This week we’re Buzz Talking with the principal partners of one of Toronto’s most versatile design firms, Tomas Pearce Interior Design Consulting.
Melandro Quilatan and Tania Richardson have an incredible amount of experience in the industry and have led a talented team — one that includes stylists, interior designers, and procurement agents — in designing some of Toronto’s most successful new developments.
Some recent highlights include The Yorkville and The Bond, both by Lifetime Developments. Melandro and Tania talk us through the design of these awesome projects, the growth of Tomas Pearce and why you can’t always trust what you see on HGTV.
BuzzBuzzHome: When did you choose interior design as your career path?
Tania Richardson: In hindsight I always knew. When I’d play with Barbies, I’d set up her house and then not play with the Barbies. As a teenager I rearranged my room at least once a week — my mom’s poor floors. I knew as a teenager that that’s what I wanted to do. I identified it at that point in time, but in hindsight I always knew.
Melandro Quilatan: I’ve known since high school, when you’re first forced to think about your career path. I knew it was going to be in a creative field, whether it was going to be fashion, interior design or architecture. When I started doing research in terms of post secondary research, I came across Ryerson. That’s where I attended school. I fell in love with the curriculum and spoke with the students that were enrolled in that course and it made me even more certain that that was the path I wanted to take.
BBH: Do you guys remember your first interior design project ever?
TR: Mine was my bedroom! I remember I wanted to paint my room black *laughs*. My mom wouldn’t let me so we settled on one wall with black wallpaper.
MQ: Mine was my aunt’s place when I was thirteen or fourteen. They were doing some renovations. At that young age I still wanted to provide them with input and they actually listened to some of the things that I tabled.
TR: My first actual job was in high school in a co-op placement. I got to design the window treatments for a lady and she actually chose my design. I was about seventeen at the time.
BBH: So this has been a long time coming!
TR: I think we’re both very passionate. It’s inherent in both of us. We live, breathe and dream design.
BBH: Tell us about the genesis of Tomas Pearce.
MQ: A good place to start is where Tania and I met at our previous place of employment. I was there for 18 years and Tania was there for 6 or 7 years. We were teamed up to work on projects together so instantly we knew the chemistry was there. It was a great chemistry, but Tania had to leave because she had a little one.
Of course I went through a depression because my partner was gone. She started taking on projects on her own and taught a couple courses at Sheraton. Her little business started to escalate and she was pulling me in for a bit of consultation work on evenings and weekends. A year of doing that exhausted me a little bit. I thought I was going to be a lifer at the previous office, but what she and I have couldn’t be ignored. I called her one New Year’s Eve and said “finally I’m going to make the jump.” I joined Tania as a full time business partner in 2007.
TR: There were four of us at the time.
MQ: From when I joined up to now we’ve grown to 16 or 17 strong.
BBH: So you’re the design firm behind The Bond by Lifetime Developments. We’ve heard a lot about the interiors of the project, but we’d love to get the scoop straight from the source. What was the inspiration behind the design?
MQ: When Lifetime approached us a number of months ago, they had a program which encompassed a temporary sales centre that’s located on the actual site of the building. They came to us with a space that was existing. It was a little challenging because it was a temporary sales office so we had to work with the parameters of that space.
We stripped it down to its bare brick walls and we injected a little bit of Tomas Pearce into it. We transplanted and recycled some materials we previously had from the Yorkville sales office. We came up with a very sleek and modern space that’s really black and white. It was a good hint as to what the lobby was going to be for The Bond Condominium.
The suites themselves are quite compact. That seems to be what’s selling these days. The investor market is looking for a specific size of suite. We did the suite layouts ranging from 500 square foot studios to a 1200 square foot penthouse.
There’s a mix there in terms of product but the underlying commanality is the luxury in terms of finishes. There’s a couple of boards at the sales centre that represent the finishes. There’s a dark scheme and a light scheme, a masculine and a feminine scheme. We tried to appeal to all sorts of pedestrians that would walk through the space.
BBH: When designing The Yorkville, did you ever feel constrained by the reputation of the neighbourhood? When you’re designing interiors in a neighbourhood with a well defined character, do you ever need to follow a rigid pattern that matches with that character?
TR: I don’t think it’s so much as matching the actual neighbourhood itself, it’s more matching the demographic of the purchaser. The product isn’t really a competitor with the Four Seasons, but it’s offering downtown living to a business purchaser — a well-traveled, educated, fashion forward executive.
We took that into consideration. We tried to come up with things that are fresh, new and hip but at the same time, luxurious that targeted that particular market. We didn’t try to compete with the Four Seasons. The Yorkville has its own character.
MQ: They could have sold another two dozen floors.
TR: It was a fantastic product for the location.
MQ: And a fantastic price. It was very popular. I was at the sales centre the other week and it was being dismantled, it was kind of bittersweet.
TR: It’s an honour to have it torn down so quickly because it means we did our job properly, but on the other hand it’s very sad because you spent so much time and energy designed and constructing and facilitating the entire project.
BBH: What’s next for Tomas Pearce?
TR: We’ve got a lot of exciting projects on the go.
MQ: High end private residences are actually our staple. The commercial work is also keeping us very busy. The market’s hot. We’re fortunate though, we’ve got a good roster of developers that are approaching us to design their sales offices and model suites.
TR: We also do the first-time home buyer market, so we have a mix of both on the go. It’s exciting to diversify our creativity on both levels.
BBH: What’s an interior designers worst nightmare?
TR: Someone who thinks that we’re decorators.
MQ: Whether it’s residential clients or developers who are new to building, if they don’t know what services interior designers provide, it becomes a challenging thing.
TR: It’s the value that designers provide. Especially with HGTV, everyone assumes that they can do it themselves. They go and invest in all this furniture and they make mistakes. They don’t see that an interior designer can save them money in the long run.
They also think what’s on TV is what real life is, but it’s not. There’s a lot of paper-pushing and coordination, it’s not as glamourous as HGTV makes it out to be. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions. Everyone wants advice from an interior designer, but they don’t value it.
BBH: How does an interior designer define success in their career?
TR: I think we’ve reached success. We have our own company! We have seventeen people working with us. The karma gods have been good to us.
MQ: The day we sit back on our laurels and say “we’ve done it” is the day we should retire. We’ve yet to reach that point because we continually challenge ourselves and challenge our team to keep on the pulse of leading edge design. That’s important to us because otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are.
TR: We’ve come a long way very quickly, but we also value family and life balance. That to me is more successful than success on the business side. It’s finding that life balance. Most of our employees work with us because we realize you have a life outside these four walls. I think that’s one thing we do very well here.
MQ: We work hard and we play hard *laughs*.
Thanks Melandro and Tania for taking the time to buzz with us!