VANCOUVERITES | 4 Minutes With Nancy Bendtsen Of Gastown’s “Inform Interiors”

September 12, 2014 


by Grady Mitchell | In anticipation of the Interior Design Show West coming up September 25-28 at the Vancouver Convention Center, we met with Nancy Bendtsen from Inform Interiors to discuss the importance of design in everyday life.

Nancy’s husband, Niels, launched Inform half a century ago when he was just 19. At that time the Pacific Northwest was an epicentre for progressive design. Originally the store sold the handiwork of Niel’s father, who at 12 was pulled from school to apprentice as a Danish cabinet maker. Gradually Niels added other brands and designers, and now Inform, with its twin Gastown locations, is a touchstone of home design in Vancouver.

Like Niels, Nancy is genetically predisposed to be a design lover. When Allan Fleming updated the CN logo in 1960 – a long-overdue revamp that Marshall McLuhan declared iconic – Nancy’s mother found the sleek new lettering so alluring that she packed a young Nancy and herself into the car, drove to the nearest station, and took the shortest possible round trip, just to be on a train featuring the polished logo.

Later Nancy studied architecture at L’ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and at the University of Toronto. Architecture, she says, is less about schematics and flair than it is a general education. “You think over a lot of big things. It was more overall thinking; about humanity, about how people live.”

The things Nancy deems important are often small details that others overlook. “Everything you touch,” she says. “Door handles, cutlery.” Rather than a Dwell-ready house packed with curated spaces, it’s important to slowly collect pieces you truly enjoy, on both an aesthetic and functional level. “You don’t have to have a lot of stuff,” Nancy says, “just stuff you really love.”

As far as IDS West’s imminence is concerned, Nancy is excited for London-based lighting designer Michael Anastassiades, whose work she describes as “very architectural, geometric.” Rub shoulders with Nancy, Michael, and a host of other design aficionados at the Vancouver Conference Center from September 25-28 for IDS West.

SEEN IN VANCOUVER #494 | Scott & Scott Architecture Gets To Work Off Main Street


(via Dezeen) It’s been over a year since David and Susan Scott launched their own firm, Scott & Scott Architects, but they’ve only recently completed their studio headquarters on the ground floor of their 1911 home off on 19th Ave off Main Street. They’ve clad the floor and walls with Douglas Fir planks which they’ve treated themselves with a mixture of Canadian whisky and beeswax (watch the video below). A rear workshop is divided from the main space by a functional storage hide/wall. David and Susan also designed the tables themselves using galvanised steel frames and hand-stitched leathers. Floor to ceiling window frontage invites the neighbours to look inside, but it also allows the architects to work with plenty of light (there are glass pendant lights hanging from the ceiling to add more in the evenings).

PS. If Scott & Scott sounds familiar, it could be because they helped with the design of Bestie and drew up this gorgeous off-grid cabin on Vancouver Island.


SEEN IN VANCOUVER #489 | Inside “Post Projects”, The Design Firm At Ontario & 3rd


by Grady Mitchell | Alex Nelson and Beau House are Post Projects, a graphic design house with a sun-filled studio at Ontario and 3rd. They’ve crafted the look and feel of some of Vancouver’s most beloved companies, including Brassneck Brewery, Revolver Coffee, Bambudda, and the Western Front artist centre.

The two met in Emily Carr’s design program and graduated in 2008. After a few years of working for other design firms and taking on freelance projects, they hit a crossroads: either leave Vancouver to search for work, or start their own company. Rather than contribute to the city’s brain drain, which has seen many talented designers relocate to hubs like New York, London, and Berlin, they chose to stick around, launching Post Projects in 2010.


