Where two design cultures converge
Words by Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle & Darcy Vogel
Photos by Barry Calhoun
Founded in 1993, Sabina Hill Design has evolved into an interdisciplinary design studio located in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. At its head, Canadian artist and designer, Sabina Hill merges the rich mythology of the Pacific Northwest Coast with a contemporary design aesthetic, in commissioned artwork and designed environments.
Sabina’s interest in art started very young, “it’s something I’ve always done throughout my life. I have drawn and sketched and made things.” She excelled in high school art coursework, which led her to frame her passion and interest for art in her studies. Sabina’s path was clear so she attended Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, with a First-Year Foundation and a focus on printmaking. “During that year I became interested in three-dimensional and sculptural works, which led me to design and architecture. I have two degrees, one in environmental studies and one in architecture.” Sabina founded her multi-disciplinary studio, with projects ranging from custom residential homes and renovations to built-in furniture, interiors and landscape design. “With my background in architecture and relief printmaking, I understand positive and negative space. Next, I sought to bring art into my interior design projects and integrate all of the disciplines to create a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ - a living portfolio.” Sabina relocated to Pender Harbour on BC’s Sunshine Coast to realize her dream of designing her home with a live-in gallery and studio on waterfront property in 2019. This unique live-work space includes a well-appointed private guest suite for those who wish to live with her art in a truly immersive experience, observe her creative process, and collaborate on commissioned pieces.
“I believe the best way to view art is to experience it and live with it.”
She has created an experience for art, design and nature enthusiasts to stay in the fully self-contained Sea Forest guest suite with one or two ensuite bedrooms available. During your stay, you can meet Sabina and live with her evolving portfolio while enjoying the splendour of the natural surroundings. Located on the waterfront in Pender Harbour on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, collectors, clients and guests can experience Sabina’s work first-hand. “I have always dreamed of creating an immersive experience. Perhaps I was influenced by my early childhood experiences. Growing up, I spent time at my family’s historic Yellow Point Lodge on Vancouver Island, exploring acres of pristine oceanfront. My grandfather built the lodge in the 1930s with his vision to share the beauty of the natural surroundings with his guests. Current owners Richard and Sandi Hill asked me to design their Scout Point house, my first commission after graduation, reaffirming my belief that a site’s unique landscape is a rich source of inspiration.” Sabina has always dreamed of meeting and engaging with collectors directly to build meaningful connections and relationships as an artist. The live-in gallery presents her work in a tranquil, domestic setting, providing context for how it can be displayed and enjoyed. Her live-in gallery and studio are on the main level. Guests can also arrange a private viewing of the gallery and studio during their stay. The Sea Forest guest suite is located on the lower level.
The design of her Pender Harbour Residence blurs the line between gallery and home conveying an easy elegance and casual luxury most associated with her work and the essence of the relaxed Pacific Northwest Coast lifestyle. “I believe the best way to view art is to experience it and live with it.” Pender Harbour offers a spectacular setting where art, design and nature converge to increase the arousal of the senses through aesthetics and nature. Bringing nature in, Sabina celebrates an indoor/outdoor lifestyle through natural wood elements, warm tones, an open floor plan, and large format windows and doors, which visually connect the ocean and lush greenery of the natural surroundings - uncomplicated and spacious. “I want to elevate guests and visitors’ experience of art design and nature - increasing their pleasure of perceiving an object through the senses.” Along with the stunning location, the story of this place is aspirational: inspiring others to follow their dreams, as Sabina was able to make hers come true.
Born in Vancouver, descended from four generations of Pacific Coast Canadians living between the forest and the sea, Sabina is inspired by her sense of place and tells a visual story through her innovative designs. She was first introduced to First Nations art through her parents’ collection of Nuchatlaht baskets, as she spent part of her early childhood in Tahsis, BC, a remote area on the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island that is rich in First Nations culture. Captivated by their vibrant colours and motifs, these baskets are now displayed in her home and are a reminder of the power of creation. Inspired by the natural world and the influence of First Nations people who have been expressing the spirit of the land through art for thousands of years. Her early place-based influences include architects Arthur Erickson and Ron Thom, pioneers of the West Coast modern movement that embraced geographical and cultural context, and artists Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt, whose paintings have included First Nations imagery and forms. “My integration of organic forms and First Nations design elements – the U-shape, ovoid and s curve are layered with rich materials and textures, offering a sensual interpretation of northwest coast design and a striking contrast to the geometric lines of ‘architectural’ framework. In my architecture and design work, I am influenced by the region and the site. The role of place in my creative process is explored and celebrated. Whether in terms of materials or the interaction with collectors and guests, I am an artist rooted in my surroundings.”
Sabina’s artistic process isn’t always the same and is certainly not a linear process - it varies according to each project and client. “I generally begin with an overarching concept and explore various forms introducing the materiality and colours early into my process, as their characteristics, qualities and limitations inform the artwork.” Seeking to create works with a distinctly Pacific Northwest Coast design aesthetic, Sabina began collaborating professionally with First Nations artists in 1998. Her creations, presented through unique material combinations and leading-edge technologies, bring the ceremonial into daily life and celebrate the convergence of two distinct design cultures. Her solo and collaborative work mix contemporary abstraction with traditional mythology to create unique designs.