Indie Profile: Five Minutes With MGB Principal Michelle Biggar
Michelle Biggar is an Australian interior designer who has made her home in Vancouver. She is a principal at mcfarlane | green | biggar ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN INC, better known as MGB. Gathering 11 years of international experience, Michelle has worked professionally in Australia, the UK and in Canada on a vast range of projects from multi-residential interiors to fashion retail, offices, and restaurants. Some of her recently completed Vancouver projects include Giovane café, bakery + deli and Oru restaurant (both in Vancouver’s new Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel), Obakki’s flagship store in Gastown and an office and gallery for Bob Rennie in Chinatown. She believes in beautiful, timeless solutions born of intelligent design. Her aesthetic is clean, modern, and contemplative. Her calm and clement manner, while indispensable on multi-million dollar projects, comes in handy at home, where she is the proud mother of Max Lucy Biggar, born February 6th, 2009.
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Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: I am lucky to live in Lynn Valley on the beautiful North Shore. The things I love most about it are the proximity to beautiful mountains and endless trails for walking my dog, Sumo (a lab and retriever cross); that the location is a little more removed and quiet yet we are only 20 minutes to downtown and East Van; and the luxury of space – the lots are larger and there is more greenery surrounding properties (growing up in Australia bred a real desire for space).
When you finish a project and stand within it – what do you hope to feel? I hope to be able to come back to the project five years later and feel that the space is still current, thoughtful and beautiful.
What inspires your choice materials for a given project? I like to use a minimal palette of natural materials such as wood and stone, working them in a unique way. This neutral base provides a timeless backdrop for additional layers of accessories such as art and furniture, that can transform the space over time. And you can never have enough simple white walls!
Best place for one-of-a-kind furniture in the city: Metropolitan Home on Hastings is great for second hand classic pieces, and Vancouver Special on Main carries a couple of great lines. In general though, well designed affordable furniture is an area that Vancouver really lacks in.
A Vancouver room or building that you have always wanted to have your way with? My bathroom.
Favourite Vancouver restaurant from a completely aesthetic point of view? The Salt Cellar in the basement of Salt Tasting Room in Blood Alley. It’s one of the few unique dining experiences in town. I love the communal table, the raw concrete walls and the slabs of meat hanging in the glass cooler.
Why is Vancouver a good city for design? Vancouver can be a little conservative when it comes to design (and liquor licenses!) which leaves plenty of room for great design to emerge and for designers to challenge and inspire us.
Is there a local designer or artist that you really admire? I love the rigor and innovation of Molo designers Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen. They use materials in a unique way to create beautiful products.
If you were going to recommend a Vancouver personality for Scout to interview, who would it be? Brent Comber. He is a North Vancouver artist working with cast-off wood to create stunning furniture and sculptural pieces, and he’s a fun guy.
Favourite Vancouver building/landmark? The top of Grouse mountain for its view back down on the city.
Three places you like to take out of town guests: Hernando Island off the Sunshine Coast. My husband’s parents have a cabin there and it’s a small piece of untouched BC paradise; Portobello West market on the last Sunday of every month. Local markets are a must in every city. Some of my favourite exhibititors include Leanne McElroy of Elroy Apparel (she makes great dresses made from sustainable fabrics), Snugglings’ baby toques and leg warmers, and Superfly Lullabies baby blankets; Café Medina for breakfast…yum.
Where do you enjoy shopping in Vancouver? Tell us about some of your favourite local haunts: Lately I love to shop for my baby girl Max so some of my favourite spots include: jack + lola, dandelion kids, modern kid and Zara kids. Vancouver Special (Main Street), Mooncruise (Gastown), Provide (Beatty Street), and Mei (4th Ave) are a few of my favourites for homewares and unique items. Otherwise I love to browse Gastown and Main for the boutique-style fashion and jewelry stores. I also always love the jewelry line Konzuk, which is available at Inform and Giovane Café.
Best Vancouver place to be inspired by emerging artistic talent: As a designer it’s important to look globally rather than locally for inspiration. Go travel.