A symphony of tropical bird calls and a very early morning Maui trade wind are kicking up a competition during an outdoor Facetime interview with Vancouver interior designer, Janie Hungerford. But she’s completely unfazed. The mother of four children is soaking up some R&R at her parents’ home on Maui but her creative and philanthropic passions are never static.
“No, I didn’t design the interiors of this home,” she laughs, reading my mind, “but I did my parents summer home on Savary Island on the Sunshine Coast. Sometimes it’s difficult to convince clients to experiment. I have a very strong eye for colour and Vancouver is a safe (as in conservative) market,” she says diplomatically. “I really try to push clients out of their comfort zone of black, gray and white and get them excited to embrace a colourful palette and textured fabrics. I truly believe that living with colour makes us happier,” she says.
Perhaps her creative “eye” for colour and imagery was first cultivated through her studies and degree in film after which Hungerford switched to interior design at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and later refined at the renowned Parsons School of Interior Design in New York City. The Vancouver-born and raised entrepreneur lived and worked in NYC and in London, England before returning home to open her own practice, Hungerford Interior Design in 2010.
Janie Hungerford is particularly inspired by the challenge of restoration projects. Over a three-year interior renovation for a client’s 1920s heritage Shaughnessy Tudor home, she melded traditional elements like rich wood flooring and antiques into an open, flowing plan that incorporated contemporary art, cutting edge lighting and pops of colour throughout. A client’s love of a particular painting can inspire the design of an entire home: “That same client had several large paintings by North Vancouver artist, Bobbie Burgers including a spectacular one of cobalt blue and yellow irises, relates Hungerford. Those colours became subtly connected through upholstered chairs and soft furnishings like cushions and throws throughout the home’s multiple levels.”
Hungerford is a strong believer in keeping personal elements like photographs and treasured pieces that may have been handed down through generations. “That’s what gives the room its personality and creates an emotion when you walk into it,” she explains.
‘Charity begins at home’ may be an old idiom but to Janie Hungerford, it will always be relevant. “Growing up, my parents were always very philanthropic and great role models, and I learned the importance of helping others in the community when I was in elementary school,” she acknowledges. “I’m the same way with my own children too. We get together and make lunches for disadvantaged people in the downtown Eastside; bring outgrown clothes in good shape to shelters for mothers and their children and even in Maui, my three daughters, ages 6, 7, and 4 will set-up a lemonade stand and sell cupcakes and give the money to a local charity,” Hungerford relates. “It’s so important to me to set a good example for them.”
When she’s not fund-raising for Kids Help Phonethrough her enchanting interiors for “Homes for the Holidays self-guided house tours in past years,dearest to Hungerford’s heart is the BC Cancer Foundation’s annual Inspiration Galafor which she is on the planning and ballroom design committees. “Every year our theme and type of cancer research it benefits changes,” says Hungerford who is beginning to plan 2018’s glittering theme, Taj Mahal, with Gala proceeds to leading-edge research on blood cancers.
It takes place November 3rdat The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver with the goal to raise $3million with all proceeds going directly to the charity. Over the past thirteen years, BC Cancer Foundation’s Inspiration Galashave raised $27 million towards cancer research in the province. Having lost a beloved sister-in-law and grandmother to the disease and a classmate of her daughter currently contending with leukemia, Hungerford also worked tirelessly to fundraise in order to recruit a world-renowned specialist in blood cancers, Dr. Florian Kuchenbauer from Germany who presented a seminar this past winter at UBC, Vancouver.
Managing a home, career, time with her husband and four children and her philanthropic commitments is always a balancing act.
“You know, I feel so privileged to be able to live in a nice home with my husband and children in Vancouver. I think it’s easy for many Millennials to get lost in what’s really important,” says Janie Hungerford candidly. I’d love to see more young people actively get involved with philanthropic work- it’s really so rewarding.”