Atmosphere Interior Design duo named one Canada’s top 100 designers

Atmosphere Interior Design duo named one Canada’s top 100 designers

The Saskatoon design team of Trevor Ciona and Curtis Elmy celebrates two decades of business and accolades.

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Atmosphere Interior Design is known for award-winning, attention-grabbing spaces. The accolades continue to accumulate as this year they’ve been named as one of Canada’s top 100 designers by House and Home magazine.

The June issue of House and Home will highlight No. 1 River Landing penthouse as their “Condo of the Month.”

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The iconic Saskatoon location combined with stunning design snagged the editors’ attention. And it’s not a surprise. As the home and showcase of Atmosphere Interior Design’s Trevor Ciona and Curtis Elmy, the penthouse has been featured in the glossy pages of several design magazines. Western Living, Style at Home and House Beautiful in Australia have written about the alluring 2,000 square foot condo with 1,300 square feet of terrace space.

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View from No. 1 River Landing penthouse
Known for award-winning, attention-getting designs, Saskatoon’s Atmosphere Interior Design was recently name to House and Home’s Canada’s top 100 designers. The business is also marking their 20th anniversary. Photo by Eymeric Widling /SUPPLIED

Yet, despite all their accolades, there’s one achievement Ciona and Elmy are taking some time to talk about and celebrate. This year Atmosphere Interior Design marks 20 years of business. Hard to believe the company started out with just a small milk crate filled with sample books as they worked out of their small apartment.

Now the two-storey design studio on Avenue B boasts two 18-foot islands surrounded by a library of shelves lined with sample books from suppliers all over the globe.

“When we started, there really wasn’t a design centre here in Saskatoon,” says Elmy. “What we really had to work hard on was getting the vendors in big cities and big countries outside of Saskatoon, saying, ‘We are a legit design firm. I have clients that want your product, please send me samples.’”

They admit for years there were more noes than yeses. In addition, the pair notes Saskatoon was a very different city than it is now. Hiring a designer to create your living space was thought of as something only famous people did. In fact, Ciona and Elmy faced negative comments from those who said success in the industry wasn’t feasible outside of places like big urban centres like Toronto or Vancouver.

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“I think what we’ve tried to do is … educate people or give people the belief that this trade is no different than a plumber or electrician,” says Elmy.

Dining room
Good design isn’t about follow the trends, but instead finding what makes the client happy and fits the functional needs of the space. As demonstrated by this bright and inviting kitchen and dining room for a private client. Photo by Eymeric Widling /SUPPLIED

Elmy confesses that there have been setbacks along the way. As with any creative endeavour, there are times when the finished product misses the mark.

Ciona and Elmy refused to be deterred, instead using their mistakes as fuel to inform their next project.

The biggest skill they had to develop was managing their relationship with clients, sometimes navigating troublesome relationships between spouses who stand on opposites of design choices.

“We know how to manage that now.”

Twenty years of experience has taught them what’s important. “You’re paying me a fee, and I don’t want to just tell you what you want to hear.”

Longevity in a creative industry like design means managing to stay inspired with the latest products and trends, but finding a timeless expression that will suit clients’ needs. It also means learning to manage the business side of things.

The Vancouver condo project by Atmosphere Interior Design featured this enviable dressing closet. Photo by Eymeric Widling /sas

The pair credit three things for their success over the years. First, being stubborn enough to keep at it even after all the nos. Second staying current and true to their industry. And, finally, staying inspired.

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“I think those three together are really what we use as our fuel,” says Elmy.

“We never wanted to be trendy designers. We wanted to get forward thinking, but we really wanted to maintain a very classic and timeless kind of esthetic, so our artwork does stand the test of time.”

So, what’s next for the busy pair and real-life partners?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, their reach has expanded. Thanks to social media, they often get requests from faraway places such as California or Vancouver. It’s challenging to work remotely on something as hands-on as design, but they both seem up for extra challenges.

“You have to be a little bit more organized and plan things a little bit more,” explains Elmy.

Closer to home, Atmosphere Interior Design sees many return clients and family members or neighbours of previous clients. The confidence of their clients to recommend them is not something they take for granted.

And while it may seem like nothing more than fabric swatches and flooring samples, Ciona and Elmy readily acknowledge that it means so much for their clients. Whether it’s a whole-house remodel or the smallest bathroom update, the pair put in long hours to make their clients’ vision a stunning and luxurious reality.

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Ultimately, they understand what design means for everyday life for their clients.

“You’re literally creating someone’s home that they’re going to live in potentially forever. Like a nursery. This is the first place that this little human is going to experience as home,” says Elmy.

“That’s pressure!” He adds, “But we know what we’re doing. We have fun with what we’re doing. And if you have fun, you’re skilled and you’ve done the work, everything always falls into place.”

There is a lot of pressure to create designs that clients will love not only today, but years from now. Elmy admits designing a nursery comes with a little extra pressure as the space will be the first home the little one will know. Photo by Eymeric Widling /sas

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