Designing women: Cheryl Broadhead and Ada Bonini don’t hold back
Cheryl Broadhead and Ada Bonini
Bob’s Your Uncle Design Ltd.
When Cheryl Broadhead and Ada Bonini of Bob’s Your Uncle Design Ltd. took on Ginger, a condominium complex in the heart of Chinatown by Porte Development Group, they wanted the interior to reflect the building’s colourful, vibrant location and history.
They didn’t hold back.
The main lobby is Chinese New Year–red with a fiery dragon painted on a wall, while a giant wood-and-metal abacus, hanging from the ceiling, seems to float overhead. Each floor is a different colour scheme, with walls and accents painted “Rahda Red”, “Jade Aqua”, or “Green Tea”, to name a few. And the front doors of each unit are swathed top-to-bottom in a different black-and-white photo of a scene from Chinatown shot by a local photographer.
“The developer said, ‘This is so far beyond my comfort level, but I trust you,’ ” Broadhead recalls in an interview at BYU’s office. “They didn’t want to ignore its surroundings but wanted to have fun with that. We gave it a lot of character and we had a lot of fun, too.”
Adds Bonini: “We took it a little bit further than we might have in other circumstances.”
Besides being “zesty”, as the promo material described them, the suites have renewable bamboo flooring, opaque sliding-glass doors that seal the bedroom into a private cube off the living room, and a brightly painted floor-to-ceiling mosaic glass-tile inset in the bathroom, which comes complete with rain showerheads. Plus, the building has a Wii room, with a big-screen TV and plush furniture that can be easily shoved aside for virtual gaming.
Broadhead and Bonini’s fresh ideas paid off: their work at Ginger earned their firm bronze for best multi-unit residential in the Interior Designers Institute of British Columbia’s Awards of Excellence 2010. The same year, the firm won a gold and another bronze for best private residential for its work on homes in North Vancouver and Point Grey, respectively.
“What keeps our job interesting is the variety,” Bonini says. “You can have two developers five blocks away from each other and the design can be worlds apart.”
Bonini and Broadhead met at Kwantlen University College (now called Kwantlen Polytechnic University) and teamed up to start their own company in 2003. They say that behind the company’s lighthearted name is a firm that prides itself on technical knowledge. Broadhead volunteers on a legal task for the IDIBC, which is in the process of forming a “practice act” with the Architectural Institute of B.C. Bonini is an active volunteer for the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications, where she assists in writing the exam. Both are LEED-accredited. The BYU team consists of another four designers and two computer-aided design technicians.
Other projects include the Capitol Residences downtown, the Eden Boutique in Yaletown, and the Towne, Georgian-style red-brick townhomes near Oakridge Mall.
The BYU principals are seeing changes in demands from condo dwellers: communal fitness and yoga spaces are in, while party rooms are out—“Developers invest in a space that ends up never being used,” Bonini explains. Conference rooms for business meetings or study groups are hot, while theatre rooms are not.
And kitchens and bathrooms might be getting smaller, but they’re also getting more luxurious.
“The kitchen is always king,” Bonini says. “So is a spa bathroom.”
They note that there are still widespread misconceptions about the role of interior designers and that there’s a lot more to their work than picking out paint and matching place mats.
“We shape space,” Bonini says. “Decorating is just portion of our job. It’s a very important part, because it’s what everyone sees. It’s the lipstick, the jewellery, but there’s a lot behind that plastic surgery.”