In the Hot Seat with Yvonne Whelan

 We love learning what makes our designers tick, so when we had the chance to sit down with the fabulous Yvonne Whelan of Yvonne Whelan Design, we took the opportunity to pick her brain about everything design. 

Lively, approachable and ultra-sweet (with great taste in shoes) Yvonne sat down to answer a few questions we had to help customers and clients get insight into what goes through the mind of a designer Here’s what she had to say: 


Q: Have you always been passionate about design? 

I actually have been passionate about design since as long as I can remember.  Being very opinionated about the design choices in our family home from a very young age.  My parents humoured me with allowing my opinion to be heard in the choices that were made in our house.  It was a natural overpowering obsession for me.  And it’s only grown since then.


Q: How would you describe your personal style?

That’s tough because my style is always slightly evolving. I would have to say feminine but at times I love to add an edgy element.  I always like adding a touch of the unexpected. And pops of colour is sort of my trademark.


Q: What are the top 5 things you need to know before starting work on a client’s home?

  1. The first thing you need to ask is “what is the budget.” It not always forthcoming, but nonetheless crucial.  Sometimes budgets change as the job proceeds. But it definitely dictates the direction.
  2. What style does the client gravitate to. I ask clients to pull photos of images that resonate with them so I can assess their taste preferences. I also like to ask them their favourite colours and try and incorporate those into the space. I want the space to be a true refection of the it is such an important element to pay attention too.
  3. Timing. What is the timing? or expectations of timing. It is so important to address expectations. So you don’t disappoint a client. Or address unrealistic expectations. You need to be on the same page.
  4. Does the client have children or pets? That is so important. Especially in choosing furnishings, rugs or fabrics. You need to design spaces that are durable and resistant to stains. And sometimes you even need to consider sharp edges. Most of my clients have young families as do I. So I realize how crucial it is to have fabrics that are cleanable and surfaces that can withstand grimy hands and rambunctious members of the clan :)
  5. Who is the decision maker? Do both parties need to agree? Or can one make decisions alone. Quicker decisions mean quicker design outcomes. So It is helpful to know.


Q: How do you choose the perfect colour palette for your client?

I always leave this up to the client. This is their home and I want them to love it and for it to be reflective of their personalities. It has actually made me a better designer as it has pushed me out of my comfort zones. I actually love challenges, and working with colour that may not be my favourite, can be just that. But It has made me love all colour. A lovely client of mine loved vibrant colours. I knew the space would not feel home for her without. So we brought in bright reds and blues. It looked gorgeous and made sense, and I was converted. (We used Sunpan pieces in this home. Below features the Warwick Dining table and picture 2 below features the Ruffin table.)


Q: Do you have a preference in terms of what rooms you design? What’s your favourite type of space? 

No preferences really. I like being challenged to do different rooms. It keeps the creativity alive. But I do adore small spaces.  They are cozy and the process is usually much quicker…maybe its more the instant gratification.


Q: What’s your pet peeve when it comes to design?

Where do I start. Like any job there are lots to pick apart. I will give you my recent top 2.  

First is when a product is sourced, ordered and takes weeks to make/deliver; and it arrives wrong or damaged. The client is so disappointed and you are also. It’s super frustrating. It’s all about how you handle those situations to make it right and move on.

Second is when a clients gets super excited about the design of the room and starts breaking from the plan. They start shopping randomly purchasing pieces that don’t work with the room. The pieces can become a challenge and sometimes an eyesore.  

Most of my clients have amazing taste, they just struggle pulling it together.


 Q: What do you look for when you source product? Why do you love working with Sunpan furniture?

Scale - a lot of times I’m looking for a certain size piece. Quality - always! Availability - how soon can I get it? And colour and style. I have been working with Sunpan for 10 years now and I have witnessed them grow and grow. They are always trying to better themselves, by growing their product line, improving quality, and sourcing new materials. They watch for where the trends are going and are always on point. They also listen to designers and often ask what we are looking for in terms of size of pieces, colours, fabrics, etc. I just think they are innovative with amazing customer service so it’s such a pleasure to work with them.  (insert applause)


Q: Tell us about a recent or favourite project from your portfolio 

It was a dining room I designed. The client had just moved into a brand new house and they were a merging family. They both had children from previous relationships and they were moving in together. He had a certain style of furniture and she did too.  She wanted a fresh new start. Basically we got rid of everything they had so they could start their new life together in the beautiful new house. We met, put a plan in place and then started the sourcing for the project. The first piece that was decided on was the Hoxton dining chair from Sunpan. 


It’s a gorgeous chair, it has a sexy stainless steel base and some luscious tufting on the seat. It was the jumping off point for the rest of the room. We had the table and sideboard custom made, as well as the draperies. Basically everything we did was to work with those chairs.

And the husband was happy with it too?

Loved it. It’s actually very Mad Men-esq type room. It definitely has more of a masculine feel, so it’s quite different.