Our Design Community is our series where we visit and talk with different firms within the Winnipeg design community about their approach to design and what made them fall in love with their work.
In this feature we are visiting Design Shop co-founder Debbie Golub, an incredibly skilled interior designer and a bundle of joy and energy. We love when she pops into the shop and her visits always leave us with a lifted spirit!
Please, introduce yourself
I am Debbie Golub and one of the cofounders and partners of Design Shop. I am also a practicing, principal interior designer with 19 years of experience in the field and a graduate at the faculty of architecture. I have a wonky education but we can touch on that another time!
Has Winnipeg always been home for you?
I’d say 98% yes. I lived in Taipei, Taiwan for two years (“lived” in Mexico, Toronto and Grand Rapid for several months each).
How exciting! What did you do over there?
I moved to Taipei because I threw my masters thesis proposal in the garbage and I needed a design / academia break, haha. I taught English, acted in funny commercials and travelled South East Asia! It was wild. It was there I learned the most in my entire life (more than my 11 years of Uni). Living in a place that has zero meaning to you, placemaking and thriving teaches you a lot about what you are made of. Oh, and becoming a beginners conversant in Mandarin was fun.
So you’ve been here most of your life, what is it about Winnipeg you find especially captivating or made you want to stay?
Obviously it is home. But I love the grassroots nature of Winnipeg. There is a Yiddish term called “Chutzpah” that sums Winnipeg up for me. It’s a Yiddish word that you can’t translate directly into English, but it essentially means “balls”. There’s something about Winnipeggers - we are hardy people, and I love that we own our sweet city. I think we like that it has grassroots chutzpah. At least I really do. Maybe it has something to do with being tucked away into the centre of Canada? We are just enveloped by so much.
I like the seasons here too. That we nest deep in the winter and then we are go, go, go and play all summer. If you are open to it, you can experience an interesting flow of emotions here. There is so much to absorb - how we transform behaviourally as humans, obviously how nature and the climate shift and most importantly IMO how we respond to them. The flux in weather does a lot to me and my soul creatively. It always keeps me on my toes and allows me to have those much needed winter pauses to let big life ideas settle and manifest.
I also find the people of Winnipeg to be very creative. We have one of the best Faculties of Architecture in North America (ID school specifically ;)), a rich maker community, iconic musicians, film makers, actors, authors, chefs, content creators - you name it. It’s a place where you can have an idea, or a dream and build a business around your passions.
That’s one of the things I find nice about Winnipeg as well. It feels like there is quite a lot of opportunity here, whereas other places it is pretty saturated.
Yeah, there is! And I think it comes from a different root too. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I think there’s something humble about it. We are like the little city that could and it feels great to be part of that.
When did your love for interior design/architecture begin?
That’s a good question, because I thought I was going to go to law school. My dad’s a lawyer and my mom’s a psychologist, aunts and uncles were all doctors, dentists, scientists and in wealth management, so I was primarily nurtured by anything but. However, as I got older - I became more connected with my family members who were creatives - my aunt is an interior designer (Naomi Sommer), my grandfather owned a huge upholstery company in Winnipeg (Century Craft), I had a cousin who’s a mid-century modern furniture designer and an uncle who worked in an architecture firm (at the time Smith Carter). I started to find my creative home within my family which felt like home.
I saw and did things differently and skipped to the beat of my own drum. As a kid I felt a little wayward, haha. I observed and felt things in a unique way (I have always been very psychologically aware) and was always involved in creative activities. It started off with dance; ballet, jazz, modern then Israeli - moved to gymnastics (and now yoga) - and through movement, my prime creative expression at the time, I felt most understood and fulfilled. My aunt and I used to walk through Tuxedo and River Heights daily and we would analyze, critique and deconstruct details on homes. It never got boring. I also noticed that when I travelled I was drawn to walking through back lanes and seeking out the spaces in between. I loved the intimacy of those spaces.
The world and humans and animals actually expressed themselves differently “behind the scenes” and noticing this fed my soul in some way. So, I always sought them out. Even here in Winnipeg, you can find me meandering down a back alley.
Who or what are some of your biggest design inspirations?
From an aesthetic and programming perspective, I am mostly influenced by mid-century modern design, with a splash of hippie. But, honestly I am constantly inspired by humans and the chemistry we create (as designers leading the process) together. I get high off observing and creating meaningful engagement. I love, love the languaging that surfaces only from those trusting and meaningful dialogues. I find emotions and human behaviour fascinating. They are ever evolving variables and impossible to conclusively predict. I always insert the behaviourist perspective in my designs from concept to completion. I think that’s why all of our projects look different. Because Every. Single. Engagement. Is. Unique. With that said, we have a process that is very “Design Shop”, and have some very well-honed skillsets that we always implement. Space planning, detailing and mixing and matching with confidence are a few of the many.
