Guest editor Christy Wright sat down with West-Coast based designer Janis Bell to discuss Cougar boots, coastal dressing, California dreaming and more…
3 min read
A former Torontonian now based in California, this design dynamo worked in the world of luxury fashion before homing in on unique and elevated interior design. Her portfolio spans the spectrum from creating serene spa environments and modern residential, retail and commercial spaces to kitting out private yachts, all while dressing the part in the most casual chic way.
Did you grow up with our famous Cougar Pillow Boot?
No. I actually grew up in Northern Ireland, UK, so I love that I’m now discovering this great Canadian brand. I can’t wait to try the famous Pillow boot when I go back to Toronto for a visit. From what my friends tell me, I feel like I missed out on something!
But you lived in Canada before moving to Laguna Beach?
Yes, and love it! Apart from the weather (obviously!), it’s amazing to be able to eat and entertain outdoors year-round and I can’t wait to entertain friends again when social distancing is over. I live five minutes from the beach so I’m there twice a day with our cocker spaniel George. And I don’t miss the hassle of doggie booties and coats in preparation for Toronto’s cold and slushy sidewalks. Heading out for a sunset picnic and a beach bonfire to decompress after a long day never gets old and I can’t wait to get back to normal. I do still pinch myself even in isolation.
Do you find similarities in fashion and design?
Although both are very similar and play off each other, fashion trends are much faster and replaceable. Interior design elements are more of a financial commitment than changing an outfit.
Given that, what’s the most important home décor item to invest in?
Focus on important statement furniture, like sofas, a great bed or a dining room table. Invest in quality pieces that are timeless in design and neutral in colour. Pops of colour and texture can be layered in with less expensive lighting and accessories. Now that we’re all spending so much time inside, I think more and more people are becoming aware of how important home décor is.
Speaking of that, any tips for creating a great WFH space?
Since it’s important right now that our homes function as a place of solace, peace and relaxation, I recommend designating a workspace, even if it’s a corner of a room or the dining room table; the goal is to make it inviting and visually appealing.
These are my favourite tips:
- If possible, position the desk/table by a window for natural light and to boost your mood
- Select a comfy chair and spruce up your desk with a potted succulent, scented candle or personal family pics
- If you’re sharing a workspace, use noise-cancelling headphones in order to stay focused
- Develop order by adding large trays to organize your files and eliminate clutter
It’s also been key for me to develop a schedule and keep to it, stop for lunch or go for a quick walk. And, at the end of the day tidy up your workspace – you’ll be thankful for a fresh start in the morning.
Best piece of decorating advice?
Don’t over think it! If you buy things that you gravitate towards and love, your home will be a personal reflection of who you are.
Favorite project to date?
The interior design of a luxury yacht I collaborated on for a client from Saudi Arabia. It was the project of a lifetime and the client gave me carte blanche. Many of the components were custom-made and there was a very tight timeline, so the pressure was on. It was also a huge learning curve as many of the items had to be able to move with the motion of the boat and work at sea.
How has your individual fashion style changed since living “coastal?”
I wear all my “vacation clothes” regularly now! My work uniform is also much more casual and pared down. I love that I can wear Cougar slip-ons and sneakers - they complete my look and are super comfortable for running from job sites to meetings with clients and suppliers. I’ve also accumulated quite the hat collection which is a Cali staple but also protects me from the sun.
“I love my Prato sandals for the beach... Most of my casual wear is black or white so they coordinate really well.”
I have more than one! The fearless mix-master Kelly Wearstler, the black and white graphic restraint of Kelly Hoppen and the classic style with a hint of boho from Gwyneth Paltrow are what I gravitate toward.
What’s your style in interiors?
It’s always involved a neutral, textured organic palette injected with vintage pieces, but, overall, I like to keep the look somewhat restrained. Now that I’m based in California, I see everything through a West Coast lens, which is a way more casual and contemporary.
Favourite Cougar shoes?
I love my Prato sandals for the beach. I was immediately drawn to the graphic black and white design and stitching detail. Most of my casual wear is black or white so they coordinate really well. I’m 5' 2" so I also appreciate a little extra height! The Hint metallic slip-on is genius for doggie walks and its very subtle neutral hue goes with everything. Many of my clients are in Laguna Beach and I never know who I’ll run into so these are a perfect choice: comfy, yet chic enough to wear to work. And you can’t go wrong with the Bloom sneaker; mine are white and I wear them almost every day with jeans, skirts and cargos. They are my new sneaker staple.
Written and edited by Christy Wright christywrites.ca.
Photos courtesy of Janis Bell.
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