THUNDER BAY -- "I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” says Celine Wood, the owner of the Design Studio. Originally from Thunder Bay, she lived in Arizona for a decade where she studied interior design and also worked as a costume designer. Upon moving back to Thunder Bay, she started working at Barewood Furniture, but left to strike out on her own.
She started the Design Studio, making custom draperies for clients out of her basement. She moved the business to Bay Street in 2012, but outgrew that when she started expanding into furniture. Last year she decided to go bigger, moving into a location on Memorial Avenue where Carol’s Cakes had been.
The Design Studio recently won a grant from the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, which allowed them to launch an online store. Named Crown and Birch, the online business hopes to reach customers beyond Thunder Bay. Going forward, Wood wants to devote more resources to the website, which currently has only a small percentage of the merchandise that she plans to sell on the site. About 75 per cent of the items are made in Canada, including giftware made in Thunder Bay, such as jewelry from local artists and candles from Peace + Quiet Candle Co.
One of the first things she did when the store moved to Memorial Avenue was to repaint the exterior wall a light aqua blue. “I’m pushing for Thunder Bay to have more colours,” says Wood. “Like my building! Anything that’s not grey or beige. I know that people are more comfortable with neutrals, because they know that nobody’s going to comment on it. But I’d like to see more colours, like a warm yellow.”
In addition to selling high-quality furniture (“forever furniture,” as Wood says,) decor and giftware, she offers design consultation services. “If you’re building a new house, the builder will start asking a lot of questions - what colour do you want your shingles, your stucco, your door. It can be overwhelming for many people, and I can help with that.”
But don’t worry if you do want a neutral grey for your house - Wood is not out to transform your house her way. “I totally relate to the emotionality of people’s homes, and once I leave, it’s your house. It doesn’t need to look like Celine was there. I don’t love it when a house has an imprint of a designer,” she explains.
“If you want to keep all your Victorian furniture but you want to update it, that would be an awesome project for me. I like working with people’s personal things, photographs, or heirlooms.”