Contemporary Design: Two Interior Designers Share their Approach to Modern Spaces

Sharon Halpin and Karin Bohne show how they create warmth while maintaining clean lines

Sharon Halpin injects warmth and colour with toss cushions and standout art

Few people agree on the definition of contemporary design, and few others create it without some hesitation. Adding visual warmth, comfort, functionality, relative timelessness, and personality within contemporary, clean lines is vital

What accomplishes these variables? Sharon Halpin of Fruition Design and Karin Bohne of Moeski Design each share their design philosophies.

Sharon Halpin: Fruition Design

Sharon Halpin’s signature style is strong and clean. She feels that you can deliver comfort, fashionable style and individuality through intelligent use of colour, texture, space and light.

How do you create a contemporary room that’s not cold?

Accessories. I’m not just referring to toss cushions, but standout pieces. 
I used a gold head-shaped accent table from Inform Interiors within a grey, modern Vancouver living room, and traditionally shaped Louis XV chairs – but made out of rubber – from the Netherlands for a Toronto living room. I often add Brent Comber Originals’ locally made trunks and saddle benches to inject earthy warmth. 

I recently attached a shattered wood light installation, by Brent, to a stone wall that’s illuminated by LED lights behind. Consumers often see the same pieces in stores and magazines, but designers are exposed to artists and manufacturers worldwide, and have expertise to source items that embrace your personality and also add a touch of the unexpected. I’m constantly searching in the most unlikely places.

Brent Comber’s Shattered Wood light installation and Phillip Jeffries’ Granite Stone wallpaper

Where did you get your interest in design?

I was born with a passion for it. I was a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew. Whether someone with a page torn from a magazine says, “I love this outfit. How can I get a similar look?” or “I love this room. How can I get a similar look?” I like working to develop trust, and giving them what makes them feel happy, comfortable and stylish. 

How do you interpret modern style? I don’t choose the cooler, harsh lines of true contemporary design. My rooms are never monochromatic, such as stark white or grey – if there is a hard-edged tile floor surrounded by tiled wall, a pop of colour will be added in an area carpet or sofa for warmth. Very contemporary rooms should feel inviting. 

What’s your top product?

Wallpaper. It gives textural impact to walls that a painted finish can’t, and it can be steam removed. I love a product from Phillip Jeffries called Granite Stone, available in several colours. Pieces of mica are pressed into the paper to make walls look like granite. I also like to contrast a modern environment with travertine stone tile that reflects its history, often with little embedded fossils.

What’s your biggest triumph?

An oceanfront home in West Vancouver had a beautiful view but chopped-up layout with cramped rooms. We gutted it, got rid of the small master bathroom, and floated the tub in the bedroom – it looks fantastic. The egg-shaped Elise bathtub sits in an alcove off a private window overlooking the garden. This allowed room to create a dramatic, walk-in double shower. The bedroom has a modern Afromosia wood built-in bed, floor and closet, so the white tub becomes the focal point. A fireplace in the middle of the living room created cumbersome walkways on either side, and arranging furniture forced backs to face the view. We demolished it and suspended a contemporary direct-vent stainless steel fireplace on a wall to maximize space and view. 

What’s your favourite colour?

Runway fashions translate into furniture – I like deep blues and grey-greens, like seafoam. For a contemporary kitchen in Deep Cove, I used muted-green lacquer on cabinetry to complement a green Caesarstone quartz slab (called Apple Martini) on the island and to accent stainless steel countertops. These clients aren’t afraid of colour, and living in a darker, rainier region affected the brighter choice. 


Karin Bohne: Moeski Design

Karin is a LEED-accredited interior designer with the company Moeski Design (named after her dog). Her fresh approach to contemporary design strongly values eco-friendly materials. 

Describe your perfect client.

Someone that’s a little adventurous, has an appreciation for current design, and has an open mind. I try not to simply do whatever the client wants because when their style is far from what I am passionate about, it can be a really challenging project. I’d rather have clients that are a mutually good fit, which is better for them. 

How do you create continuity and not a forced contemporary look?

Use of materials and repetition are keys. Use traditional materials in a new way. For example, when using tile or wood, installing it in an interesting pattern or adding accent shapes or colours within the design and then carrying that pattern into other rooms ties them together. Tile in two- by three-foot rectangles looks very modern – and new wood finishes, from bleached white or grey, to metallic black – used on floors and walls, with stacking reminiscent of wall panelling, but more contemporary. Emphasizing wood grain is very current, such as using light wood with a dark, tiger stripe-like grain, and using the grain colour elsewhere. 

Contemporary materials look different depending on their use. For example, cork is now available in so many patterns and colours that you wouldn’t recognize it as cork. It’s also easy to install, soft on feet, and sustainable. Coast Flooring has wood flooring that can be used on the wall, and Integrity Flooring has a variety of cork flooring. 

What’s your favourite colour?

I love colour – magenta, yellow, turquoise – in upholstery, tile, low-VOC paint, curtains and bedding. I’ve been painting feature walls black. People react surprised when I suggest it but when they see it, they love it because black is sleek, luxurious and contemporary, and also creates cosiness. It complements accent colours, works with neutral white and grey, and can be used in any room from kitchen and bedroom to living room.

Bohne uses black paint on feature walls

What’s your top product?

Wallpaper. I may use it on all four walls and the ceiling. The often-overlooked ceiling surface can add depth to a room. In a condo with a tiny kitchen, I added spark by wallpapering only the ceiling in a graphic contemporary print, tying in the cabinetry colour – the kitchen became the favourite room. In small spaces that should have less clutter, wallpaper can become the accessory. In a bedroom with polished concrete floors and concrete ceiling, I papered all walls in a soft silver and grey print. You wouldn’t get the same stunning effect if only doing one wall. 

Where did you get your interest in design?

I’m an artist, so I love experimenting with colours and materials. I have my paintings on my walls – four- by six-foot canvases that are bright and abstract – and have sold through art exhibits, but I haven’t added my artwork to a client’s home yet.

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.