Since then their sleek and contemporary aesthetic has attracted both local and international clients. Care, time and detail are the central tenets of their design philosophy. Post handles any visual aspect that a company needs: visual identity and branding, web and app design, print and publication, signage, interactive media, illustration, photography, packaging, and more. While they’re very much of Vancouver, they’re also mindful of the global design discourse, and incorporate those influences into their work. Take a look inside…


SEEN IN VANCOUVER #486 | With Designer Tom Dixon At Gastown’s “Inform Interiors”


by Luis Valdizon | Tom Dixon inconspicuously entered the design world as an art school drop-out in the 1980′s while trying to repair his post-accident motorcycle with no technical training. His works have since been collected by some of the world’s most top museums, including the London’s V&A, New York’s MoMa and Paris’ Pompidou. Just two months ago he was the recipient of the prestigious Maison et Objet Designer of the Year award. I was fortunate enough to chat with Mr. Dixon on the last stop of his North American lecture tour. The evening, hosted by Gastown’s Inform Interiors on March 3rd, was lively and tightly packed by a handsome crowd of design enthusiasts. What follows is the transcript of my conversation with Dixon and a gallery of photos from the evening.

Can you share some details surrounding the night in Milan when you slept on a public park bench, which resulted in the inspiration for your first season with Adidas?

It was my first visit to the furniture fair. I thought that I would be able to find cheap accommodation quickly and that just wasn’t the case. I had no idea of the scale of the fair. Sleeping on the park bench is not something that I can recommend. It’s never comfortable and the temperatures drop substantially in Milan. It wasn’t a great experience. I’m just hoping not to do it again without my own sleeping bag.

I think it’s funny that these sort of things still happen in Milan. Only two years ago there was the Icelandic volcano eruption and everything stopped. There were about a couple hundred-thousand people stuck in Milan and very quickly they didn’t have hotel rooms or residences. For the benefit of my own interests, it could easily happen again, so it’s better to be prepared.


Your release with Adidas has an unmistakable editorial presence in its packaging and presentation. What inspired this?

There’s no point in me trying to be a fashion designer. It’s not what these collaborations are about. What it is for me is sort of entering a new universe without any preconception. There’s a lot of fashion that’s very poorly explained compared to product design. It’s not very normal to give a lot of information on the packaging. I wanted to bring my experience in other trades to the fashion business rather than become a fashion designer. The graphic sensibility and the information on the pack is really about trying to communicate a bit more in a way that they don’t in the fashion business. I get very frustrated, for instance, when I go to a museum or an art gallery and I see this amazing stuff and I want to know more and they don’t tell you. I try my best to reinvent those trades in a way that best suits me. The collection addresses my inability to pack efficiently; so, it’s a personal problem. I think I design with myself as the customer in mind rather than try to be like a proper designer that should be solving problems for other people. I’m a-typical like that.

You shared an idea of being “a proper modernist” for the first time through your collaboration with Adidas. What did you mean by that?

Modernist? Did I say that? I think the advantage with massive companies that are experts in what they do is that they have access to many more resources, and everybody wants to work with them. It’s an opportunity to work with futuristic textiles and new manufacturing techniques. They are cutting edges in their respective trades in ways you’d never get the chance to if you were doing it in a conventional manner.

Can you speak on the role of mathematics in your design?

I went to a very bad school in the 70s where there was a lot of experiments in education going on. There wasn’t a great deal of discipline. There was very bad teaching, and I found the whole thing very frustrating. However, there was one short-lived period that I had a really great math teacher and it opened up this tiny little window in this other magical world which I’ve never been able to access since. There’s something about the beauty in everything matching up and everything being logical that I’m still inclined to seek. There’s something quite nice about geometry because it is perfect. It appeals to everybody. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Muslim and like Islamic art, or whether you’re a scientist interested in DNA, or if you’re a child building Lego; geometry is always there. It’s underpins everything that’s constantly around us. There’s something rather fascinating to a designer about that, and if you do use geometry in your work it you often find that it appeals to other people as well.

You blur the line between the artist and the entrepreneur with little very backlash in comparison to, say, Damien Hirst. Why do you think that is?

Because he’s much richer than I am (laughs). I’m sure the backlash will come when I get really, really rich. For me, what was kind of nice about commerce – and I think that too few designers are interested in the kind of trading aspect of it – is that it’s what has allowed me to become a designer. The fact that I could think of an idea and the people would spend their hard earned cash on buying it off me seems like such a perfect way to make a living, right? It’s like alchemy, where you can turn something into gold. It’s not like I’m a super successful business man. I really like the idea that I’ve created a platform to have an idea and if that idea is good enough people will just buy it. It’s a great way to live.

