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Behind the Design: A Q&A with Andrea

From a young age, Andrea Ewanchyna knew that she loved interior design: childhood activities ranged from requesting to change the paint colours of her room to re-arranging furniture in her family’s living room. Not exactly the most common hobby for a kid, right? As the Principal of Andrea Jae Studio, she now gets to channel her childhood passions into a dream career.

We sat down with Andrea to learn more about what she loves about being an interior designer in Vancouver.

How did you get started in interior design? 

After a year at KPU (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) studying design, I eventually got sidetracked with an undergrad at UBC in art history. My favourite book is actually The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which is about a stolen art piece.

After living abroad in London, I realized that I wanted to get paid for being creative rather than only doing creative work outside of my day job. This is when I decided to further my education and pursue a Masters of Interior Design at the University of Manitoba.

What’s your favourite room to work on, and why? 

My mentor once said, “It doesn’t matter what you’re designing, because design is design.” Funny enough, it was a waste water treatment plant we were working on at the time… But I still take that advice to heart today. 

Every project is different because every client is different. Kitchen design is really fun because there are so many moving parts that you can really tailor it to the client’s lifestyle. For one client, we put a hot water on-demand tap in because the client didn’t want a kettle on her countertop. We even once considered a beer tap in a bar area for another client. Sadly, that didn’t go through because we didn’t have enough room. But if it were up to me, I would have stocked it with a lager from Yellow Dog Brewing, near where I live in Port Moody. 

How do you approach the collaborative process with clients?

Usually going through a renovation is one of the biggest investments in a client’s life, beyond actually purchasing the home in the first place. The last thing we want to do is build a relationship where we are telling clients what to do, with them having no say in the matter. 

The design kick-off meeting is our first milestone step that allows us to have an open conversation from the very beginning. For instance, during a past project in West Vancouver we sat down with the client and presented different images for each room. We asked them to choose their ‘Top 5’ favourites as well as their ‘5 least favourites’ and noted their explanations. This allows us to draw out information that often clients don’t even know about themselves. It’s a really fun meeting that provides us all with a wealth of information.

Tell us about a moment in your career that you’ve been really proud of

I think at some level, everyone has Imposter Syndrome. Even though I had 10+ years of commercial design experience, we were relatively new to the residential world.  

We’re members of HAVAN (Home Builders Association of Vancouver) and have now been recognized there as a Finalist for Best Kitchen Renovation $150,000 - under $175,000 for the 2024 Awards. On top of that, we were also named a Finalist for the Georgie Awards this year, again for Kitchen Design. We are very excited about both nominations, even if we don’t end up winning.

The most exciting for me personally was being published in Western Living Magazine in their 2023 Kitchen + Bath Issue. Being in print is a very big dream of mine, and to see it on newsstands in stores where people are actually paying for that content knocked my socks off!

Where do you get your design inspiration? 

The root of all inspiration, for myself at least, is from travel. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to go to Europe several times. The history, the art, the design is just so… rich. Lately my travel is limited to North America - with two young kids we’re not going to tire ourselves out more than we need to! I’m always taking photos of things that inspire me: textures in nature, what I see out my window (living in Port Moody, we’re so lucky to back onto a forest), cool details in restaurants I visit, and so on.

It’s easy for your vision to narrow down with trends and what’s acceptable in your locale. Where we are in Vancouver, West Coast design is a lot of neutral colours - it seems that most are scared to be bold. We like to push boundaries at our studio and challenge our clients to explore outside of their comfort zone. You can really add depth to a design with colour and texture; we like to play with this combination to create new environments that really speak to the user.


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