It sounds like rewarding work and soul filling, almost.
Which of your projects are you particularly pleased with?
Form Medical Aesthetics is one that is really close to my personal heart. That was like the most fast tracked job ever. From beginning to end, day one introduction to formally turn over the keys was 11 months! That was a design-build project as well, which I get kinda high on and love doing. Opportunities continue to evolve and nurture the project and enhance throughout the build. There’s a lot of trust with the design-build process as well, because it is not just class A drawings with every single spec noted. The way we do it, we put 90% on the drawings, but there’s still movement to massage more actively than with a typical drawing set. You can finesse and edit throughout the build and I love that!
When designing for your clients, what are some of your key ingredients that you find are particularly important to think of?
Process is huge to us.
Programming specifically - it is a classic layer in the interior design field. We lead a series of interviews / observation meetings prior to deep diving to aesthetic and the project narrative. Clients, both residential and commercial, require me to be thoughtful with their needs, identity and values.
We work in teams and always have from day one. We have great chemistry on our team. The collaborative nature of our process from conception to completion of a job has proved to be integral for design development, quality control, and service. When collaborating, we try not to negate the sharing of ideas at first. It’s important to let creativity experience flow, then within time, edit and build. As things progress and the narrative, or point of view is identified, we filter the design ideas through the programme.
What is an element or ethos you hope to bring into your clients home through your design?
Do you! It is kind of like my mantra. Do You. Be very honest about what makes you tick. Look deep. Your project should be a manifestation of YOU. This is why My home looks nothing like our Brock house design, or how Ruskin got resolved.
We are not a “look” design firm, but rather a process based one.
Which is your favourite Hut K item?
I love, love my Knitting Chair! And I love my Taccia lamp. I took the opportunity to curate some of my favourites in my own house so I would say those are two of my favourites. For Low Life Brewery we did the Moooi stools and I am obsessed with those. I love how versatile they are. They can be chairs or little tables and I love the quirky detailing on them. They are cute, thoughtful pieces.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Ha. Right now, everyday is different. With my business partner on mat leave my days are constantly in flux and I am busy AF. Can I say that?
Sure you can! How many team members do you have at Design Shop?
That’s a good question, I have to do a quick count, haha. Including Amanda, my partner, and Natasha who are both currently on mat-leave, we are now a team of 8.
If we were to peek into your own home, how would you describe the aesthetic?
Its a bit of a mash up; my home has a Californian 70’s hippie heart feel paired with MCM furniture and detailing. The design has a comfortable, calm rhythm and it all seems to flow.
Your furry friends show up in your feed on Instagram from time to time. Tell us about them!
Oh Fluff! He’s my favourite being in the world. The other two fur babies are my nephew and niece doggos, but I have very active visiting rights. Manny is the chocolate brown little guy and Lily is the white and grey pup and they are both mini Shar Pei’s. I Love them hard. Fluff, my little guy, is my little black rescue cat and his tongue always sticks out. It’s his move. He’s kind of iconic, haha.
Do you have a favourite room or corner in your home?
My TV room. It’s my little cozy cocoon. It’s the smallest room in my house, but the texture and woody layers make me feel so safe and calm. Everything placed in the room has meaning to me. It’s filled with family heirlooms and my favourite books. Originally it was the forgotten space, but with some creative detailing tweaks it has become my favourite space to disappear into.
It’s important to bring in personal artifacts to make a home personal, I find.
That’s part of the “Do You” messaging Design Shop promotes. I have the china and crystal from my parents wedding from back in the 70’s, so I designed a built-in modern day china cabinet for it in my kitchen. It’s nice to show it off and use because it’s part of my history and my family. And, they are beautiful sets.
Is there something you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on?
Ride the wave, be open when diving into the design experience. Be adaptable - because you never know what the chemistry from the engagement with your designer will evoke.
I dislike the buzz word “authenticity” or statement “be authentic” right now, because I’ve been feeling it and owning the messaging in my life and through our practice always. Now it seems to be a revolutionary concept. At the end of the day - the more authentic and honest you are in YOUR living and with your engagement with your designer, the more meaningful your space and experience will be.
Go check out Debbie's and her team's work here. You are sure to be amazed.