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In the summer of 2021, I was diagnosed with cancer. There was a thick fog of confusion and disbelief when the news came. I was in the prime of my career, and while it was hard work, it was hard work, and the fruits of my labor hung low in the air, waiting to be savored. A steady stream of clients came into contact with my work, as well as recognition from industry awards and design publications that I have admired since the beginning of my career.

The severity of the three words “You have cancer” stung me like sharp glass. In an almost dreamlike way, the real thing I always thought no longer existed. I feel betrayed by my body, my healthy lifestyle, and my overall practice that I am proud of. While my life was full of momentum, I was overwhelmed by things that seemed out of my control.

Before my diagnosis, I was at the peak of my career but felt at my weakest and my body was fighting me. The rush feels violent, and what used to be so natural becomes eerily tedious. I felt empty in my ability to move forward, a heavy feeling that I might be surrounded by beautiful things that no longer served me. It was clear that I needed a new sense of home.

I moved out of downtown Toronto and completed a health-focused home renovation. I do for myself what I do for many others: create a harmonious space. I let go of a lot of things (figuratively and physically) and kept only those that added value, evoked positive emotions and had meaning.

My new home feels bright and personal. It includes natural elements as well as spaces dedicated to gathering, resting and working. It provides enough flexibility to change and adapt as I develop. I feel lighter and more grounded. With the noise around me out, I was able to take care of my body and she told me I wasn’t feeling well. For over five years my body didn’t feel like my own, but now I could hear her voice in a different way which led me to a doctor visit which changed my life.

During the course of therapy, I realized that this new home that I desperately needed to finish was designed for this very moment. This is where I heal, a space that will bring me life, joy, and comfort as I move into the next phase of my life.

My home contains me-centric elements. My bedroom walls are covered in soft murals of water features, like sleeping outside under a willow tree. They convey a sense of freedom. My bathroom is covered in marble tiles that look like concrete, inspired by wellness spaces I experienced while visiting Morocco. It helps instill calm and promotes a ritual of self-care. My office is filled with a jungle of banyan trees and other plants that not only clean the air but also bring nature into my home year round.

A large part of my career has been spent understanding people and why they live the way they live. I explore how space and the things around us work together, and how the magic of their connections can affect change. I call it the Ode philosophy, a term that is also part of the name of my design firm, Studio Ode. The approach focuses on creating spaces that support you while allowing your home the flexibility to adapt and grow as you grow.

My home embodies these principles of holistic living when I need it. This is the warm cocoon I need to break out, rest, heal, find inspiration and redefine my life. It showed me in a more holistic way how deeply connected we are to every space we are in. Rooms live and breathe just like us. They can be tools to support who we are and who we will be. When design meets wellness, no matter what you’re going through, true magic happens. I happened to develop this realization during my battle with cancer.

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