There is no Tomas Pearce at the helm of Tomas Pearce Interior Design Consulting Inc. The firm, which boasts a multi-national clientele, was created by principals Melandro Quilatan and Tania Richardson – neither of whom have names that seem to explain their firm’s identity. “I am the ‘Tomas’,” Richardson told me mysteriously in our first email correspondence, “and Melandro Quilatan is the ‘Pearce’.” I rubbed my eyes and checked her email signature again before turning to my list of interview questions and adding, at the top: “What inspired the name?”
The name Tomas Pearce, much like the firm itself, is an amalgamation; as it turns out, Tomas is Richardon’s son’s middle name and Pearce is a middle name from Quilatan’s side. “The name was inspired by the desire to create a brand rather than identifying with a single individual,” says Richardson. “Tomas Pearce is not an actual person but rather a play on names representing us as co-founders.”
And, just as the collaborative manner in which they arrived at the name might suggest, Richardon describes her business partnership with Quilatan as a “happy marriage.” The two designers first met one another at their previous place of employment; working side-by-side, they quickly learned the extent of their shared values on a professional and personal level. “Most importantly,” says Richardson, “we shared the fun and passion for our craft – the chemistry and bond was undeniable.”
This doesn’t mean that the designers don’t have their differences, however. Richardson is a self-professed traditionalist, whereas Quilatan, she says, is “very much a modernist”. Richardson attributes her practical approach to design to motherhood; Quilatan likes to push interior design and architectural boundaries. When approaching a new project, even their focus is different; though they may begin by considering the space holistically through the lens of a client’s objectives and budget, Richardson first gives consideration to colour palette, fabrics, furnishings, materials, and textures, whereas spatial planning and architectural elements demand Quilatan’s attention.
But the two have found a way to sculpt synergy through their differences, using their complimentary skills to the firm’s advantage. “There is a lot of ebb and flow between us,” says Richardson. “We both generate ideas and find a way to balance out both perspectives. Our pace and energy are in sync.” The results in their work, she says, are new and exciting designs that are livable, practical, and have an ease of maintenance and, most importantly, longevity.
Aside from working as designers, Richardson and Quilatan have both had the opportunity to return to their alma maters – Sheridan College and Ryerson University, respectively – as lecturers. And while certain elements of the industry have changed for the better since their own school days, fundamentals of the practice, Richardson says, are being lost. On the one hand, technology allows the field of design to continually evolve while saving valuable time and money. “The Internet allows us to save copious amounts of time driving around to source products and materials,” she says. “The world’s resources are now at our fingertips.” But there is a flipside to those advantages. “Important skills are being lost … Mel and I learned how to hand draft and free-hand sketch as students but today AutoCAD, 3D rendering programs, Photoshop, and similar software programs have overshadowed valuable hand drawing skills. It’s unfortunate, as we find our residential clients relate best to beautiful hand drawn sketches.” This is why Richardson and Quilatan continue to encourage the development of manual drawing, even in light of technological advancements.
The two designers have honed their craft together and, in perusing their portfolio projects, it becomes clear that they have worked hard to develop a look that is easily identifiable as Tomas Pearce. They have transformed grand estates and luxury condos into streamlined spaces that are simultaneously minimal and classic, where cool neutrals meet boldly artistic staircases and the geometry of everything from the furniture to the tiling is satisfyingly cohesive.
Given their track record of urban luxury, when I ask Richardson about the last space the pair saw that they wished they had designed themselves, her answer surprises me. “[It was] in the Loire Valley, France,” says Richardson. “Mel and I spent an entire day at the Majestic Chateau de Chambord (largest Chateau in the valley). Construction began in 1519 and lasted twenty-eight years but was never fully completed. It was built to serve as a hunting lodge for King Francis. One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular open double helix staircase that is the centerpiece of the château. The two helices ascend the three floors without ever meeting, it is absolutely fascinating and imaginatively stunning! There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed. Mel and I spent the day in awe of this great historical magnificence. If only Tomas Pearce Interior Design Consulting were around five hundred years ago!”
So – given their juxtaposed love of the old and the new, the traditional and the cutting edge, what would be their dream project?
“One with an unlimited budget!” says Richardson. “A project where we can specify the most beautiful and sumptuous materials and finishes in the world. A process,” she adds with a smile, “with absolutely no boundaries.”