Veteran designer: Robert Ledingham builds an organic feel into West Coast homes

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Drawing inspiration from nature


Four decades after his graduation from the University of Manitoba, Vancouver interior designer Robert Ledingham received an honorary doctorate of design from the Winnipeg Institution of higher learning. — HANDOUT PHOTOS

Spacious elegance: One of Robert Ledingham’s works — the Del Prado building in Yaletown.

When veteran interior designer Robert Ledingham embarks on a project, he takes his inspiration not only from within the space of a building’s walls, but also from what’s beyond them.

Ledingham, who has provided interior-design services to local homeowners and builders and developers for four decades — work that has generated more than 26 awards looks for much of that inspiration from nature: water, mountains and the flora and fauna of B.C.

“There is definitely a difference between the East Coast look and the West Coast,” says Ledingham.

“In the West, people’s homes reflect the indoor/outdoor relationships.”

Easterners, he says, prefer a more formal living space than people on the West Coast.

“There’s an organic look to home decor here … people tend to decorate their homes casually elegant, so that it’s a home where they feel they can put their feet up,” says Ledingham, who owns Ledingham Design Consultants and has seen his work featured in many architectural design magazines and books, including Spectacular Homes of Western Canada.

It was Ledingham Sheila Tripp and her husband turned to when they returned to B.C. after a four-year California sojourn and decided their home on the West Vancouver waterfront was looking tired and dated.

“We rented out our home while living in California and when we returned, we realized our 20-year-old house really needed freshening up,” says Tripp, who had seen Ledingham’s work in a number of home and garden journals. She gave him a call, and the two met the next day.

“After a few meetings, he gave us suggestions and incorporated our vision into some designs.”

Tripp loved many of the designer’s suggestions, but there were some she rejected.

“Bob didn’t pressure us to go with an idea we didn’t like; instead, he had alternatives he presented to us,” she says.

The interior designer — the first Canadian to receive the International Interior Design Association Leadership Award, as a 2006 story on an honorary doctorate granted by his alma mater, the University of Manitoba, reports — takes the necessary time to get to know prospective clients so that his recommendations will reflect their personalities, lifestyles, and wants and needs.

And he derives pleasure from helping clients like Tripp and her husband bring their vision to life.

“Mother Nature provided the Tripps with a stunning palette. I helped to bring that into their home,” he says.

“There were many existing pieces of furniture, but soft furnishings had to be added to the living room and den,” says Ledingham. “A variety of architectural modifications were suggested, as well as redesigning the outdated fireplace facades. A kitchen renovation was already in progress when we took the project on.”

When asked if he’s ever had to walk away from a project, he laughs and nods. He likens the relationship between an interior designer and client to that of a married couple: “it’s very close and personal and often lasts for more than a year.

“When conflict arises, sometimes you both have to throw up your hands and say the best thing is to part ways,” he says, noting that delays can be stressful, yet are unfortunately often unavoidable. “However, most interior designers try very hard to work through problems, but sometimes personalities conflict and it’s best not to prolong it.”

At Country Furniture, interior decorator Marlene Seguin of Vancouver is also in the business of helping people beautify their homes. “I like to help customers take their house and create a home,” says Seguin.

She’s often asked by clients to work alongside a contractor to help with layout. She may be called upon to do something as simple as accessorizing a room — to decide what to place on a table or countertop — or to design a room around an anchor piece.

“For example, a client had an antique sideboard inherited from their grandmother and they didn’t know what furniture would look good with it,” she says.

She says interior decorators and designers can offer clients a “new set of impartial eyes.”

“When you walk into your house day in and day out, sometimes you can’t see anything other than what you have, you can’t picture any other way for the room or rooms to look,” Seguin says. “I can help give a fresh perspective to a client’s space and create ones that reflect the homeowner’s personality.

“A home should almost scream who the person is who lives there.”

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