Condos Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay

Shopping Vancouver’s Main Street with Ami McKay of Pure Design

Ami McKay spends an afternoon on Main Street in search of sustainable design (and the perfect scone).

Designer Ami McKay

Costume design, theatre design, furniture design: Ami McKay is a bit of a renaissance woman in the design world. “I’ve also been a florist, and I once wanted to be a visual artist,” says McKay. “I’ve even designed my own line of bedding.” But interior design—McKay now runs the Vancouver-based Pure Design—was the pastime that became her true passion. Her projects run the gamut from bright and feminine makeovers in Kitsilano to rustic luxury cabins in Washington, but each of them features her signature mix of the practical and the whimsical (think cozy cotton sheets in dreamy shades of lavender or roomy dining tables tucked beneath quirky chandeliers made of suspended light bulbs). Whatever she’s working on, McKay is a stickler for balance and strives to incorporate sustainable practices into beautiful spaces. “Having a positive impact is important to me. Just because it’s eco-friendly doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful and interesting.” McKay is a regular on Main Street, hunting for modern Danish side tables at Vancouver Special or finishing touches (like coastal sage soaps) from the Soap Dispensary, and making pit stops for can’t-believe-they’re-gluten-free scones at The Last Crumb. “You can find a bit of everything in this neighbourhood,” says McKay over a late-afternoon cocktail at buzzy hipster taco joint El Camino’s. “Great interiors, great food. It’s full of inspiration.”

Shopping with Designer Ami McKay

Vancouver Special 3612 Main Street, Vancouver, vanspecial.com

Vancouver Special has a great furniture selection and great accessories. I like to come here for the finishing touches; I can find pieces that pop and it’s perfect for styling hints. These Solair chairs are a great nod to the past and it’s hard to say no to colour. I love books and bookstores too and they have a great selection of style books here, like this copy of Pantone: the 20th Century in Colour. They’re so timeless and valuable and are a great source of design inspiration. These Hay ottomans are made from recycled Saris, so no two items are alike. It’s unique and sustainable, qualities I like to look for.”

Twigg & Hottie 3671 Main St, Vancouver, we3.ca

Twigg & Hottie cares about making eco choices with the products that they carry. Each tag includes a checklist, which gives shoppers some information on the garments: sustainable fibre, locally made, recycled material, Canadian-made, one of a kind. Their house brand, WE3 Design, is great—this Translation dress (left) has a unique shape and Japanese form with lots of texture. Vancouver-based Flight Path Designs creates these unique belt buckles (right) that can really funkify your jeans. They’re versatile with mix and match leather belts and buckles.”

The Soap Dispensary 3623 Main St, Vancouver, thesoapdispensary.com

The Soap Dispensary reminds me of an apothecary, like stepping back in time. It’s filled with natural soaps and products that smell great and make cleaning enjoyable. Everything is refillable with no wasteful plastic. The products come in all glass containers that you can bring back to refill every time with natural soaps, deodorants and cleaning products. The Ulat wool dryer balls work so well and help cut drying time by 30-50%. They’re locally made and so colourful. By cutting down on dry time, you’re saving energy and costs, making it sustainable all around. Be Clean Naturally Soaps are Canadian-made with 100% natural ingredients. They have so many different scents and they smell fantastic, plus they have cheeky sayings printed on the front.”

The Last Crumb 3080 Main St, Vancouver, lastcrumb.ca

The Last Crumb has a wonderful selection of food for people with dietary restrictions. Like their gluten-free sconewiches, the brie, walnut and arugula is my favourite. I always have lunch here when I’m in the area. I met Joanne Lee (owner of the Last Crumb) after her sister hired me to design her house. She would bring treats to everyone but never had anything I could eat. So she started playing with gluten-free and now it’s a dream come true to have this place to come to.”

The Flower Factory 3604 Main St, Vancouver, flowerfactory.ca

“I use to be a florist for eight years so I get weak in the knees when ever I go into the Flower Factory. The smells and the colours remind me of those early years. I always have fresh flowers at home and I always try to integrate them into my designs and shoots. Spring is the best time to style a home because of the endless selection of flowers. It’s a great way to bring life and colour into a space.”

Burritt Bros. Carpets 3594 Main St, Vancouver, burrittcarpets.com

“I’ve been working with Burritt Bros. for 10 years. I feel that their space speaks more as a gallery than a simple space with carpets. They’re able to create customized rugs and they can really take stories and translate them into something of your own. Zoë Pawlak‘s paintings are being translated into functional art. Her carpets have great movement and flow and can evoke so much emotion, they’re very unrestrained. I love the colour and texture of Zoë’s rugs. The pink is my favourite but it’s so rare that I get to use it. Most clients aren’t brave enough to play with a bold colour like pink.” El Camino’s 3250 Main St, Vancouver, elcaminos.ca

El Camino’s is one of my favourite places to visit after a day of shopping on Main Street. Their lime margarita and smoked mussels in a coconut broth are simply delicious and totally gluten-free!”

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