In January of this year I embarked on a mission. A mission to transform an empty West End condo into an inviting home. Creating an environment that inspires conversation and connection is a daunting task. Unless - of course - you have a team of designers in your corner. And I was lucky enough to be introduced to the awesome team at Propellor Studios.
This East Vancouver crew of creatives has been designing and building lighting art from every material imaginable since 2004. My savvy artist pal Christina Norberg directed me to their site, and I knew right away that these were the people to take my vision to the next level. Before we get into it, let’s take a little spin through Propellor’s history with Toby Barratt.
Erin: Tell me who you are and the inspiration behind Propellor Designs?
Toby: We are three friends who met and became creative allies while studying sculpture at Emily Carr University. After school, we joined forces and launched Propellor Studio as a creative outlet for our art and design ideas and ambitions. The combination of our different skills and perspectives took our work together in interesting and unforeseen directions. Though we studied sculpture, we all had a deep interest in design, furniture and architecture. It seemed natural for us to combine our efforts, to dive in and start creating.
Erin: What is your design philosophy?
Toby: To learn, absorb and re-learn the history of our collective material culture. Return to nature at regular intervals to investigate its forms and patterns. Then, clear our heads and draw on this wealth of information and inspiration to design beautiful and resonant work that will last well into the future.
Erin: What do you love most about creating unique pieces for people?
Toby: Most of our work ships to distant cities and it’s rare for us to meet these far-off clients in person. So when we work with people in our city, we take the opportunity to visit their space, ask a lot of questions and really get a sense of how they live. This allows the creative process to become a collaboration between us and our client which leads to great outcomes and satisfaction for everyone involved.
During my first meeting with the Propellor team, we discussed working together on a custom piece, but then I discovered the Dram light. Toby and the team had been collecting cocktail glasses from the 60’s and 70’s for 10 years and loved how the reds, ambers and smoky greys (in different shapes) came together. Plus, every piece they sourced had history - a story. I loved the fact that the Dram looked like a good time waiting to happen.
I was very drawn to the piece, but unsure if such a large, wild chandelier would work in my neutral, minimalist kitchen. That’s when Toby offered to come over and scope out the situation. Measurements were taken, pinot noir was sipped, and (as expected) the project was green lit. Careful assembly took place (over several weeks) at their East Van studio and then again in my condo. The team put so much love and care into the work and it certainly shows.
And if the Dram doesn’t say party - I don’t know what does!