This article originally appeared in Ottawa Style Magazine & has been excerpted from Ottawa Citizen.
The signs were there — his interest in design — even as a teenager flipping through copies of Architectural Digest at a friend’s home.
Now barely 30, he lives, eats and breathes design, so much so that every trip with his very tolerant wife is a design vacation so he can check out architecture, or furniture stores, or design showrooms. “I never get tired of that.”
He’s been a designer for just four years, joining Astro Design Centre in a junior role in 2010 while finishing up his interior design degree at Algonquin College, then working his way up. Already, he’s got eight awards under his belt.
He made a splash last year at the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Ottawa chapter awards, scooping up an impressive four trophies, including the People’s Choice for a sleek bathroom that created a luxurious spa look with inexpensive finishes. That same bathroom had already taken top prize the previous fall at the annual Housing Design Awards put on by the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association
Kyle followed up that success with another three trophies at this year’s NKBA awards and has three more projects vying for a win at October’s Housing Design Awards, including an elegant kitchen redesign for former high-tech giant Michael Potter.
So what’s next for this rising star? Building his own home, to start. And while he would like to branch out into some form of infill development, he has no intention of leaving Astro.
“It fuels my passion for interior design being here because I get to work on projects that push the envelope.”
Nathan Kyle dishes on design
Favourite project: A penthouse at Yard & Station that he’s been working on since February. The former Hintonburg school is being converted into nine condos by architect Barry Hobin and developer Morley Hoppner. The unit Kyle is designing is “pretty much an empty shell,” which will take a year to finish. “That’s one thing that I can’t wait to get completed because the space is just generally very different from what we typically see in Ottawa.”
Biggest challenge: His own home, which he has also been designing since February. The custom infill in Westboro is a semi-detached, one half of which he will live in while the other will be sold. Eager to put his stamp on the project, he’s redesigned it more than once. “Designing for yourself is really hard because you critique everything,” he says. “I’m my biggest critic.”
His style: “I’d say I’m a contemporist at heart. I love doing things that introduce some form of eclectic design sense sometimes. … If I truly don’t feel the project, I’ll pass on that client to one of my colleagues that I know would be a better suit for them.”
Early life: He grew up in bustling Mumbai, India, first in a 300-square-foot studio apartment that his mother also worked from. While they later lived in an apartment about three times the size, he didn’t have his own bedroom until he came to Canada at 18. “I’d love to have a big house, but I just don’t know what I’d do with most of the other spaces.” The home he and his wife are building is about 1,800 square feet.
The Potter project: Kyle took the lead on reimagining the kitchen and opening up the adjacent spiral staircase for a sophisticated and original look. Cabinetry shifted, counters were built up using ¼-inch-thick porcelain slabs (a first, Kyle says), a unique glass hood fan was sourced from the United States when no one could customize it here, and the glass block stair enclosure was replaced with curved glass sheets.
Ottawa’s design scene: “When I was in school I didn’t want to be part of this city as a designer because I didn’t feel like it had the venues or didn’t have people (who) were excited enough about design,” he says. But now he’s starting to see venues that are giving people the excuse to want to appreciate design, whether it’s in the food, retail, hospitality or residential industry. He sees himself contributing to that change by “focusing on projects that could be, from a design standpoint, on par with bigger cities.”
Inspirations: “I get inspired by anything. Just because I design interiors doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to see a room to be inspired by it. It could be an object that you’d see in a marketplace while travelling, a colour sometimes or just a stone. … It’s in everyday things and inanimate objects that I’d say I feel inspired. It’s hard to pinpoint on one particular thing.”
Dream project: A mixed-use development that combines a hotel, residential, retail and restaurant spaces. “My ability to put my stamp on all of those different facets of the design industry but contained in one building — it’s sort of like a monument to then being (able to say) ‘everywhere you go, here’s Nathan Kyle.’ ”
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