Coffee with: Stylish business
Jana Walker says she does not run a "cookie-cutter" business.
That's clearly evident as you walk into The Blue Door Interiors in Ladner Village as all manner of decorative home furnishings provide an assault on the senses in the most pleasurable manner.
Vintage sideboards hold a collection of elegant teacups. Stuffed leather chairs make for an inviting place to sit down.
"Those are the wow factor pieces that people want in their homes," says Walker who has spent a working lifetime in connection with her artistic side.
"Artistry and creativity was part of my family," Walker says, adding her mother was an artist and her grandmother painted with the renowned Group of Seven.
Add that to the fact she grew up as an army brat—her father was a military pilot—and Walker developed a sense for style and fashion that equipped her well for a career in marketing and interior design.
She started out in merchandising and marketing in the 1970s—an era she maintains was very much a "man's world"—contracting small cottage industries in the U.K. that made scents packaged in hand-painted milk glass.
"The particular company I was working with were purveyors to King Henry VIII. We bridged a gap between the cosmetics and gift industries. And that's where I got into merchandising in a big way."
She worked with department stores on how to display products that had not changed in decades.
"Very straight lines, just rows of stuff," Walker says.
And after setting a high pace for many successful years she slowed things down and took time off in the Bahamas where she continued working and eventually, through frustration, joined design house Laura Ashley.
Walker says she saw a need for better informed staff at the stores and more vibrant product displays and decided to one day call the head office in New York City and make that suggestion.
"To tell you the truth they probably just picked up the call because it came from the Bahamas," Walker says laughing.
But the conversation led to a job offer and Walker lent her creative touch to the business.
Years later, she is now providing the same for her own business that opened in May and carries with it the tag line "Enter a world of possibilities."
While she often seeks the unique, conversation pieces, Walker tempers that with how people live their every day lives.
"I am very practical. You have to go back to your roots—mine are a good old-fashioned, Canadian upbringing with prairie parents and I was born here in Vancouver."
To achieve that she has set up a network of talented "pickers," those who scour auctions and come up with truly unique and beautiful furnishings.
"I tell them, 'Go forth and find me the good stuff,'" she says laughing.
Some of her pickers attend auctions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Others go to estate sales.
"Generally, they will text me and say they are at an auction and then send me some pictures right away. And I'll say yes or no to bid on it for me."
Walker even ventures to the odd auction or two herself.
"I tend to slide in the back and pick exactly what I want, and they sometimes become those pieces I have in the store that are not for sale."
One of them in her store is a cast iron urn that stands just over five-feet high.
"It took four men to get the base and top in," she says laughing. "And it's going to stay exactly where it is now."