Michael Chambers photo
Name: Justin Shih
He’s like an Asian answer to America’s Ty Pennington.
But unlike the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition star, Justin Shih is not a carpenter, but rather an interior and floral designer.
A rather interesting mix, but you know those creative types.
“When I was a kid, I used to make miniature houses out of paper boxes right down to the furniture (minus the dolls). I cut up my parents’ brand new leather sofa when I was four or five because I needed its fabric for furniture,” confesses Shih.
A Ryerson University interior design graduate, Shih has been in the business for 10 years, much of which were spent with such contemporary upscale design houses as Gluckstein and Munge Leung.
Since branching out on his own with Shih’k Concepts, the entrepreneur has chalked up his own portfolio of residential and commercial clients. His talents have, as of late, been channeled south of the border where he’s been roped in to help outfit urban wear kingpin Marc Ecko’s castle-like estate in New York.
Other projects include a law firm and a ski chalet in Muskoka.
With the market saturated with home makeover shows, interior design publications and condo developments, it’s never been better for interior designers to cash in with their creativity, it seems.
But, warns Shih, don’t be tempted by the latest fads especially when the tab will easily tally into the thousands. “Make sure you can live with your design for at least five years. Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because something is hot now.”
Other valuable tips for newbies in “I wanna hire a pro designer” mode: Research what styles you like beforehand, and comb through a designer’s portfolio to see if your styles converge or clash; likewise with your personalities, advises Shih.
“We don’t just pick fabrics and paint colours,” explains Shih when describing the consuming process of his craft, which entails churning out artistic concepts, drafting sketches, sourcing materials, supervising contractors, and, Shih’s least favourite task — billing.
Whilst “clients who want the best, but don’t want to pay for it,” might drive Shih batty at times, you won’t see him pulling a Pennington DUI anytime soon. Nope, it’s more DIY or the highway for this home makeover maverick.
LAWRENCE CHAU for Metro Toronto