What is your first memory of an encounter with an object that influenced your design aesthetic today?

I went to an exhibition at the V&A museum in London and I saw a video of an Alvar Aalto stool being made. It was plywood…pressed plywood with the glue oozing out. And it was that that sort of sparked something. I’ve always been more interested in the manufacturing rather than the actual objects. I don’t think it was the design objects that appealed to me. What appealed to me was the manufacturing process, so when I found welding and I learned how to weld then suddenly this whole world where one could create structures very quickly and very easily became apparent to me.

Did you grow up in a design-minded home?

My parents were design aware but they weren’t designers. One was a teacher and one was a BBC newscaster so they weren’t really involved with anything to do with design. Now that I think about it – and even your last question – it was a pottery teacher at my old school. The school was not exactly academic. It was a big school, but it had the luck of having a proper ceramics department and also life drawing class, which is quite rare in secondary schools. The combination of enjoying drawing and actually getting my hands stuck into the wet clay and turning pots and such was really the moment the form-giving and the practical element of design really got me interested.

You’ve talked about having a “child-like enthusiasm” in your design philosophy. How has your relationship with your children or experience as a parent influenced you?

Funny enough, my kids are even more conservative than me. I spend a lot of time trying to get them to try to be more child-like and they constantly try to get me to be more conventional. They’d really like to have a trad [traditional] Dad. That’s what they want they want, a trad Dad, not a crazy Dad. I guess it’s kind of role reversal in a way.

Despite two accidents, one of which ended your music career, I hear that you still ride bikes?

Yes, it’s pretty much a daily occupation. We’ve had a rough winter so I put them away. I’m a bit more fair-weathered now. By the time I get back, the spring will have started and I’ll get moving again. Fact is that in London traffic is so bad and the city is so big that honestly it’s the only way of getting on in your day.

With your latest venture into scents and now again with music, your design seems to want to cover all the human senses…

The beauty of music is that it allows you to communicate with people without using language. Previously when I was doing it in the beginning; that was my job. You had to go around with eight sweaty boys in a transit band and tour the country, but now I can do it for fun. Music really is superior fun.


THE ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD | Getting To Know The City’s Arts & Crafts House Style


Vancouver’s architecture is often difficult to distinguish as many of its homes are adaptations or amalgamations of more recognized styles. By cataloguing them, we gain an understanding of our homes and neighbourhoods, which gives us all a sense of pride in our city. With this is mind, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation provides Scout with an exclusive series that we call The Roof Over Your Head.



The English Arts & Crafts style emerged as a reaction to the negative aspects of the rapid industrialization in England and encompassed artistic, ideological and political ideas. Architecturally, it was inspired by the look of the country cottage and manor house. In Vancouver and Victoria, architect Samuel Maclure was the most accomplished practitioner of the Arts & Crafts style.

The stylistic emphasis of the Arts & Crafts home is on their picturesque form. This includes asymmetrical massing, steeply pitched hip or gable roofs, with long ridge lines. Arts & Crafts homes are often compared to the Tudor Revival style. The main difference is that Arts & Crafts houses are more horizontal, with a closer relationship to the garden.

The entrance is an important feature of Arts & Crafts houses, as they were seen as symbols of welcome. Typically there is a discrete entrance with a covered porch that has a close relationship to the garden. Leaded glass is often incorporated into the door and multi-paned casement (swing open from one hinged side) windows are common. Chimneys are often prominent and cast in stone rather than the brick common in Tudor Revival homes. Eave overhangs and dormers are minimal.

Both in Vancouver and abroad, the use of local materials was encouraged in the Arts & Crafts home. In Vancouver, this included wooden shingles, siding and trim, as well as brick, stone and stucco. Many of the homes have smooth stucco surfaces with little applied decoration, though some include ‘Tudor’ half-timbering and medieval detailing.

The Arts & Crafts home is often on the grander scale, so here in Vancouver Shaughnessy remains the best place to find good examples.



Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture. VHF supports Vancouver’s built history by offering educational tours, talks and lectures, courses, and special events. Launched early in 2013, the Vancouver House Styles Architectural Web Tool is a free online reference cataloguing Vancouver’s common architectural styles.

SMOKE BREAK #1061 | “Design Is One” Doc On The Lives & Influence Of The Vignellis

September 26, 2013 

One of my favourite “characters” in the 2007 Helvetica typeface documentary was Massimo Vignelli. The Milanese designer came across as confident, opinionated and uncompromising, plus he had a rad sense of personal style and the greatest quote in the whole film: “The life of a designer is a life of fight. The fight against the ugliness. Just like a doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to do is cure it somehow with design”. He works with his wife, Lella, and their influence is everywhere, from New York City’s 1972 subway map (with Bob Noorda) and IBM to American Airlines and Benetton. Now there’s a documentary film about them called Design Is One. Check out the trailer above. The release date in October 18th.



Inform Interiors

September 1, 2013 




50 & 97 Water Street | Vancouver, BC | V6B 1A4
Telephone | 604-682-3868
Social: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+ | Houzz | Vimeo | YouTube


The People


Owner/Manager: Niels & Nancy Bendtsen
Kitchens & Bath Dept: Barbara Tili & Arne Salvesen
Contract Dept: Paul Sjaarda & Robyn York

About InForm Interiors


Inform Interiors owner Niels Bendtsen has been working with contemporary furniture all his life. In 1963, he opened his first retail store in West Vancouver, focusing on well-designed and well-crafted Danish modern furniture from companies like Fritz Hansen, which the store represents to this day. After seven years in West Vancouver, the store moved to 97 Water Street in Gastown where it has stood ever since.

To further his pursuit of quality design, Niels sold the store to a Toronto retailer and moved to Denmark in 1972. He spent a decade in Europe studying and designing furniture for a variety of manufacturers.
While in Denmark, he designed the Ribbon chair, which was accepted into the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Returning from Europe in the 80s, Niels regained control of the store and created Inform Interiors. Shortly after, he began his own manufacturing line BENSEN to provide great design and great quality at an affordable price.

Inform Interiors continued to grow under the direction of owners Niels and Nancy Bendtsen. To meet the burgeoning needs of Vancouver developers Inform Projects was created with Harvey Reehal. In 2002, plans began for the expansion of the store. Rather than move away from what they had started, the decision was made to stay in Gastown for the creation of a new showroom. Working with the Heritage Management Plan, the new building retained the entire façade of the previously existing building with a newly designed interior. Niels worked with Omer Arbel to create a stunning space that could truly showcase the future vision for Inform Interiors.

In November of 2006, the new 30,000+ square foot showroom at 50 Water Street was opened to the public. A new standard of retail and architecture for the city, the minimal space is a gallery for the furniture and objects within. With the opening of the second showroom, the original space at 97 Water Street was renovated and redefined as the new home to the B&B ITALIA Shop and the BOFFI Kitchen and Bathroom display.

A strong belief in good design has been the backbone of the Inform brand, bringing the best that world of industrial design has to offer to Gastown in Vancouver.

1,000 COOL THINGS ABOUT VANCOUVER | Omer Arbel’s Light Installation At Tacofino


by Andrew Morrison | The next cool thing is a bit of transfixing design. I’ve been digging Tacofino since they first appeared as a food truck tucked in the back of Tofino’s gravel strip mall (their fish tacos and tortilla soup are highly addictive, not to mention restorative after a day and night of beach camping down the road at Bella Pacifica). I was therefore naturally very stoked when they launched a food truck in Vancouver, and overwhelmed with joy when they opened their brick and mortar joint on East Hastings last summer (mmm, tater tots!). But what really wowed me (and continues to wow me every time I go) was designer Omer Arbel’s phenomenal lighting installation that hangs from the ceiling like a medusa. It’s made of copper, blown glass, dirt, cacti, and electrical bits and bobs, and I love it.


THE ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD | “Vancouver Specials” – What Makes Them So Unique?


