BY ATHENA MCKENZIE
Victoria designer Antonieta D’Introno shares her design insights, from optimizing your home-project team, to prioritizing your wish list, to how sociology influences the planning of your home’s interior design.
One of Antonieta D’Introno’s earliest memories is being pushed around Europe in a stroller, taking in the stunning cathedrals and piazzas.
“Every year we would go to Spain and Italy and live there the whole summer,” she says of growing up in Venezuela and then Massachusetts with her parents — an American artist and a linguistics professor — and her older brother.
“Art and architecture were just part of our lives. When you go into a space that really has that beautiful combination of history and design, it impacts you on a far deeper level than just noticing a pretty colour.”
While she initially thought she would follow in her brother’s footsteps and study architecture, it was interior design that really captured her imagination. After undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts, she completed a masters at the European Institute of Design in Rome.
It was love that brought her to the West Coast when friends in Europe introduced her to a man from Vancouver Island.
Currently, she works with Low Hammond Rowe Architects and runs her own interior design firm, D’Introno Interior Design, which draws on her rich design background to bring a contemporary and collaborative approach to residential projects.
The Carolwood project, a recent collaboration between Antonieta D’Introno and Goodison Construction, involved renovating a mid-1960s property. “It had really interesting exposed beams throughout the house that had been stained or painted, so we refurbished them to be a focal point in the home,” D’Introno says. “It was open-concept, so material use, furniture and lighting were all really important to divide the space and make it feel cozy.” The property’s updated kitchen (right), done by Jason Good Custom Cabinets, features quartz countertops, built-in appliances with white lacquered millwork, a hidden pantry and grain-matched walnut millwork. Large porcelain tiles are used throughout the open-concept space, creating visual flow.
How does the interior design process start for a project?
First, it’s just a meet and greet to see if the fit is good and to get an understanding of the scope of the work. One important thing people don’t always understand are timelines. A lot of people believe they are allowing a lot of time for something if they give it a couple of months, but it can take at least that long to source and order a specific product. You will need way more time than you ever expected.
After you meet, gather information and work out the timeline, it’s time to figure out the budget. I have found that some people are worried about giving you the actual budget, so they might lowball — and it’s good to have that baseline. But most people are willing to alter their budget for their dreams.
What makes a good fit in an interior designer?
Compatibility — go with your gut. It’s a little bit like a marriage. You have to work well with the designer and trust the designer. Find someone you can communicate with easily. Also, be willing to be adaptable on the timeline. If there is a designer you want to work with, and they seem like a really good fit, it’s worth waiting for that person. This also applies to the builder. The relationship that the client has with their builder and interior designer is crucial, as is the relationship between the builder and the interior designer. This is an important trio. That’s your team.
For this Broadmead project with D’AMBROSIO architecture + urbanism and Horizon Pacific Contracting, D’Introno embraced a natural palette to complement the home’s forested backdrop. Cabinetry by Splinters Millworks, limestone walls, concrete elements and white oak flooring all work in harmony to create a modern look that celebrates the wooded setting.
Does your background affect how you work with an architect?
A lot of times with architects, I just study their plans and try to understand if it makes sense for that client. I won’t be quiet if something pops out at me that doesn’t work. I know details that might change the way a client functions within that space. Maybe they are left-handed or need to have a restroom that is very close to their bed.
Although the architect can create the feeling the client wants, I like to narrow it down to explore the pixels of their life and really understand what they love and what they want to feel when they are in their home. It’s a lot of sociology.
What is the relationship between sociology and interior design?
It’s like research work to understand the client. It’s looking at mannerisms, the way they move and talk and explain things. Even the pictures they’ve cut out. That’s a good starting point. They might love a bench, so I ask them what it is about the bench. They might say the wood, but then I point out other things: Do you love the bolts in the side, or the raw steel of the supports or that the wood is split in the middle so crumbs may get in? And then they really look and realize they don’t like any of that. It’s important to find out what the client really wants because sometimes they don’t even know.
Does bringing inspiration photos help?
It’s always useful to have any information that a client can gather for inspiration. Then we’ll narrow it down to the things that are really important, and then we can get those things into the space. I think it’s good to have an idea and a direction and to never be scared to speak up. Especially to your designer. If you’re looking at something and thinking this is not really the vision I had, it’s easier to stop it the earlier you speak up.
What misconceptions do people take from interior design shows on television that are important to debunk?
It’s sad because people do get their expectations up for these quick, easy designs. It’s important to realize that anyone can make a room look beautiful by picking out colour schemes, but the intellectual property of an experienced designer is something you can’t get in a television show or a 15-minute clip. There is a lot more to it when you get into the thick of the design.
How does it go beyond the look?
It’s space design, spatial awareness, the connection between rooms and what you do in those rooms. It’s understanding the relationship between materials, furniture and lighting. It’s how to work with tricky architecture … It’s also a willingness to be
a little daring in your design.