Drawing inspiration from Scandinavian design, Plaidfox Studio creates a modern home for his sister-in-law's family of four, with punchy personality in every room.
The living room in this Vancouver home, designed by Plaidfox Studio, includes a nook for storing wine, and a custom piece of art given to the homeowners by the designer, who is the wife's brother-in-law.
“You never know when inspiration may strike.” So says Ben Leavitt, creative director of Vancouver’s PlaidFox Studio, who began sketching out ideas for his sister-in-law’s house during a flight home from a family vacation to Mexico City. “Rather than searching online for inspiration,” he continues, “I like to use the classic pen and paper to create the initial designs for all my projects. The home today looks almost identical to those first initial drawings.”
That house, a new build on three forested acres just outside of Vancouver, is a modern art-filled abode awash with moments of sophisticated whimsy. Mixing contemporary, Scandinavian-inspired design with moments of bold and unexpected color, Leavitt created a warm and inviting home for the family of four.
A large marble coffee table from RH anchors the family room. The neutral tones and natural materials embrace a Scandinavian palette.
“Left to my own devices, I would probably have played it safe and had fewer surprises and even more neutrals,” says Leavitt’s sister-in-law, and client, Sarika. “Once you start working with Ben, you realize that the more you know, the more adventurous you feel like being. I learned that neutral can still have color and needs it to give context and depth to the different spaces.”
Sarika and her husband, Happy, love to travel and often stay at modern, minimally designed hotels. This served as a springboard of inspiration for the interiors of their home. “The [hotels] are always thoughtfully designed, feel relaxing, and find a way to make vast spaces seem still comfortable and inviting,” she says. “I wanted my home to have this same feel—large and spacious but also intimate and warm. I have always loved Nordic design, so I also drew from that ascetic throughout the home.”
The primary bedroom is serene, but the tiger brings a playful touch, and Phillip Jeffries wallpaper adds dimension.
When they aren’t traveling, the couple spends time at home with family and friends, hosting parties, or cooking meals together with their children. They have a contemporary art collection that they wanted to display, but they wanted all spaces in the house to be usable and easy to navigate.
“It needed to be a place that could accommodate a large party filling every corner or an indoor hockey game for the kids—of which there have been many,” says Leavitt. As a family member, he had the unique opportunity of seeing first-hand how his clients use their space. “The home needed to be relaxed enough that you didn’t need to tip-toe around precious objects.”
Moments of color, texture, and pattern were used in the living room (and throughout the project) to create visual interest while not venturing into maximalism.
To tap into the aforementioned Scandinavian aesthetic and brighten the interiors, Leavitt opted to use white oak flooring and cabinetry throughout the home. The material also serves as a subtle connecting baseline between all areas of the house. In the living room, interesting shapes (such as a long, semi-circular sofa and a faceted coffee table that brings to mind a large gemstone) bring a fun visual punch. At one end, a wine storage room features white oak built-ins and a glass door.
“I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time in this home, so I wanted to create a space I would love personally,” Leavitt says. “My absolute favorite room is the formal living room. I love spending time there. A formal space that is not meant for sprawling has been all but lost in the age of the ‘great room.’ I love having a place to catch up, especially one so full of so many fun design elements.”
In the kitchen, minimalism reigns supreme. A trio of black About a Stool 32 seating by HAY echoes the curved shape of the lighting above the island.
The kitchen and formal dining room stick with a black-and-white palette, but Leavitt still found ways to have fun with the design, such as a sculptural lighting piece and a dining table with one white chair among black chairs. In the breakfast nook, a surprising wash of dusty pink paint paired with a stacked-ceramic sculpture brings an energetic attitude to morning meals. “The pink in the breakfast nook was a last-minute edition,” Leavitt admits. It turned out to be a big hit—Sarika ticks the room off as one of her favorite elements on the first level.
The dining room furniture matches the palette in the kitchen.
Color comes into play elsewhere—furniture in the office and primary bedroom continues the blue and pink theme—and art adds personality to each space. At the end of the project, Leavitt gifted Sarika a custom piece of art that reads, “Hold on Let Me Overthink This,” which playfully encapsulates the experience of working on the project.
The breakfast nook is a family favorite. A Lambert & Fils light fixture brings a hint of glamour to the space.
“I would create a concept, then I would show drawings and colors to Sarika, and she would spend weeks and weeks humming over whether or not it was the right decision. She'd come up with other ideas, and in the end, we would always circle back to the original one,” says Leavitt. “So, the joke over the project was, ‘don’t overthink it, design is meant to be fun.’”
In the end, Sarika agrees. And while most people would pause before working with family on a large project, for this Vancouver bunch, it only strengthened their bond. “We often comment now that the home is done, that we grew so much closer as the project progressed,” Sarika says. “Our weekly meetings and late-night pasta dinners over architectural plans will be bonding time I will cherish forever.”