Designer and curator Clémande Burgevin Blachman literally grew up in one of Paris’s famous flea markets. Her parents had a stall selling antiques, and their nearby home was always filled with whatever objets and furnishings they couldn’t fit in the store.
“I was the only child and I had to play with the objects around me,” she tells the Straight on a recent visit to Vancouver. “They would give me pocket money and I would walk around. You had to be careful and not break anything. I remember all of that.”
It was early, immersive training for a career that would take her first to creating a handbag collection and opening a design gallery to consulting for brands like Chanel and Berluti, and then working as vice president of design for Calvin Klein Home. That same honed eye, love of historical pieces, and aptitude for curation have brought her to one of Vancouver’s most ambitious new developments.
Oakridge x Clémande finds the French designer curating completely furnished suites in Westbank’s new 17-storey tower in the new mixed-use redevelopment at Cambie and 41st Avenue—right down to the books on the library shelves, the toothbrushes in the bathroom, and the implements in the kitchen.
The French style maven has brought her chic, eclectic, yet minimalistic sense of home to each of the condos.
As a mood board attests in the grand lobby entrance to the artfully conceived showroom, she’s focused on mixing hits of brass with cobalt ceramics, travertine, and wood in her designs. The collage includes Venetian brass door handles, French chocolates in regal blue and gold wrappers, and an azure Mediterranean swimming pool.
As with so many of Blachman’s touches, the accents are pulled from her own personal memories—and the sizable library of design books she keeps at her adopted home of New York City.
“Everything is coming from books—I know exactly the books I am going to use,” says Blachman, who pursued a PhD in literature and admits her road to décor is an unusual one. “I don’t draw or paint; the vision and ideas are already written in my head. For me the project is like a dissertation, I’m absolutely approaching it that way.”
Blachman adds that for the Oakridge project—the first of its kind she’s ever tackled—she drew a lot of inspiration from the West Coast setting as well. “My first encounter with Vancouver was looking out of the window at the sea, and the view, the gold light, the blue, and the green,” she says.
All of these images and ideas play out in a series of small curtained rooms—”vignettes”, as she calls them—that contrast standard showroom model suites and give visitors a more impressionistic feel for condos that are a noticeable departure from the anonymous-white, cookie-cutter approach of so many prebuys here. (They’re installed at Westbank’s Unwritten exhibit at Oakridge Centre.)
Open the curtains to one room, et voilà!, you’ll see a glossy brass-panelled white soaker tub set against a deep cobalt-blue tile wall. It feels contemporary, but with a hint of Ibiza glamour—and it also happens to refer to one of Blachman’s memories as well. “I think cobalt blue tile is beautiful with brass, but it’s true: as a kid my bathroom was cobalt blue,” she says.
Another area features a stunning white-marble-topped kitchen island with sleek brass doors on one side and open brass shelves facing out. “I wanted people to be able to display objects like a gallery,” she says.
Elsewhere, a carefully selected library comes with each suite, full of the kind of glossy, hard-cover Taschen books Blachman coveted growing up. As a teenager obsessed with art and design, she’d head to a Parisian book store to collect editions from the publisher’s series. “There was no Instagram or Google then,” says the lifelong book lover who maintains a discreet presence on social media.
Blachman has thought out every detail for the suite, including a set of robes—one in unexpected lavender and one in brown—with matching flip-flops, playing out a story in her own mind of a couple’s first night in their suite.
“I thought ‘They might want to enjoy the pool the first night, and how would they do that?’ ” she says. “I picture that they have all the [unpacked] boxes around them, and they are saying ‘Where is my swimsuit?’ ”
The idea, she says, is almost more like a residential hotel, where everything would be ready for the person moving in. “When I come to a project, if I’ve never done something like that before, it’s a challenge—and that’s when I can get really creative,” she says. “But I just started by saying, ‘How can I make it home?’ "