Interior Designer of the Year 2016: Douglas Cridland
This designer may have been defining the Calgary design scene for four decades, but he maintains a secure spot on the cutting edge.
To most visitors, the phrase “southwest corner of Alberta” will likely generate a few standard word assocations—with wind turbines and cattle usually mentioned first and second, respectively. “Beauty,” “elegance” and “Douglas Cridland” aren’t likely to make the top 20. Yet the geography around Pincher Creek, where our Interior Designer of the Year was born, provides enduring inspiration for his now-iconic palette.
Cridland tried his damnedest to leave Alberta. He went to school in Utah (three semesters at BYU, one at Weber State) but wound up back in Calgary. Over the years he applied for, and was offered, design gigs in Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria and elsewhere, but “something about the Prairies always held me here,” he says.
Nearly four decades into a robust interior-design career in Calgary, Cridland describes that “something” as—on an emotional level—“an energy, a particular beauty” and “an open, non-judgmental” vibe he hasn’t felt anywhere else. Professionally speaking, it’s about the vastness, the light on the Prairies: qualities that have informed his signature rich, earthy tones and infinite depth of detail.
Between 1979 and 2014, Cridland developed his inimitable style by eschewing trends and, instead, masterfully and unpredictably blending his clients’ artwork and sentimental furniture with elements from other eras, from contemporary to mid-century modern (a period for which Cridland professes a hugely comfortable attachment—“Those are my roots,” he says) to traditional. Invariably, underneath all his signature layers are strong, classic lines.
Judge and interior designer Paul Lavoie gave Cridland high marks for the timeless elegance of his work. “His style is enduring and classic—it’s lush, full and deep in detail,” says Lavoie, a long-time admirer. “Doug should win ‘Designer of the Decade’ for his entire body of work.” California designer and judge Kelly Wearstler was likewise impressed by the consistent excellence of Cridland’s portfolio: “The execution is impeccable.”
Cridland is self-deprecating about the win and his longevity. “I guess my run has been good,” he says when pressed. “Maybe it’s because I give people a classic look that has legs to it.” Thinking further, he adds: “Wherever I go, I’m always considering the question, ‘why is something successful?’ not ‘why is it of the moment?’”
Indeed, if you want in on the persistent chandelier-above-the-tub trend, well, Cridland will graciously deliver, but he’s unlikely to suggest it. And if you, like many contemporary-home owners in Calgary and elsewhere, want a stark white kitchen, Cridland’s probably not your man. “Lots of people associate me with dark, rich interiors—and, I admit, I do love them,” he says. “With the intensity of light we’ve got here, I find these sparkly white interiors kind of flat.” Rather, Cridland might panel the kitchen’s walls in wood, incorporate industrial concrete and stone, nix the oven hood to create expansiveness and punctuate the space with pops of colour in remarkable and functional ways.
Last year, Cridland expanded his firm—and renamed it Cridland Associates—to include a posse of young designers eager to learn Cridland-esque techniques, such as how to elegantly terminate a wood-panelled wall at a vaulted ceiling. But his team is also there to press forward with developing their own design eye under his supportive and demanding tutelage.
Rather than step back, Cridland has leaned into and found inspiration in his team’s youthful enthusiasm. “They’re excited, and their excitement spurs me on. I’m such a visual person, and I still want to be able to share that.”
One of the firm’s most recent collaborative projects was Cridland’s own downtown Calgary condo. The space embodies many of the designer’s signature moves: ceilings were raised two feet to take advantage of unused space, which was then fitted with tall wood millwork for extra storage and to gain dramatic vertical volume; a movable TV millwork-wall was built to add privacy and block sound to the den; concrete walls were installed for an industrial look; and a dark backdrop was created throughout to provide a dramatic canvas for Cridland’s collection of art and objects. It’s a rich, moody aesthetic, as timeless and unexpected as a Prairie sky.
Meet the rest of our 2016 Designers of the Year, or view previous Interior Design category winners.