wants to start their own business but you have to start slow – lots to be learned about design and business,” says Ashmore, who has volunteered on various boards over the years including IDIBC and Interior Designers of Canada.
Outside of work, Ashmore is an avid tennis player, finds time to cook and travel and strives for work-life balance. She is married with two teenagers and a dog.
Cheryl Mah is managing editor of Design Quarterly.