Solo Approach Boosts Creativity for Designer

by WOHe

Solo Approach Boosts Creativity for

By Susan Harper

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADAWhile most of the world is still
contentedly settled in slumber, a lone light burns bright in a
house in British Colombia, Canada. In that room, Carolyn Walsh,
CKD, has already begun her day, creating spectacular designs amid
the pre-dawn quiet. 

The day will break into a hectic schedule soon enough for the
international award-winning designer, who functions without a
staff, a showroom or advertising. In fact, Walsh uses no gimmicks
whatsoever, believing that her motto, “work hard, play hard,” is
the fastest route to success.

While her methods may be less than traditional, Walsh’s designs
are solid and successful. By mid-June of this year, she’d brought
in the same dollar amount earned during all of 1999. She
accomplishes this working out of her home, and on her own schedule
(though she admits that her “own schedule” often involves working
around-the-clock, and that she even sleeps with a pad and pen next
to the bed for scribbling down middle-of-the-night ideas).

While Walsh’s love of design is clear, the path to her passion was
not. Like so many other high school graduates, Walsh had little
sense of what she wanted to do when she went to college. Her
father, a college professor, insisted that a degree “could not
hurt,” so she obediently got a degree in sociology. By graduation,
however, her career path had crystallized, and she re-enrolled,
this time in an interior design program. 

Five years into the industry, Walsh moved from Ontario to
Kelowna, British Columbia, an idyllic setting on a lake with
mountain views, encircled by vineyards, which serves as an
inspiration for much of her work. She began by working for design
firms, but went into business for herself six years ago. This
bustling city of 250,000 people provides Walsh with a full market,
making it unnecessary to go outside the area to work, she

Though she laughingly mourns the fact that she has little time
to enjoy the pleasures of her picturesque surroundings, Walsh loves
the fact that she is in control of every aspect of her business
from design to keeping her own books. Though self-taught in the
business end of things, she is well aware of the traps that befall
designers who ignore the financial end for the creative

Nonetheless, she speaks with eloquence about the balance of
materials and design that cause each kitchen to be its own
composition. It is not surprising to learn that she has also taught
interior design.

The design process 
As with any successful business, the design process begins with the
client. Walsh starts out by planning an informal meeting in the
client’s home, where she takes time to review the client’s

Though Walsh owns a computer-aided design program, she jokes
that she has not had time to watch the tutorial and learn how to
use it, so she continues to hand draw all of her designs. In
addition, she accompanies her client when choosing materials and
appliances. Her mid- to high-end clientele appreciate the personal
touch, she believes, particularly the hand-drawn designs. 

Walsh insists that she does not focus on a specific type of
design specialty, but rather follows the client’s lead. Although
she has won a prestigious award for an old-world kitchen design,
she notes that most customers look to more contemporary styles when
doing their own homes. 

She prefers to use environmentally friendly materials, but,
again, these are used only when clients request them. Her primary
contribution in the environmental area is her talent for knowing
exactly how much to order, she says, since she abhors waste.

While Walsh does not have a standard showroom, she did design
the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and pantry for a home built by
San Marc Custom Homes in a Kelowna subdivision, which sits above
the vineyards and overlooks the lake. Here, potential clients can
see the quality of her designs, as well as cabinets and

Walsh was able to incorporate a variety of interesting features
in the design of the 364-sq.-ft. kitchen, including a faux painted
finish, plate rail, rope molding and granite countertops. The
laundry room includes a sewing area, and the walk-in pantry allows
for out-of-view prep work. Forty people explore the house daily,
with 120 or more viewing it on weekend days, according to

A friendly relationship with two builders Avanti Kitchens and
Redl Cabinets also serves her well. Ninety percent of their work
goes to Walsh and, in turn, she goes to them for products. Redl, in
particular, is suited to her high-end clients, she notes, as the
company believes that “nothing is impossible,” and will do whatever
is needed to satisfy a client.

Such customer satisfaction has provided Walsh with a thriving
business that requires little marketing. Though she admits it took
a while to break into the market, now not only does she not
advertise, she doesn’t even list her name in the phone book. In a
city the size of Kelowna, “the jobs one gets, one had better do
well,” she emphasizes. Referrals will then follow. 

It is this philosophy, she believes, that has continued to win
her both happy customers and continued success. As Walsh concludes,
“Work hard and be honest and both you and the client will

Carolyn Walsh, CKD

LOCATION: Kelowna, British Columbia,
PRINCIPLES: Carolyn Walsh, CKD
HOURS: By appointment 
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: “Work hard and be honest and both you and the
client will benefit.”

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