Currently in her final term of the Bachelor of Interior Design program, which she is taking online, the Halifax-based designer took home the top prize in the competition’s Student – Universal Kitchen or Bathroom category for her submission of a ‘Nature’s Wonder’-themed bathroom.
“It was amazing. I’m not going to lie to you, I cried. I couldn’t believe it,” Proctor said of her reaction to finding out she’d won during the Decorators & Designers Association of Canada’s virtual awards ceremony in May.
Proctor’s winning bathroom – the first one she’s ever designed of this magnitude – was one she designed around the needs of a married couple with mobility issues.
Confined to wheelchairs most the time, her fictional clients expressed a desire for a spacious bathroom with an extra-large shower area and minimalistic style that also reminded them of the outdoors – particularly that of the ocean.
The resulting design featured a ‘Nature’s Wonder’ concept – complete with a living wall, natural garden, and blue-white-and-grey colour palette.
“The first challenge was to conceive of a way to include an abundance of greenery, without bringing disorder and potential hazards, into the space. The best way to do this was to create a living wall in the shower area,” Proctor said, noting its addition brought both beauty and an element of nature into the space.
Natural light was the next challenge – something Proctor solved with the addition of both a south-facing window, as well as a natural, open-air, glass encased garden to the shower area.
In the end, the panel of industry leaders tasked with judging the 2020 Decorating & Design Awards gave Proctor’s design top marks for its complexity, concept, materials and functionality, and she walked away with the glass trophy.
“It definitely looks good on my resume…but I don’t feel comfortable calling myself an award-winning designer yet, because I think you need more than one for that,” she laughed, noting her intention to enter the competition again this year, when DDA Canada launches its 2021 awards competition.
“It’s definitely a cool feeling, and it’s definitely validation. When someone else recognizes your work, that’s the ultimate validation of what you’re doing and the path that you’ve chosen.”
For Proctor, that path wasn’t always a clear one. After moving to Calgary in 1998, the small-town Manitoban kicked off a 21-year career in oil and gas as an administrative assistant, and quickly worked her way up through the ranks – from gas controller, to contracts analyst, to procurement lead.
It wasn’t until more than a decade later, when she was building her first home in 2009, that she discovered her passion for interior design.
“That’s when I discovered I kind of had a flare for it,” she said, “so, I jumped in with the builder and I said, ‘I want this,’ and ‘I want that,’ and ‘Can we try this?’ I had no idea what I was doing at the time…just that I loved it.”
Fast-forward six years, and when one of the companies Proctor worked for did a mass layoff in 2015, she decided to take her first tentative steps into the world of interior design by enrolling in an online diploma program at the BC-based Interior Design Institute.
“I thought it was a good way to dabble a little bit and ensure that this is what I wanted to do,” she said, noting that she graduated from that program in 2016, thirsty to learn even more.
“I said to my husband, ‘There has to be more than this. I want to actually design spaces, I want to do floorplans, I want to work with clients creating these amazing spaces’ – so I started looking into online degree programs.”
Drawn to Yorkville University for the flexibility of its Online Bachelor of Interior Design offering, as well as its small class sizes, Proctor said she’s proud that just three-and-a-half years after enrolling, she’s set to wrap up her studies in mid-December.
She also lauded her time at Yorkville University for helping to prepare her to launch her own new business, JP Designs, in the midst of a pandemic.
“I’m used to being online, I’m used to being on Zoom, I’m used to doing long hours – because that’s just what school taught me. So, a hundred per cent it prepared me,” she said of starting up JP Designs shortly after relocating to Halifax with her husband this past June.
While Proctor originally saw herself pursuing a career in hospitality design, one of her first clients and most loyal clients has been Saltbox – a Halifax-based company she regularly freelances for that “reimagines, redesigns and repurposes” shipping containers into “stunning eco-friendly homes and unique business spaces.”
“When I saw their website, I reached out to one of the owners and I said, ‘Hey, do you need someone like me? I’m a designer,’ and really sold myself…and I’ve been working with him ever since,” she laughingly recalled, noting that she just finished designing a house made out of three shipping containers for them.
“I really like shipping container homes, because they’re different. In a 40-foot shipping container, you’re only working with 320 square feet – and you have to put in a kitchen and a bedroom and a bathroom and storage…so they really force you to think outside the box.”
Now on the verge of graduating with a Bachelor of Interior Design from Yorkville, Proctor said her main goal now is to continue growing her business.
“When I finish in December, I definitely want to go full bore with my business and just see where it’s going to take me,” she said, advising other aspiring designers to take the leap like she did and follow their dreams.
“My advice is, if you feel strongly about it, just do it. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t do it, and then you’re constantly wondering, ‘What if?’”