Design Tips For Men: Ask Yanic Simard

Above: Canadian design expert and television personality Yanic Simard

One could say that Yanic Simard was born to be a designer, or at least he was born in Montreal (an epicenter for design) and into a family that made their living in real estate and construction. He caught the design bug early on during a trip to Toronto when he was only 10 years old. “I remember the first time I realized it was what I wanted to do.  My family had taken a trip to Toronto… I was excited to see Maple Leaf Gardens, the Skydome and of course the CN Tower. When I walked into our hotel room I couldn’t believe it, we had a view of the CN Tower from the window…but the sofa was turned the opposite way. I decided to shift the furniture around so I could take advantage of the wonderful view”.  Unbeknownst to Yanic at the time, the design philosophy that good design is all about highlighting the best features of any space, would inform all his future design practices.

Fast-forward to 2001 when Yanic Simard launched his own design firm, Toronto Interior Design Group, back in the city where he first discovered his passion for spaces and design. He quickly built a roster of clients from his humble approach to business relationships: listening to the client and always learning from them and the process. “My philosophy in life all comes back to staying humble. When you’re humble one door after another will open for you. It’s when you become arrogant that the door that opens closes right back behind you, and very often you can’t go back to it. The goal is to keep as many doors open as possible.” By 2009, another door opened and Simard found himself with a reoccurring gig on CityLine as a design expert. On the show he continues to dole out advice on everything from how to incorporate colour into your interiors to what to look for when you buy a bed. His keen wit and charm often wins over audiences and clients but it is his unique approach to design that keeps them coming back for more.  

We sat down with Yanic to discover his design philosophy and to get some advice for our readers.

AmongMen: How would you describe your personal design aesthetic? What do you like your own space to look like?
Yanic Simard: They say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. I find beauty in so many interesting and unique pieces in everything from contemporary to art deco to modern. My aesthetic is truly transitional eclectic. For me beauty in design can be found in timeless looks that blend the best of every style.

I love curated looks that allow you to continually add to your space with unique pieces; exotic artwork from traveling, a one-of a kind sculpture you fall in love with, or an antique heirloom passed down in your family.

AM: Any must haves?
YS: Mid-century style furniture is a MUST have! I always try to incorporate at least a couple pieces in every space I design because this style really anchors a space while adding a sense of history and sophistication. I am a big fan of architect and designer, Eero Saarinen. His pedestal collection featuring the Saarinen marble table works really well in almost every space.

AM: What should you never comprise on?
YS: Benjamin Franklin once said something that really resonates with me, “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

AM: Do you remember your first home? Was it all that you had hoped for? What did you do to make it your own?
YS: Like many young people, I really wanted a cool loft style space. I was drawn to the industrial look; high ceilings, exposed beams, metal and wood. So, as soon as I could I invest in one I did. I had it all. Big windows, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a fireplace, hardwood floors, high ceilings, but it was a big reno project – I made a lot of mistakes. It was an amazing learning experience for me, I experimented with a lot of design ideas, some worked, some well… let’s just say it was great hands on education.

That first loft taught me lots of lessons about décor and design. I also was reminded of a valuable lesson my grandmother (who was a successful business woman in real estate) had taught me, “location, location, location”! I had bought the loft in a not so becoming area and realized soon enough that I was not going to make back what I had put into it.

AM: For men looking to buy their first home, what would you tell them look for in a property?
YS: I’ll have to repeat the lesson my grandmother taught me, location is everything. Buy in a good established neighbourhood or one that is up and coming. You will always make a good return on your investment when its time to sell. The ugliest space in a good area is better than a good space in the ugliest area. When you view a home, look for the potential in every space instead of the flaws. Once you find your ideal space, carry your vision throughout don’t stop half way. Or even better hire a good designer!

AM: What are some of the creative ways you suggest to maximize small spaces?
YS: Make your place multifunctional. Create an open concept by combining your living and dining in one grand space – it works, I’ve done it many times. Plan for a lot of storage using multi-purpose pieces like storage ottomans, a sofa bed, and an island in the kitchen that can be a workspace as well as eating space… A good tip when looking for space is to think vertical; floor to ceiling bookshelves add height to a room and make it seem even bigger! I know we all love our electronics but choose sleeker more minimal versions that can be easily hidden or tucked away. Also, check out cb2’s SAIC line (a collaboration they did with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) for fun and functional pieces I recently showed on Cityline that are perfect for small spaces.

AM: Rules to live by in design?
YS: One of my favourites is the one I learned when I was 10 years old – Make sure to work with what the space has to offer you, not against it.

AM: Rules you like to break?
YS: All of them.

AM: Best tips or tricks for men tackling interior design on their own?
YS: Don’t do it on your own – call a professional! I would be foolish to tell you otherwise.

Yanic Simard is the Principal Designer of the award-winning Toronto Interior Design Group (, design writer and blogger, and regular TV design expert on City’s Cityline. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter for more design inspiration.

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