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A Winning Combination

Instructor Feature

For CAT AIDT Instructor Tori Brownrigg, Interior Design plus Wedding Event Planning equals a successful and fulfilling career.

CAT: Tell us a bit about your career. Where did you train, how long have you been an interior designer and where have you worked?

TB: I completed my bachelor of interior design at BCIT. From there I started at Cutler Design, a boutique commercial firm in Vancouver. During the pandemic, my husband and I decided to move back to Kelowna, where I worked at Sticks and Stones for 6 months before starting at Begrand-Fast Design where I’ve now been for a year.

Throughout my time as a designer, I have also worked as a wedding planner at an award-winning event planning company based in Vancouver.

CAT: What made you choose interior design as a career?

TB: Design is my second career, I completed my first degree, a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English and Sociology with a minor in Political Science, at UBC and immediately started working at UBC as Recruiter-Admissions Advisor for domestic students.

I felt that I either needed to complete a master’s to progress in my career or make a change. This made me reassess what I wanted to be doing long term and decided to go back to school for Interior Design and Event Planning. I registered in both programs at BCIT.

CAT: Interior Design and Event Planning are an interesting combination… What made you decide to study both?

TB: Event planning was something I was always drawn to – I was the Events Chair on my student council in high school, I was an executive of the Students Society at UBC where I worked on many events, and I was the Events Coordinator for the ‘First Year Experience’ at UBC when I was a student. When I moved into recruitment after graduating event planning was about 50% of what I did on a day-to-day basis.

So when I went back to school I already knew it was something I loved, and now I know that event planning and Interior Design are very, very similar jobs, just on different scales. I love that both are the combination of being really analytical and organized as well as super creative and that both force you to constantly think outside of the box to find something unique.

CAT: Who are you currently working for and tell us a little about the company and what you do for them?

TB: At Begrand-Fast I have been working on the Stober Development on Lakeshore, a Golf Course Clubhouse in Vernon as well as multiple residential projects. Begrand-Fast is a boutique firm that works on high-end residential and commercial projects.

With regard to Wedding Planning, the company I work for is Smitten Events. I find that about 6 events are doable in a year as long as they’re not all back-to-back. I like to schedule 1 a month at most. I love doing events and I love the team I work with and am quite picky with clients so it rarely feels like work.

CAT: Tell us about one of your career highlights.

TB: I find that the excitement you get from walking into a space once it’s completed after you’ve been working on it for months/years is a highlight every time it happens.

I designed my parents’ house in Kelowna and it was nominated for an OHAE award (it placed gold) and was published in a magazine a few times which was very exciting.

CAT: What is the most challenging thing about interior design?

TB: There are many challenges in design – each project has so many different components and you need to use both your creative and analytical/technical skills.
Every project is totally different so every project is a new learning experience. The more detailed the design is, the more details you need to figure out how to build/draw; this is usually the most challenging and very rewarding.

CAT: What is the most fun/rewarding?

TB: I find that there is something rewarding in every phase of a design. From coming up with an initial concept, to completing a drawing set, to seeing the project come to completion.

CAT: What qualities make a really good interior designer?

TB: I find that someone that can balance being extremely creative and extremely technical is necessary to succeed in design. You have to be willing to spend as much time and energy on each side.

You also need to be a great listener and problem solver – you have to be able to extrapolate what a client wants out of a space when they don’t necessarily have the language to describe it to you.

CAT: What do you like best about being a CAT instructor?

TB: It’s been fun watching my classes discover different aspects of design; it’s very inspiring to watch them get excited about design.

CAT: What are your top tips for students, both for their time at CAT and also for going into the industry?
TB: I think the biggest advice as a designer is to stay humble, and never assume you’re an expert because the industry is constantly evolving and every project is different.

Featured Photograph by Christie Graham.