With a taste for maximalism and a hunger for brightly hued rooms, Cynthia Ferguson is a designer after our own hearts. Based in Toronto, she stands apart from the typical design crowd of cool, sometimes chilly interiors, thanks to her deep understanding of color, pattern, and layering textures to a dazzling effect. And now that Chairish ships to Canada (yes, it’s true!), we’re excited to get to know even more about her bold, imaginative style.
Below, check out our interview with Cynthia to learn more about her aesthetic, her advice for venturing out of the blah comfort zone of neutral colors, and which shades she’s loving right now. And be sure to shop her vibrant curation of Chairish favorites while you’re at it.
You are known for your colorful, pattern-rich spaces. Tell us a bit about how you developed your eye for that and how it’s become a signature element for you.
Color has always been inspiring to me. I have a physical and emotional reaction to it, so it seemed natural to weave the use of different palettes into my design work. In Canada, we aren’t known for colorful interiors, so it was easy for me to stand out in the design community as a maximalist who is slightly obsessed with bright shades!
Which colors are you loving right now and why?
As we head further into fall, I am in love with the dark, rich deep tones of chocolate brown, ochre, and raspberry. We are pushing our clients into new colors like deep magenta, muddy yellow, and of course, always green!
Do you have any advice to help people feel more confident about incorporating color into their spaces?
It is easiest and more economical to start with paint. Try adding a bold color to your walls first… if you don’t like it, you can always buy a new can. Whatever you do, don’t judge your love or hate for the hue until you have covered every single wall in your new color!
We also suggest taking a risk in the smallest room in your house: your powder room. Make it a conversation piece for your guests and go all out! Create a jewel box that is closed off from the rest of the house and where you can really have fun… it might just whet your appetite for more!
You describe yourself as a maximalist. What are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to maximalism?
I think one of the hardest parts of being a maximalist is that every room must be balanced with the others in a home. You can’t do maximalism in the living room and then run out of steam and leave the dining room without the same level of impact. When we are creating an entire home or even refreshing a few rooms for a client, we work very hard to ensure each space is as impactful as the next. If we cannot find the special “wow” for a room, we aren’t afraid to put a pin in it and circle back later. And do be patient when creating a maximalist interior… it takes time, especially if the client doesn’t have collections of objets they love. Then we have to go out and discover what speaks to them on the journey.
Your 1930s home in Toronto is so beautifully decorated with vibrant, bold colors. What’s your favorite room in your home and why?
My favorite room in my home changes with the seasons. In the warmer months, I love the sun-filled family room. In fact, I start each morning in my velvet chair in that room, no matter what month it is. I love the light and the view of the backyard; it grounds me to start my day. In the winter, I love the coziness of the living room with the wood burning fireplace. We love to play board games there in front of the fire.
What’s a favorite design trend you’re seeing right now? Are there any trends you’d be happy to see disappear?
I am so excited to see the return of ceiling fixtures for lighting and people starting to exile recessed lighting (or pot lights, as we call them). There are so many incredible lighting artisans to source from now! Lighting has really become a much more important design element in our interiors. And vintage lighting? Obsessed!
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
Chairish is the ultimate candy store for me! I can “one stop shop” for everything from the ginger jar collection needed for a coffee table display to incredible Murano glass lighting fixtures. I love that it is accessible to my clients—it makes interfacing much easier when pulling vintage pieces for a project together, no matter where the project is located.
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
Sustainability for me is just part of the picture when selecting vintage pieces. Vintage shopping is about adding soul to a room; giving it a story. There is nothing I enjoy more than finding a fabulous piece based on the size, the finish, and the price point… and then learning the story behind the piece we have selected. It is like a treasure hunt, so the added factor of knowing we have selected a sustainable way to decorate is the icing on the cake. And given all the issues with supply chains over the past few years, shopping vintage has been a life saver for us!
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?
A dream is definitely a Louis XVI commode with the original marble top. I bought one for a client once and I literally coveted the piece. I was so emotionally attached to it that when they downsized, I was secretly hoping I could buy it from them… but they weren’t letting it go either!
As for lighting, I’m completely obsessed with my constant search for the perfect size and shape of vintage tiered Murano glass sconces. On a recent trip to Lisbon, the hotel I stayed in had the perfect sconces! I sat with my chair oriented towards them every morning at breakfast.
What are some of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
Adding oversized art
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
Vintage wood-framed chairs
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Favorite paint color:
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
Ironstone collection in my dining room
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Gosh… I can’t pick one… Albert Hadley, Miles Redd, David Hicks, Robert Kime…
Favorite style icon:
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
Only perform the tasks you excel at and delegate the rest.
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination:
Anywhere in Europe
Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:
Recently, The Ivens in Lisbon
Lee, in Toronto
Favorite small museum:
In Paris, the Musée de l’Orangerie
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Hadley Wiggins, Katie Rosenfeld, Sabbe Interior Design, Philip Mitchell, Jeffrey Dungan, McAlpine House, Jean Stoffer, CN Traveler, Salvesen Graham, Laura Stephens, and House and Garden UK
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
Tissue-wrapped beeswax candles in a fabulous color
Favorite adult beverage:
I don’t drink… but definitely a virgin Mojito!
Favorite way to unwind at home:
Having dinner with family
Favorite entertaining essential:
A beautifully set table with fresh flowers, vintage serviceware, lots of candlelight, and a freshly pressed and layered tablecloth.
All photos by Donna Griffith, courtesy of Cynthia Ferguson