Interview with Margo Smith

July 17, 2020
Photo of Interview with Margo Smith

Margo Smith has been working in Interior Design in Vancouver and Western Canada for over 25 years and brings with her a diverse portfolio. This June, Margo joins Zeidler as our new Interior Design Studio Lead, Vancouver.

 

We (virtually) sat down with Margo to discuss her new role at Zeidler and her perspective on Interior Design: what she finds passion in, how interior design has changed throughout her career and in Vancouver, and how it continues to change in light of the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.

You’re beginning your journey with Zeidler as our new Interior Design Studio Lead in our Vancouver office. We recently opened our Vancouver studio and our studios in Calgary and Victoria have been working on some exciting interior projects across the West Coast. What are you most excited for in your role with Zeidler?

I’ve been very fortunate through most of my career to be able to do what I love with teams that are dedicated, happy and also doing what they love! Zeidler is such a people-first organization full of immense creativity – I’m really looking forward to sharing this energy and creative outlook with our clients and building the Zeidler brand in Vancouver.

You’ve been working in Interior Design in Vancouver and Western Canada for over 25 years. Have you noticed a change in what clients are looking for in their interiors over that time?

Absolutely – but where the details and trends have changed or evolved, there is always one constant. Clients want spaces that really embody their culture or brand. One that supports their employees, and leaves a compelling impression for all those who experience them.

You’re currently a member and you were a Vice President of the Interior Designers Institute of BC. What differences do you notice when designing for projects in BC compared to other places in Canada?

Our clients understand the impact of environment on our mind, body and spirit. It only takes a few days of grey rain to make you crave warm, welcoming indoor spaces with lots of light. We’ve also created more dynamic corporate workplaces through the influence of Vancouver’s thriving tech and startup culture, which demands constant innovation, and continues to push us to create better, more interesting, tech-forward environments. Nothing here is static; it’s always a re-invention!

Canada aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050. Often these goals are based on larger developments in urban design. How can Interior Design help in these sustainability goals? Can you tell us more about eco-sensitive design? 

Over two decades ago, one of my mentors, Teresa Coady, challenged me to create a “living, breathing,” sustainable approach to all of our interior design projects. We were using biomimetics – or biologically-inspired design very early in our planning, and well before sustainably produced interior products and materials were even on the market. We had to research how the products were made or harvested, their manufacturing practices and how they came to market. We also had to research the sustainability of each product’s lifecycle, embodied energy, installation and maintenance procedures. Now, as industry embraces sustainable manufacture, and the LEED® Rating System is well established, it’s a much easier process. Before, it was a lot of work, and that really opened my eyes to the meaning and measure of sustainability and the range of factors we have to consider.

40% of Canadian workers are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, inside people’s homes the need for workspace and access to the outdoors has become prevalent, and collaborative and shared spaces now present opportunities for virus spread. Do you think our approach to designing interior spaces will change because of this pandemic? Do you think it will or should affect future design?

Design is always adapting and evolving, so change is a natural step for us as designers. What is going to drive interiors in the near future is a safer human connection to community space. Everyone has a different comfort level, a different response due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19. We have to listen and understand the health concerns of the end users. We need to look to healthcare design innovations for touchless features and materials that can withstand rigorous cleaning protocol. We need to be open to new ways of working; perhaps a combination of telework and shiftwork to help de-densify. Innovation in virtual collaboration technologies will help guide us.  With the pandemic, there will be fundamental changes, but in the end, community and connection matter. We will still need to gather, whether at work, with families, in play and in celebration. We can help make people feel safer as they regain these important connections.

Where do you see interior design in the next ten years? Do you think there will be any changes to how interiors are designed that affect all sectors?

I would have had a different answer to this back in the spring! Covid has changed how we look at everything moving forward. We had already been striving toward healthier workplaces, public environments, and living spaces through initiatives like the WELL building standard, so I really see cleanliness, personal health, technology, and wellbeing as key drivers for our projects.

What inspires your designs the most? Do you have a favourite step of the design process?

I’m a technical designer at heart – I love the research, the planning, working out the details, understanding the products… it’s hard to break it down into a favourite step as I really enjoy every part. But it all comes down to what the client needs and wants. That’s the inspiration. Just really gaining an understanding of their goals, and being able to guide them into the right strategies and decisions. Our work is handmade just for our clients and a lot of work goes into getting that perfect fit.

What do you love about being an interior designer?

The constant change! Changes in trends, materials, technologies, and strategies… it’s a career where you always have to stay in tune with the latest research and newest technology. This year especially – we started off 2020 approaching projects with an eye towards shared spaces, groupwork and smaller individual work areas, and suddenly it’s all about de-densification, changed geometries, and touchless spaces. Biomimetic and biophilic design has also jumped back into the forefront, with new innovations. I’m always learning!

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