- BC Games
West Van interior designers display inner harmony on Property Brothers show
West Vancouver interior designers Anna Shimizu and Lucila Diaz felt more like magicians after pulling off nine renovations in less than five months for the reality TV series Property Brothers.
When they were accepted to work on the show, which airs on W Network and HGTV, the producers warned them that things were going to happen very quickly.
Those words pretty much set the tone for the taping of the show and the design duo’s lives in between filming.
“It was a very, very intensive first half of the year,” says Shimizu.
Diaz nods her head in agreement. On this late summer morning, the partners in the boutique, full-service design firm Harmony Sense Interiors are savouring their lattes on the back patio at Starbucks on Marine Drive in Ambleside.
They are coming down from the high of being immersed in the world of lights, camera and action for six months straight. Shimizu sets up the premise of the show.
“It’s about how a couple wants to have their dream home,” she explains. “They can’t afford it and they end up buying a fixer-upper.”
Enter the Property Brothers, identical twins Drew and Jonathan Scott, who help the couples discover the potential of a diamond in the rough by using computer-generated imagery.
Drew brings his realtor expertise to the table, negotiating the purchase of the home, while Jonathan, a licensed contractor, helms the renovations. But together, the twins bring the antics.
“They are super hard workers, but they also have a comedic side to them. They are always pulling pranks,” shares Shimizu.
The third season of Property Brothers marked the first time the show was filmed in Vancouver, and a homecoming for the Scott boys.
Figuring American viewers would identify with home prices south of the border, the first half of the season took the twins to Austin, Texas, where they worked with $300,000 properties. Avid followers of the show saw later on in the season how comparable homes cost an upwards of $800,000 in Vancouver.
Property Brothers was filmed in five North Shore neighbourhoods: mid-Lonsdale, Lynn Valley, Seymour area, British Properties and Ambleside. Harmony Sense Interiors was also contracted to work on four other featured homes that were scattered throughout the Lower Mainland.
As is the case with most home design shows, there was an accelerated renovation schedule that Shimizu and Diaz had to adhere to.
Under normal circumstances, the women will spend three weeks devising an interior design plan with the homeowner, and then months delivering the final product — depending on the scope of the project. But for Property Brothers, their ingenuity was put to the test.
“On a good project, we would have two weeks to plan,” recalls Shimizu.
After working with each budget-conscious couple to craft a home decor wish list, Shimizu and Diaz would set off on a scavenger hunt across the North Shore.
“It was literally running from place to place,” says Diaz.
Their go-to stores were HomeSense and The Other Room furniture store in North Van.
“That’s a fantastic place for contemporary furniture,” describes Shimizu. “We went there a lot actually.”
On one occasion they searched high and low for an elusive statement piece to bedeck a living room in a British Properties’ home. The interior design gurus found what they looking for, a sculptural light fixture, on sale for less than a quarter of the original price, with a few days to spare.
Once the cameras starting rolling, Shimizu was surprised by the continuous filming with few breaks in between. The lulls, which usually occurred in the middle of the night, were when Shimizu and Diaz went to work behind the scenes, decorating the rooms in the house down to every last detail like the napkins.
The ladies laugh as they recall hanging the artwork and how each time it would draw the attention of the Scott brothers.
“We had no idea how tall the brothers were. And they are super tall,” says Shimizu. “We would always have this argument with them, because artwork should always be at eye level — and our eye level is not their eye level.”
Any disagreements between the two parties were playfully settled on the paintball course at the base of Capilano Road.
The women say their foray into reality TV offered them some valuable insight for their company.
“We really learned we are capable of delivering on time and on budget, because there was no room for error [on the show],” says Diaz.
And while they haven’t inked any deals as a direct result of the show — their episodes only started airing three weeks ago — the women are poised to grow their business.
“We are really starting to see all the seeding that we have done over the years starting to take shape,” says Shimizu, who met Diaz a decade ago while they were doing their MBA at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
The two women bonded right off the bat, partnering on almost every school project.
Diaz decided to pursue a career in interior design, rather than marketing, after she finished the MBA program.
“I call [marketing] answering emails all the time, and all the creative fun part gets missed,” figures Diaz.
Meanwhile, Shimizu went off and worked at an art gallery. But the two friends always kept in touch and even collaborated on some side interior design projects before eventually going into business together.
“We just had this chemistry and we really synced with each other in our work styles, and we just carried that through on to our professional lives,” says Shimizu of the genesis of Harmony Sense Interiors.
Right out of the gate the designers scored a high-profile gig: a facelift of the Sutton Place Hotel lobby residential tower. They have also worked on a PNE prize home and landed the cover of BC Home Magazine.
Two years ago Harmony Sense Interiors was a finalist for the Georgie Awards, which celebrates excellence in B.C. home building.
Designing their personal spaces is another challenge the mothers pull off seamlessly.
Shimizu compromises with her kids, by letting them decorate their rooms after she has chosen the foundation pieces.
“My son is enthralled with the world and geography so he loves maps and atlases. My daughter, she is all about dance and dolls,” explains Shimizu.
And, in Diaz’s small condo, organization is key.
“You cannot avoid kids having toys, but there should be a place for them,” says Diaz. “I tell my kids, ‘You can have all the Lego pieces you want but when you are finished they go in this drawer so we can have a nice living room.’”
Both Diaz and Shimizu abide by the same design philosophy: “Every space has to be harmonious and balanced.”
Property Brothers airs Tuesdays on the W Network at 8 p.m. and on Wednesdays on HGTV at 9 p.m. Harmony Sense Interiors (harmonysense.com) will be at the Interior Design Show West from Sept. 19-22 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.