Recently someone asked me to describe the differences between Canada and the United States. Actually, the question was more like this: “Aren’t you really just the 51st state?”
While our two countries share a great friendship and many similarities, Canada has a unique culture and a design style of its own. We are a mosaic of various cultures, and we are known for distinct preferences throughout various geographic regions.
Allow me to give you a cross-country tour of Canadian Design beginning on the East Coast. Atlantic Canada boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Fine restaurants offer exceptional local seafood and produce and “the door is always open” to tourists and visitors. The approach to design is relaxed: homes are functional and comfortable. There is a great love of family and friends and entertainment tends to be casual.
Our next stop is Quebec. Predominantly French speaking, La Belle Province can transport you to Europe without ever crossing the ocean. Stroll through the streets of old Montreal or Quebec City and experience a joie de vivre unlike any other place in North America. There is beauty in the architecture, the cobblestone streets and the food (oh…the food!) Color is far more prevalent than elsewhere in Canada and rooms are more decorative. Sheers are a strong seller and the European influence expresses itself dramatically.
As you move into Ontario and specifically Toronto you will be amazed by the diversity of the people. There are more than 140 languages and dialects spoken here. You can stroll through Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Russian neighborhoods, each with its own culture. Toronto designers and architects combine their diverse backgrounds with individual style and have made an impact on several international projects. In residential work, American influence is stronger here and designers such as Calvin Klein and Barbara Barry are very popular. Clean, tailored style and neutral color palettes are preferred.
Throughout the prairies, products are more functional and prints are more rare. Oil-rich Alberta, which is sometimes called “Houston North,” tends toward contemporary design and muted color palettes.
Our last stop is British Columbia, where the majestic Rockies meet the Pacific Ocean. The Okanogan Valley offers some of the finest wineries on the continent. Vancouver Island with its massive forests and beautiful shorelines has attracted people from all over the world who come to visit and then stay. Clean lines interrupted occasionally with more opulent fabrics are the norm here. Many projects have a strong Asian influence, which is very much a part of the west coast culture. The world will soon have the opportunity to witness the beauty of BC when they host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Don’t miss it!
There truly is something for everyone throughout this great country and in turn, our diversity influences who we are. Recently, the United Nations Human Development Index rated Canada as the fourth best country in the world to live. Are we different? Absolutely! Come see for yourself.