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Five nominations for this Port Moody interior designer — plus industry recognition

It takes more than good design sense to complete a home renovation, says Port Moody's Laura Grist.

Whether removing walls or adding them, a Port Moody interior designer is staying on top of home decorating trends, completing projects on time and on budget while also earning accolades from clients and the building industry.

This week Laura Grist Design Inc. was announced as a finalist for interior designer of the year by HAVAN.

The Home Builders Association of Vancouver hosts the HAVAN Awards for Housing Excellence annually to recognize the best in the home building industry.

Grist said she and her team of designers are “stoked” to learn of the nomination as well as five additional nominations for home renovations.

Her interior design company has been nominated for best interior design renovated home, best renovation between $400,000 and $700,000 and three luxury kitchens, valued at between $100,000 and $175,000.

'We’re very thrilled, we’re absolutely thrilled. We’re working hard to get this kind of recognition,” said Grist, who will be “dressing up” for the awards ceremony on April 22.

15 years in the industry

Being recognized by her peers is a culmination of 15 years of hard work in the industry.

Grist was a late-comer to interior design, going back to school at the age of 40, but recognized quickly that it was her calling.

With her distinctive bald head and large, dark glasses, Grist has become known for being able to finish projects on time and on budget.

“We’re very organized,” is how she describes her team’s ability to juggle 25 projects at once, and, with supply chain problems easing up, renovation challenges have lessened considerably.

As for her bald head, Grist said she learned not to be upset about her hair loss from alopecia.

Initially distraught at the diagnosis, Grist said she was blinded by tears and tripped over a boy in a wheelchair.

The experience enabled Grist to put her condition into perspective, she said.

“I embraced it; I’m bald — who cares?”

Although she hasn’t won the award yet, Grist acknowledges that the nomination is an important recognition of her contributions to the industry and the community.

Volunteering important

“When you get nominated for that you have to show your volunteer work you’ve done, talk about how you support young people in the industry.”

Grist employs four people, many of them BCIT graduates, as well as retirees who want to keep their hand in the business.

The company’s volunteer commitment include contributing materials and sweat equity to Habitat for Humanity.

“We go swing a hammer,” said Grist.

HAVAN also looks at the environmental contributions of interior design companies, and Grist said her company is championing that as well by dismantling kitchens, rather than destroying them and re-purposing cabinets.

“We encourage people, and let them know we can recycle their kitchens, by getting them excited, and taking them (cabinets) down to Habitat for Humanity.”

Knocking down walls

Laura Grist Design Inc also plans to purchase carbon credits to make up for GHG emissions used in the construction process.

In addition to her nomination for interior designer of the year, Grist’s design team has multiple projects up for awards.

Three luxurious kitchens were among the nominated projects and Grist said she, too, was pleased with how they turned out.

In one instance, walls were taken out to create a light and airy kitchen as part of a larger renovation called “Wonderland,” which has been nominated for best renovations between $400,000 and $700,000.

In another, a wall was put in to better organize the space in a kitchen renovation called Pen and Ink that has been nominated in the $150,000 to $175,000 category.

Getting the paperwork 

Photos from before and after show the Wonderland kitchen was a cramped and dark space. But when Laura Grist Design Inc. was done the kitchen was completely opened up, with white cabinetry and a waterfall-style island.

“We extended the kitchen and put a wall there and made that barn door on the right, which is a walk-in pantry,” said Grist, who noted that the clients wanted a less formal space for family dining.

Many of the renovations that are being nominated were done in 1990s-era homes where rooms are divided up and clients want more open space, as well as modern fixtures.

Grist said her design team works hard to meet the needs of clients while also ensuring that builders have all the paperwork and specs before a project starts.

Pivoting from a surprise 'pipe'

Occasionally something comes up, such as a pipe in a wall that wasn’t supposed to be there.

“But we pivot,” Grist said, noting it’s important to immediately provide the client with a solution.

As for the nominations, she said it’s the most Laura Grist Interior Design Inc. has had — every project submitted to the HAVAN awards was a finalist.

“You have to be be not just one pillar of excellence you have to strive to have a good business model, a good relationship with employees, and be more of a team.”

Meanwhile, the contractor for all Grist's renovation nominations was Jedan Brothers Contracting, Coquitlam.