Sunday, May 30, 2010

Store gazing: Reusing, recycling, redecorating — all in stilettos

Photo By: Rene Johnston/Toronto Star
May 28, 2010
Rita Zekas
Michelle Mawby, interior designer and host of the series Junk Raiders, shopping at Gucci for shoes. She settled on a high-heeled open-toe sandal.
Michelle Mawby pulls up to the Gucci store at 130 Bloor St. W. on her Vespa scooter wearing a Louis Vuitton helmet, with her Birkin and Vuitton bags draped over the handle bars.
“The helmet is from Paris and the stripe matches the hood of my Vespa,” she explains.
We are talking one serious fashionista here.
Did we mention she rides her Vespa wearing stilettos?
Mawby is the only female cast member of seven on Discovery Channel’s “green” show Junk Raiders, described as a “bold free-cycling experiment” where the participants are required to work with architectural salvage to transform spaces on a tight budget. And she doesn’t hesitate to play her “chick” card.
“Sometimes it works in my favour to turn up on sites in stilettos,” she laughs. “But I have three pairs of steel-toed boots — in pink. Tomboy Tools makes pink steel-toed shoes and pink hard hats.”
Mawby is principal designer and founder of Lucid Interior Design and is the recurring design expert on CBC’s Steven & Chris. Her challenges on Junk Raiders have included transforming an old factory space into a trendy and fully functional boutique loft using only recycled materials on a budget of $5,000.
As a result, Mawby frequents dumpsters and transfer stations on the job. A transfer station is where the garbage is dumped before it is sorted, and it stinks.
“They sent me because I am the girl,” she recalls. “I’d been in a dumpster; I’m not squeamish.”
But she did draw the line at salvaging a used mattress.
“I don’t advocate transfer stations,” she stresses. “The best found stuff is at the side of the road; we used an old locker from a church as a front hall closet. I made a shower stall from vintage church windows and I have hung leaded windows as art. One of my best finds was at a church. I got old oak pews and made them into a dining room table.”
Mawby tries on a pair of snakeskin stilettos priced at $1,190 and can actually walk in them.
“I can run in stilettos,” she claims.
Mawby has over 400 pairs of shoes. She even took a shoemaking course in London.
She’s worked in Toronto for 10 years but has lived and worked in Amsterdam, London, California and Vancouver.
“My husband can empathize; he is a clothes horse who has grown into my shoe habit,” she says.
“I have a mythical wall of shoes. I have a big rolling, library ladder but instead of books, I have shoes. Some of them are works of art, pieces of architecture.
“My sister gets all my shoes when I die. Growing up in the Vancouver suburbs, I was always a shoe girl. I didn’t wear jeans until Grade 7; I was always dressed beautifully with ribbons in my hair. I don’t buy fads and I wear a great shoe with cheap jeans and T-shirt and a good jacket. I love Gucci jackets. My main wardrobe when I work is American Apparel T-shirt and Gap jeans.”
Don’t forget that important bag.
Mawby shops at Holt’s, Net-a-Porter, Louis Vuitton and vintage stores for dresses.
She got into interior design via a circuitous route. She has a bachelor of arts in English literature and was in advertising before attending design school.
“I love to read; I’m a bit nerdy, I love to learn,” Mawby says. “When I moved here, I changed things in my first home. I took walls down, picked all the finishings and found out I loved to draft.”
She has designed everything from spas to clothing stores. She doesn’t dumpster dive for her clients.
“But we reuse,” she says. “Shabby chic started it all. I don’t say be 100 per cent recyclable but shop in your house. We all have pieces we love. Mix the old and new: Take five things you love and mix. Redecorate with your own stuff.
“My home is incredibly eclectic. I’m very theatrical; I mix nail heads with piping. I treat my home as an accessory. Every room can have a little animal print but I could end up head-to-toe animal print. They are neutrals.”
Mawby is not afraid of colour. She has been known to paint a bathroom black.
“I would rather be different than homogenous. Your home should be fun, a bit of whimsy.
“I am influenced by having grown up by water and living overseas,” Mawby adds. “Bring indoors out and outdoors in. I’ll bring a rug outside when I dine outside. I’m searching for a great country table to use outside. It is casual elegance but you can put your feet up.”
And hers will be in stilettos.

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