When Anne Pearson opened Vancouver Special in 2008, there was nothing quite like the cheery, dreamily curated concept boutique in the city. In fact, that was the point: the young architect wanted to introduce Vancouver to a version of the inspiring, all-encompassing design stores she had come across in places like Kyoto, Los Angeles, and Berlin during her travels—a spot that combined clever, unique, and well-designed and -priced home objects like collapsible whisks, colourful radio clocks, and origami-influenced table mats under one roof.
What’s more, she wanted the shop to be more than a place where one-way transactions happened. “I wanted to provide a space that didn’t just function as retail,” she tells the Straight by phone. “I wanted it to be a hub for designers and a place where we could also hold events, book signings, lectures, and parties for the creative community in Vancouver.”
Working under the belief that “good design should be accessible for all people and not just the elite”, Pearson strives to showcase the latest innovations by young and up-and-coming designers—many of them from right here in Vancouver. So, when it came to this year’s Best of Vancouver issue, we couldn’t think of anyone better to pinpoint the region’s most stunning, surprising, and must-see design-centric people, places, and things.
Best local furniture designer
All of them use materials in unique ways or invent their own materials, which I think is important. For example, Shipway uses a lot of reclaimed materials, so he [owner and designer Romney D. Shipway] is going around finding off-cuts of marble from kitchen manufacturers, and making products out of that marble.
Best independent design shop other than yours
3408 Cambie Street
It’s my go-to for gifts. They have great jewellery, and the owners are just lovely.
Best local lighting designer
They have lights that are applicable to both residential and commercial environments, so they’d be great for your living room, for a restaurant, for an office. They really bridge all those environments.
Best on-a-budget home-furnishings store besides Ikea
I used to live in Japan, so I’ve always been a big fan of Muji—especially their storage solutions: the clear plastic bins of all sizes. And I really love their bathroom accessories and stationery, of course.
Best hidden design gem
Shoppers Drug Mart
586 Granville Street
If you go upstairs, there’s an old mural—a 40-foot glass mosaic mural by B.C. Binning—and it’s perfectly preserved. You can go up there—and above all the greeting cards, shampoo, you can see this incredible mural. It’s there because the building was originally built as the main branch of the CIBC in the 1950s.
Best local architect
This firm doesn’t have a particular aesthetic that they apply to every project. They treat each project separately; they look at the site, they look at the client, they look at the program. And they develop the language of the architecture around those, rather than mandating a certain style
on each project, so every single one of their buildings looks completely different.
Best local interior designer
Laura Melling, creative director at Laura Melling Interior Design + Styling
Alyssa Lewis, creative director at Studio Block
They’re incredibly talented women and they have a very similar aesthetic to my style, which is very Scandinavian and minimalist. And they’re not afraid of colour.
Best cheap thrill
Goods by Lindsey Hampton, who is both a ceramist and graphic designer. I get a lot of joy from her colourful and geometric mugs and vases.
Best restaurant design
1038 Canada Place
Pepino’s Spaghetti House
630 Commercial Drive
269 Powell Street
Craig Stanghetta, who’s the designer at Ste. Marie [Art + Design, the firm behind these restaurants’ interiors], has a really eclectic sense of styling. He has a way of creating a space that fully immerses you into another place, into another time, into another world. His level of attention to detail is really incredible.
Best retail or boutique design
675 East Broadway
They’ve done a really incredible job with that space. It’s very white and crisp and plain; they have really punchy, pink-and-white graphics.
The Polygon Shop at the Polygon Gallery
101 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver
I always recommend that people go check out the new Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver. Their museum shop carries local jewellery and ceramics, and they have an amazing selection of photography books.
Best area for design-spotting
University of British Columbia
2329 West Mall
UBC has the best collection of new and old architecture in the city. They have really succeeded in creating buildings that I think you wouldn’t be able to pull off in other places in Vancouver, because they have their own planning guidelines.