Vancouver’s architecture is often difficult to distinguish as many of its homes are adaptations or amalgamations of more recognized styles. By cataloguing them, we gain an understanding of our homes and neighbourhoods, which gives us all a sense of pride in our city. With this is mind, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation is providing Scout with an exclusive new series that we call The Roof Over Your Head.



Unique to Vancouver, the Special was created in the 1960s in response to strict set-back and envelope laws enforced by the City. Favoured by engineers for easily accessible service areas, and by multi-generational families for their adaptable main floor, the Vancouver Special sprouted all over the Lower Mainland during the 1960s through 1980s. Built quickly and relatively inexpensively, there are variations to the style but a few defining features making them easy to spot on the street.

Always two stories, the exterior features an upper balcony that spans the entire front width of the house. The balcony is often made of simply patterned wrought-iron, with a stucco finished upper floor, and brick or stone cladding on the main floor. Their low pitched roof-lines, large front windows, and upper floor patio sliders are staples of the design. A lucky few will include a pair of stone lions positioned on pillars at either side of the entry path.

The windows were nearly all aluminum – mainly sliders in configuration although awning windows were also used for small windows or with a series of fixed windows immediately above or below them. Front doors were carved double doors or a paneled door flanked by sidelights – often amber plexiglass. The first floor often consisted of a family room off the entry with its staircase. Behind the family room usually with an alcove for a “summer” kitchen, were a number of bedrooms, a full bathroom, a utility room and a rear exit to the carport. The upper floor (like the Italian Piano Nobile) contained a front living room with a den area on the front, a small dining area with the kitchen and breakfast space behind opening out to the sundeck, while on the other side behind the den, the staircase came up to the centre of the house with the bedroom wing behind.

Location: Van Specials are found all over the Lower Mainland, however there is a predominance of both restored and original examples in East Vancouver (wandering Hastings-Sunrise and Commercial-Broadway are good bets)


Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture. VHF supports Vancouver’s built history by offering educational tours, talks and lectures, courses, and special events. Launched early in 2013, the Vancouver House Styles Architectural Web Tool is a free online reference cataloguing Vancouver’s common architectural styles.

HEADS UP: The Found & The Freed Set To Launch New Gastown Pop-Up This Friday

We just got word from the found/vintage/antique-curating girls at The Found and The Freed that they will be opening a pop-up this Friday night in the former Chrome Yellow digs at 207 Abbott St. in Gastown. Opening night starts at 7pm, but regular hours will be Monday to Friday 11am to 7pm and from 11am to 5pm on the weekends. The pop-up wraps on May 10th. The shots below (from a previous F&F pop-up) will give you some ballpark idea as the aesthetic in the offing…

Cool Thing We Want #379: Swiss-Based Designer Tomas Kral’s “Homework” Table

(Hat tip: Alexa Harder) A sheet of aluminum folded and curved around ash wood gives the “Homework” table by Swiss-based Slovakian designer Tomas Kral a unique and aesthetically pleasing functionality.



February 9, 2013 


City of Glass | Nickname/Book | A book by Douglas Coupland but also a nickname for Vancouver. City of Glass is based on our penchant for ubiquitous, green-glass covered residential podium towers, especially in the homogenous Concord Pacific development of Yaletown.

Usage | “There should be a sign on Cambie Street Bridge north-bound that says “Welcome to the City of Glass.”



February 4, 2013 


Blim | Gallery/Shop/Institution | Established in 2003 at the top of the BCER building then migrating to Mount Pleasant before settling in the heart of Chinatown, Blim is an innovative, independent arts and crafts facility that hosts events, workshops, and a retail outlet for local artisans. “Think of it as both a resource and platform for artists, a non-funded arts facility and small business run by and for artists”.

Usage: ”I made this crazy tie-dyed cat shirt for you at Blim.”


Cool Thing We Want #367: This Ukrainian Garlic Pendant Lamp By Anton Naselevets

December 28, 2012 

(via) Designer Anton Naselevets says his garlic lamp was inspired by the cooking and traditional family values of his native Ukraine. It’s only a concept (ie. not for sale), but it’s not hard imagining these beauties eventually making it to market.


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