Over Forty Years of Interior Design Know-How

Caroll-Ann Bainbridge, designer at Renovation Room
Caroll-Ann Bainbridge, designer at Renovation Room

It’s difficult to find an interior designer with more practical experience than Caroll-Ann Bainbridge.

The Calgary-based designer has worked with hundreds of commercial and residential clients during her 40-plus-year career. With that kind of longevity, she has also seen many design trends come and go, even noting correlations with what is going on in the world at large and how it affects the psychology of colour. But more on that later.

Where it started

Caroll-Ann has worked with Alberta-based home builders and long-term clients including well-known firms such as Morrison Homes and the Three Sisters Developments in Canmore. She has worked on countless new construction projects, renovations and specialty projects.

Her key take-aways from those years?

“With builders, budgets are crucial. Everything is tendered so they get the best products on the tightest margin,” she explains.

Clearly, working under pressure has been the norm in her career…which is ironic given the timing and situation of her introduction to Timeless.

Timeless to the Rescue

“I ended up in a challenging situation when another flooring company suddenly closed its doors,” she recounts. The builder who was buying the flooring was in the middle of their project, and the budgets had already been set.

But a seasoned pro like Caroll-Ann simply did what she always does…and finds out what else was out there. She soon uncovered Timeless, a brand based right in her home city of Calgary, Alberta.

“I was amazed that the team at Timeless, specifically Robyn and Matt, came in not having worked with me before, but still bent over backwards to make it all work.”

Clearly, it was a good match of business approaches. So what makes her unique as a designer?

Design Philosophy – Matching Selections to Lifestyle

Caroll-Ann believes in understanding the lifestyle and expectations of her clients.

From there, she can assess what choices need to be made.

“My philosophy is to make sure the client understands the options and choices. They should fully understand what they’re paying for, and how it will impact short and long-term value.”

This also applies to climate, especially when it comes to wood products.

She laughs that in Calgary, “We’re blessed with dry weather.” She points out that buyers must be careful to choose the right kind of wood products that are acclimatized for Calgary.

“I check into the manufacturing process. Oak and Maple do well here, but Oak is more adaptable to changing colours in the future when re-finishing.”

Her Toughest Challenge as a Designer

Given that Caroll-Ann has probably seen every kind of project and client– what is her toughest challenge at this stage in her business?

“Getting clients to be realistic!” She says. “I’m very careful and fussy on our clients’ behalf. We can’t rush things and do them well. I’ve seen what can happen when installations are crammed in on a short timeline. I want to provide them with a quality job, and I know there are certain things you can’t cut corners on. I also know what can be upgraded later, such as a light fixture.”

The normal challenge of client expectations has been compounded with supply and availability issues, she says. “I’ve got to recommend items that have reasonable delivery time limits. Items like plumbing and lighting are the slowest of all right now, so we build timetables around those.”

Her biggest advice to clients is to not procrastinate in planning projects or making decisions.

Some Things Change, While Some Stay the Same

We took the opportunity to ask Caroll-Ann what she has learned over her long career, especially in an industry often so governed by short-term fashion trends.

“Green and Healthy Products are trending across the boards, and continue to do so. This applies to paint, hardwood, carpet, and all kinds of other materials,” she says. “These requirements have contributed to price increases, but some products, especially those with real wood, are now being favoured over other products.”

Higher costs of products are the very reason she sees Timeless as a strong choice. “Timeless has a product in every price range, and a broad range of styles. It’s good to see something for everyone.”

How Style Trends Relate to World Events

During her career, Caroll-Ann was a member of the Color Marketing Group, an international colour trend forecasting group.

“These people set the trends for anything and everything. And I got to see how one trend led to another,” she says.

This of course begged the question: Do colour trends correlate with world events, and how so?

“Colours go from brights to muted and back again,” she says. “In times of doom and gloom, people need warmer colours and textures to feel cozy and protected.” She goes on to explain that these warmer, brighter colours and textures are very popular at the moment, including woods and texturing. Where greys are still popular, they too are warmer.

What’s ahead?

Caroll-Ann notes that renovations are grabbing a larger portion of the market, as real estate prices continue to be very high. Instead of moving, homeowners are choosing to upgrade, some adding secondary suites.

This is a trend we’ll be watching, along with using more wood flooring for textured looks.

At the end of the day, Caroll-Ann says, “What matters with a vendor is teamwork, and Timeless gets it. They make budgets work, they answer their calls right away, and they’ve got all the samples we need to do the job.” Well, thank you Caroll-Ann.

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