Elevating Spaces: Diana Ellis’ Signature Touch & Architecture Magic

Step into the world of Diana Ellis, where innovation meets tranquility. With a wealth of experience collaborating with industry leaders in architecture and design, she’s mastered the art of crafting spaces that inspire. Now, nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Canada, Diana brings her vision to life. Her latest triumph? The completion of a remarkable project for Hollybridge Living, an elegant waterfront apartment complex in the heart of Richmond, Vancouver.

Can you share your experiences at Santa Maria College?

My confidence, growth, and transition to the person I am today stemmed greatly from my time at Santa Maria.  I felt extremely supported on a day-to-day basis,  influenced by all the patient and supportive teachers who taught me, as well as a close-knit friendship group of ladies with whom I still keep in contact to this day. My type A personality, mixed with super hyperactive – high energy, I think I needed to channel her energy into something I enjoyed. It was through all my subjects, Italian and then Art & Geography, that I was able to channel my interests & talents. Thankfully, that was well understood by my teachers & peers at that time.

Were you involved in any co-curricular activities or clubs during your time here?

The extent of my involvement in clubs primarily revolved around playing sports, which I immensely enjoyed. Engaging in team sports like netball and basketball was incredibly enjoyable. Back then, I viewed it mainly as a social activity, relishing the time spent on training and team drills. However, reflecting on those experiences, I realise the deeper significance of being part of a team and striving toward a shared objective – winning as a cohesive unit.

After graduating from high school, what path did you take?

As the daughter of an immigrant family and a first-generation Australian, there seemed to be only one predetermined path for me: university. Quite ironically, I found myself pursuing Architecture at Curtin University. The initial year encompassed a blend of Architecture and Interior Architecture studies. However, my trajectory swiftly shifted towards Interior Architecture following my first year. It was during this time that my lecturers staged an intervention of sorts. With genuine kindness, they approached me, pinpointing, “You possess the mindset and creativity of an interior designer; this is your calling, and we encourage you to transition into the Interior Architecture program.” Taking their advice to heart, especially considering the camaraderie I had developed with fellow Interior Architecture students, I made the switch. Four years swiftly passed, and in 2001, I proudly graduated with Honours with a Bachelor of Arts, specialising in Interior Architecture.

Could you outline your career trajectory post-high school?

Immediately following my graduation from university, I landed a job at Oldfield Knott Architects in Subiaco, launching my junior design career. Spending five enriching years there, I honed my skills primarily in hospitality design, focusing on crafting unforgettable experiences in hotels, restaurants, and bars. As international opportunities beckoned, I embraced the chance for growth and adventure, relocating to London on a two-year working holiday visa. With a solid foundation from my years in Perth, I immersed myself in the dynamic design scene of London, gaining invaluable experience across various prestigious firms over the subsequent six years. Securing my ‘indefinite leave to remain’, I delved into corporate projects, commercial design, and prestigious residential endeavours in affluent London neighbourhoods, extending my reach to projects in Saudi Arabia, Paris, Edinburgh, and Germany.

However, the onset of the global economic recession in 2008 prompted a re-evaluation, leading me back to Perth after two eventful years abroad. Joining forces with a dear university friend at ID by MONO, we embarked on a fruitful journey, working on remarkable corporate and hotel projects that epitomised the vibrant design landscape of Perth. Amidst this exciting chapter, I found love and embraced new beginnings.

Driven by a yearning for global experiences, my husband and I embarked on a new adventure, relocating to Asia to join Steelman Partners’ esteemed studios in Macau and Cambodia. Over four transformative years, we immersed ourselves in the realm of casino, gaming, and hospitality design, collaborating with major casino groups across Asia.

However, as the desire to establish roots and start a family grew stronger, we sought a return to the West. With a job offer in Vancouver for my husband, we seized the opportunity and embarked on yet another chapter. Joining CHIL Design, I found a welcoming home where my passion for hospitality design continued to thrive. Seven years in the Vancouver studio, coupled with the support for remote work, afforded us the chance to settle in the picturesque surroundings of Invermere, near Banff, Canada.

Here, amidst breathtaking mountain vistas and the tranquillity of lakeside living, we have found our sanctuary. Our son, now four years old and proudly Canadian, embodies the richness of our shared journey. With dual nationality embracing both our Australian and Canadian heritage, we have crafted a life filled with warmth, adventure, and the boundless beauty of nature.

You mentioned your desire to live in Canada; what drew you to this dream, and when did you feel it was the perfect time to relocate?

I wanted to live and experience everything the world has to offer, as well as my love for nature, culture, global friendships, mountains, snowboarding, lake life, and mountain biking. I have a deep and longing desire to live remotely in amongst nature. God and my faith have led me along this path. There was no perfect time to relocate, as you see my path was not known straight out the gate from high school. However, it has been well-travelled and guided a lot by the world’s economic status. Design and architecture is a luxury, so the first luxury to go during a recession is interior design. Nobody is refurbishing during a financial crisis. However, you can turn it around. Not all economies around the globe work on the same axis. So, I was able to find a path of career growth or extension through my choice to take risks and move and live in parts of the world that were thriving for interior design work. 

Could you provide insight into your current profession and daily duties?

As a senior designer, I lead, and project manage projects, clients, and internal teams on all aspects of design and building construction, from project delivery, brief development, concept and schematic design to design development, information production, detailing, documentation, client presentation, leadership, and client and project management.

Some technical specialties include AutoCAD, a computer software application, In Design, Photoshop, Illustrator, 3D Sketch, & free hand sketches. I am also a part of the leadership and team experience with the Interior Design department at CHIL Design.

How do you typically spend your leisure time?

Hanging out with my son and husband, either snowboarding, painting, walking our dog, lake life, paddle boarding, sitting around our fire pit, enjoying the mountain views from our deck, toasting marshmallows, listening to music, camping, skating. We love travelling, so any chance we try, we will be on a road trip exploring more of beautiful Canada or the safer, nature-driven part of the United States.

What skills do you believe are most crucial for someone wanting to become an interior designer?

The ability to think both rationally and practically, know how to budget costs and spend effectively, have foresight, and visualise in 3D. Being able to listen and hear what your client is trying to achieve and being personable, driven, and passionate about bringing their vision to life. I saw this Instagram post about an interior designer and thought it was hilarious, but it was true.  “Just a person who has a degree in: space planning, colour theory, human behaviour, biophilia, the sky falling, customer service, stress, tears & creativity, and making your dreams come true.”

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