Q & A: On Design Thinking, with Julien Robillard, Interior Architect

Julien Robillard, owns and operates The Linear Workshop, a Toronto-based consultancy that designs and creates minimalist-themed interior spaces. Our Q&A with Julien is the second of our four-part series on Design Thinking

To us, the work Julien does beautifully combines the technical and creative, the functional and the artistic, the need to be realistic with the imaginative. His style is influenced both by his artistic upbringing/education, which includes sculpture, painting and drawing, extensive travel and his deep interest in urban design, both old-school and modern. This background is what makes him stand out as an artistic advisor throughout the conceptual and construction process of both indoor and outdoor spaces. Julien is able to incorporate a design sensibility that considers environment, use of space, and even emotional connection in a way that few traditional architects do. This is what inspires our Mayk team – a craft that is invested in both the small design details and the people who will interact with the completed space, resulting in a beautiful, holistic experience.

Julien is a collaborator, a problem solver, motivator and practical thinker all in one, willing to take risks to improve both functionality and value. His example inspires us to focus on our creative output with precision, care and creative greatness.

 

What type of design do you produce?

We work (on a project-by-project basis) on homes that are either a new construction or, in most cases, a renovation in the downtown core. I create the big picture plan for the construction, even sometimes the layout of the interior and/or exterior of the home. This is why I refer to my work as more interior architecture than interior design.

I oversee the construction process, create the design strategy for the space and bring in contractors I know and trust to do any complementary work required to bring the vision to life.

 

Can you describe your creative process?

First, I have to make sure that the design style I create complements what the client is looking for. I often bring them to my home or others I’ve designed to make sure we’re on the same page. My favourite quote is “less is more” and the style of my work is inherently minimalist. I’m very focused on creating clean lines from room to room; I also prefer monochromatic colour palettes.  

The next step in my creative process is to apply the style vision the client and I have agreed upon to the unique space I’m working with. I try to create a cohesive flow that connects each room to the next. To me, it’s like playing Tetris. You have to move things around, find the right fit. I come home at night, sit down with a glass of wine and sketch things out – then bring in the design the next morning for my staff to input it into the computer programs we use.

 

What is unique about your design thinking?

I attended architecture school, not interior design school. So my focus is on the design of the interior (or exterior) space and the accents of each room throughout a home – not say, which couch they should choose. Since my design is more architectural in perspective, I think about how to best shape a room holistically, the squares, corners and edges.

 

What inspires you and helps you stay innovative?

I read a lot about design. For instance, the only thing I read in the Globe & Mail is the Real Estate section on Fridays. I follow amazing designers from around the world on Instagram and when I travel it’s often architecturally oriented. I take snapshots of images that inspire me and save them, categorizing them by room and saving them for later inspiration – referring back to these images is a big part of my creative process. I also glean inspiration from urban planning and the way that cities are built – I love mid-century modern style, for instance and my favourite structure in Toronto is the TD Centre, because it was the first modern high-rise building in the city. 

 

What are the big trends right now in your design world?

Dark colours are back in. When I design a home’s interior now, often it’s two-thirds white or neutral and one-third dark colours. The result of this mix is balanced, looks great and people love it (even if at first they are afraid of using dark colours).

In terms of materials I’m using a lot less metal and have moved on to black, white or glass appliances. Wood accents are another great trend, in lighter shades – I love matching hardwood floors to accents on walls. Main finishes are often painted now.

Well-designed backyards are another great trend. I don’t like it when outdoor spaces feel like a completely different entity compared to the house. You want fluidity and continuity between your indoor and outdoor spaces, even using the same materials outside and in, if possible.

Connect with Julien on Instagram  or visit his website, www.thelinearworkshop.com.