George Brown’s Interior Decorating program continues to earn top marks from the industry
Another year, another slew of awards for students pursuing the Interior Decorating Certificate offered through Continuing Education at George Brown.
Last year, at the 2008 Canadian Decorators’ Association (CDECA) Awards, George Brown students took home two of the three overall awards.
Harvey Winks, the first-place winner in New Construction (for the Abbey Lofts conversion), arrived at George Brown after a 12-year career as a sales manager.
“I was always decorating and designing in my own spaces,” Harvey says. “I realized I wanted to go from decorating and designing strictly out of interest to decorating and designing as my job.”
For him, the decision about where to complete his training was simple.
“George Brown’s downtown location is a godsend, and the opportunity to be so close to the industry was almost too good to be true,” he says. “To have Designers’ Walk – the leading interior decorating and design showrooms in Canada – just two blocks away is absolutely priceless.”
Once Harvey began attending classes, he discovered that geography wasn’t the program’s only asset. He still uses the knowledge from all of his classes to this day, especially his favourite class, History of Interior Design (now called History of Furniture and Design)
It was also at George Brown where he became involved with CDECA.
“When I was a student, an ambassador from CDECA gave an in-class seminar about the benefits of becoming a member,” he says. “I was hooked at that point – and I’ve been an ambassador for both CDECA and George Brown Continuing Education ever since.”
While still taking classes, Harvey launched his own company, Home Vision (www.homevision.to), and the Abbey Lofts conversion was one of his first projects. His success, however, was not a surprise to those who were in class with him.
“Harvey’s talent was evident immediately, and he always went above and beyond what was expected,” says Randy Christensen, an award-winning George Brown instructor who has been teaching and working in the field for more than 20 years. “He was a great role model for the rest of the students.”
Harvey’s success has continued since he completed the certificate program. Home Vision has grown to include both interior decorating and home staging services, and Harvey himself has become a consultant for Benjamin Moore.
The story is similar for George Brown’s other 2008 CDECA winner, Anita Vizzini.
“Anita is extremely talented, very hardworking and very personable – the three keys to success as a student and as an interior decorator,” says Randy. “I was her instructor for a number of courses and, before she even finished the program, she had her own business – but that didn’t surprise anybody.”
Anita became a CDECA member in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, submitted a project she had completed in class for award consideration in the Interior Decoration category. To her, it was a great opportunity for publicity – even if that’s all the project received.
The project got much more than publicity. After she used her project ideas to decorate a space for a client, the submission was moved from the student category to the accredited member category. And then it was awarded first place.
The 34-year-old has more than just entrepreneurship and a CDECA award in common with Harvey. She had been working as a registered nurse since graduating from the registered practical nursing program at George Brown in 2001 but was powerfully drawn to the field of decorating.
“I had purchased a piece of real estate and realized I was a little too interested in where the furniture was and what it looked like,” Anita says. “It was almost obsessive.”
That passion convinced her to make decorating her career and, in April 2006, led her back to Continuing Education at George Brown. Anita describes the certificate program as “the most comprehensive in the city,” but she singles out one course as being the most influential.
“Interior Decorating II acts as the basis for everything I do,” she says. “In fact, I still refer to my notes from that course today.”
Anita put those notes to good use when she launched her own business in June 2008 – almost a year before she completed the Interior Decorating Certificate in March 2009. Throughout both her schooling and business launch, she continued to work as a nurse – and found that “school” was even better the second time.
“It was a different experience, and part of that has to do with a certain level of maturity, but I also attribute it to the fact that I was studying something I love,” she says. “There was so much energy and enthusiasm in the room that it didn’t feel like school. I didn’t ever miss a class – I didn’t want to.”