Robert Ledingham Memorial Award 2013: Sophie Burke
After working around the world, Vancouver designer Sophie Burke brings international influence to her designs.
This year marks the introduction of a new memorial award to be given annually to an interior designer in honour of Robert Ledingham, longtime Designer of the Year judge, who passed away in May. Ledingham, a trailblazer in the field of interior design (he received more than 30 awards for his work), prized mentorship for up-and-coming designers. In keeping with the spirit of his work, this new award celebrates the work of emerging designers.
Vancouver’s Sophie Burke is our inaugural winner, and judge Sandrine Lejeune, who worked at Ledingham’s firm, couldn’t be happier. “Sophie displays great artistic sensibility paired with elegant restraint,” she says. “Certainly her worldwide experiences lend strength and maturity to her designs.”
That globetrotting of Burke’s includes early days at Terence Conran’s architecture and design firm in London, where she worked on the interiors of restaurants in Paris, Tokyo and Delhi. Today, grabbing a latte at Vancouver’s chic Beaucoup Bakery in white jeans and fluorescent toes, she’s still talking about her travels. “It’s New York, Chicago, all through California; I think travel is always what inspires me. I go out into the world and see things and want to bring them back here,” she explains. “You have to travel to realize how many new, different ways there are.”
Burke’s own firm was launched in 2004, when she returned from London with her husband to build a family in Vancouver. She now has three children and a growing business that includes two full-time designers working alongside her at Sophie Burke Design. “I’ve enjoyed keeping it small,” she tells me. “My clients expect me to be involved at every step. And instead of growing larger, what I like is getting to that point where you can make sure every project is a good fit.”
That care in choosing projects is paying off. “Sophie’s interiors feel effortlessly authentic and elegant,” noted judge Kelly Deck. “I love her restrained use of materials and the subtle whimsy she incorporates in each home.” There’s a worldly mixing, too, of high and low styles, of old pieces and new.
Burke is now working to shake up the aesthetic she often encounters in Western Canada. “We have a lot of craftsman houses here, and people tend to do with them what others have done before.” Instead, Burke incorporates that “whimsy” that Deck refers to: for example, using a bird cage chandelier (just what it sounds like, complete with handmade birds) sourced from England. Or sandblasting local fir to give a Whistler home a sophisticated shift from the ordinary “château” vibe.
Like Ledingham before her, Burke is not content to repeat the status quo. What we’ve seen from her suggests a deep commitment to bringing the best of the world back home, and making it her own. wl