HOODS | On A Gastown Walk With The Duo Behind Local Design Firm “Falken Reynolds”

September 16, 2014.

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by Luis Valdizon | Interior designers Chad Falkenberg and Kelly Reynolds, founders of local design house Falken Reynolds, recently took me on a leisurely Q&A walk through their Gastown neighbourhood…

Tell me about yourselves and your respective roles in your company? Kelly and I formed Falken Reynolds two years ago. We’ve been partners in life for almost nine years now and it was always part of the plan to work together. We both transitioned to being professional designers after having fairly colourful career paths. Kelly was a sailor in the Canadian Navy, a cop in the VPD, a flight attendant, and a hotel manager before making the shift almost ten years ago. I grew up spending summers on horse ranches in Texas and Arizona; studied finance and psychology; taught business at a university in Lithuania; and had an international marketing job before starting design school in Barcelona.

While one of us takes the lead on each project we rely heavily on each other for input, especially during the early conceptual phases. We share the same perspectives on design – that spaces should be relevant to both the people using them as well as the space’s context; that style is deeply personal and subjective and our role is to create a space that reflects what makes each client unique; and that design is constantly evolving and reacting to culture, which is why we travel to Milan each year for iSaloni, the most important event on the contemporary design calendar.

You work and live in Gastown. Why? We moved to Gastown eight years ago because we both craved the authenticity that comes from so many segments of society rubbing shoulders everyday. There is a freedom that comes from the diversity here. [It] stimulates creativity, collaboration, encouragement – all the ingredients that give entrepreneurs the support they need to be successful. Neighbourhoods and cities that aspire for too much homogeny can stifle creativity and draw a person’s focus more towards fitting in than finding their own way. So much of this atmosphere in Gastown stems from the architecture and urban planning of densely packed low-rise buildings with a mix of residential and commercial use. The streets are active and familiar because so many people live and work here – it feels really intimate and neighbourly because people are out and about doing their thing.

You’ve taken a role as an IDSWest ambassador. How has the experience been? Talking about design is pretty natural for us so taking on the role of ambassadors has been a great fit. After ten years, IDSwest has become the anchor event for a month of design activities in Vancouver. When we travel to Milan one of the things that is so inspiring is the critical mass of people (350,000 this year) who are talking about how design impacts our lives – and that same energy is alive in Vancouver over the month of September. Craftsmen and manufacturers are all showing their latest designs and products and from that collective showing we can see the trend line of how society will be living in the years to come. Design fairs are a bit like seeing into the future, just like fashion weeks are – eventually all the custom, high end design trickles down to price points that are more affordable and available. The most exciting thing about IDSwest is bringing so many creative minds under one roof – over the years we have met countless people who we end up working with. There has been a real shift to designers being more open and collaborative (helped by a relatively strong economy and the internet) that we are starting to see how much more we can do when we work together.

We’re designing Shed, the central bar for IDSwest, presented by Caesarstone, and we are working with some of Vancouver’s best design companies to bring it together: Benson, Inform Interiors, And Light, Object Outdoors, Synlawn and Moosehead Contracting. Our taking off point for the concept was a garden party in an abandoned west coast back yard. A lot of the materials that will be used for Shed will be repurposed in the restaurant we’re designing in Chinatown, Sai Woo. It’s true to our perspective on being “green” – build with better quality materials that last longer and can be reused and recycled.

We have a few other things going in the show this year too – we’re designing a couture chair we’ve named Dauphine, for William Switzer, which will be exhibited along with six other chairs designed by leading interior designers. We’re exploring youthful west coast luxury – if Marie Antoinette moved to Gastown this would be her chair… We’re also speaking on the Gray Conversation stage about our career transition to design, as well as sharing our story of being shortlisted for two categories for Western Living’s Designers of the Year.

Who is currently inspiring you in your neighbourhood? We’re lucky to call a lot of our Gastown neighbours and colleagues our friends – so many great people giving 110% everyday and having success in Vancouver as well as an international stage. Their vision and determination for their own businesses has collectively elevated the neighbourhood and gained international recognition as one of the best spots to live and work. We know how lucky we are to be here and experience this moment. There are too many people to name everyone but here are a few that really stand out:

Niels and Nancy Bendtsen from Inform were pioneers in Gastown and have been so supportive to us and so many emerging designers – we have watched them in action in Milan where they are just as comfortable and recognized as they are in Vancouver.

The crew from Roden Gray has been on the cutting edge of mens fashion. Rob Lo is always working on a new and exciting project – we are always inspired by how they run their business and Rob has become a great friend.

The same goes for Jonathon from Litchfield, Paul from L’Abattoir and the crew at Timbertrain – They all work so hard at being excellent at what they do and it shows in the success they have with their business.

When Michael and Charlie from Bailey Nelson approached us to work on their Canadian flagship shop we jumped at the opportunity because we could all see the potential for the rather derelict site on the corner of Cambie and Cordova. They were able to see past the decades of decay and the crumbling building and then trust us to turn it into something fresh and welcoming. We are super happy with the result and hope it inspires other entrepreneurs to set up shop in the neighbourhood.

Name three of your favourite architectural or design landmarks that your neighbourhood offers? The digital photo of the Gastown Riot by Stan Douglas . The roof at Inform Interiors – it’s a private gem and one of the best examples of how to keep the heritage of a building on the street and redevelop it for contemporary use. Maple Tree Square – there is so much potential with this space. Even though there have been many failed attempts at improving it, the bones of the square are intact. When the city takes another crack at improving it we’d love to part of imagining how to make it a better public gathering place.

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