Transforming a dark and outdated optometrist office into a modern and elegant environment earned Cutler interior designer Tiina Vahtola the inaugural Interior Designer of the Year Award at IDIBC’s 2018 Shine Awards of Excellence. The project also earned an Award of Excellence in the retail and kiosk category.
“I’m honoured to receive the first of this award,” says Vahtola. “I feel lucky to work with such a supportive and creative team at Cutler, the backbone that brought this project to fruition. I’m really proud to be a registered interior designer and hope that this new award category at the IDIBC Shine Awards encourages other interior designers to work toward the same designation to help strengthen our profession.”
The goal for Boardwalk Optometry, a long standing family business in Surrey, was to rejuvenate the space with a design concept that embraces traditional Japanese principles like simplicity, space and connection to nature. The result is minimalist and zen with an emphasis on natural materials and textures supported by a neutral backdrop. The limited colour palette encourages focus on the product being displayed rather than creating any unnecessary visual clutter, according to Vahtola.
A material palette was developed using natural concrete floor finishing, pale wood tones, with clean white walls and ceilings that marries both modern aesthetics and Japanese design principles. Natural elements were used to blend in the Japanese heritage of the logo using: sho sugi ban, a traditional Japanese charred wood paneling on a feature wall, a black harmonious watercolour wall graphic, a preserved moss wall installation and a slab of natural stone on the reception desk facade.
“Integrating the company’s existing logo of Japanese heritage into the new design was an important element to maintain and was the inspiration behind the design concept,” notes Vahtola.
The front of house space was focused on the retail component with two cozy waiting areas developed closer to the back. Custom pieces are designed throughout using light and simple forms that maintain a spacious and airy feel, while maximizing product display and customer interaction.
Highlights include the custom consult tables featuring an integrated small drawer that holds tools for glass fittings or adjustments in a discreet manner. The joinery details complement the Japanese influence of the overall design, and the cut-out in the top of the table lined in felt to showcase and protect a pair of glasses emphasizes the special experience of purchasing.
While developing the design concept, it was also important to the client to maintain elements that their clientele had become familiar with over the years. The unique must-stay requests included oversized decorative eyeglass frames and a gecko tank.
These elements were integrated into the space thoughtfully by creating areas specifically for them. The gecko tank became part of the millwork, while the large eyeglasses were displayed together as art on a wall, adding a playful nod to the otherwise minimal environment.
“Finding unique ways to integrate the old with the new for this project, while challenging, was really satisfying,” says Vahtola. “Every element was integrated into the design harmoniously, resulting in a cohesive, well-balanced space.”
Construction of the six month project had to be phased so that the existing space could remain operational, while the new neighbouring space was being built, and then closed briefly to be renovated.
“Pulling the two together was a challenge but executed beautifully by our dedicated general contractor,” says Vahtola.
By using custom millwork and pieces, Cutler was able to create a welcoming and functional space that is uniquely the owners. The success of the transformation has been met with positive feedback from the client and their loyal customers.
Cheryl Mah is managing editor of Design Quarterly.