Milieu is a series that explores the unique ways in which we breathe life into our homes. From coastal towns to city living, our homes are a celebration of small, simple moments. They’re a reflection of our lives. Our stories. Our milieu.
For our latest feature,
we interview interior stylist and decorator
Join us in exploring her bright and beautiful home nestled on the West Coast of Canada; Where the interplay of light and natural elements is masterfully harnessed to craft an interior design that evokes a sense of rejuvenation and calm.
Please, introduce yourself :)
My name is Hanne (pronounced as ‘Hanna’) I am an Interior Stylist & Decorator based in coastal Victoria, British Columbia. I live with my husband Niels and our two little boys Willow and Anders in a home tucked away and surrounded by green, steps away from the ocean and the city.
I grew up on a farm in the countryside of Belgium, minutes away from France. Later, I lived for several years in the ever-inspiring city of Antwerp, Belgium - where my husband is originally from.
Inspired by living near the ocean side in Victoria, I followed my childhood dream and established Hanne by Design about 3 years ago. Hanne by Design is an ode to beautiful living, by creating thoughtfully considered and timeless interiors that elevate the day-to-day life experience of my clients. Additionally, I offer creative direction and styling services to brands.
Can you tell us about your journey into becoming an interior designer? What led you to choose a career in interior design, and what do you find most fulfilling about it?
Growing up in the Belgian countryside, I experienced a deep appreciation for the art of living. Fresh food at the table, gatherings al fresco, and being surrounded by thoughtful aesthetics shaped my identity.
Since I was a child, I was sketching interiors, creating collages from magazines and art prints, styling my bedroom regularly – a passion that grew into curating unique treasures from vintage markets and boutiques. My time living in Antwerp, along with long-term travels abroad, really nurtured my innate sense of aesthetics. Living on the West Coast rekindled my passion and helped me take the leap to start my business.
Thoughtfulness is at the heart of my business. I like to curate intentionally, utilizing inviting neutrals with natural materials that cultivate a sense of a welcoming and feeling grounded. My intent is to enhance the art of living through feel-good design that lasts season after season.
We often forget how much a home represents our identity and how we want to feel at home. Design, home decor and the choice of materials and colors can lift you up and create a space to fully rejuvenate. Assisting my clients in creating a home that reflects their inner self, lifestyle and needs is what I truly love the most.
Outside of your interior design career, what are some of your hobbies and interests?
My little family and I practice slow living and enjoy small moments. I love spending time in the garden, cooking homemade meals, going for walks on the beach or a bike ride with our boys. I rejuvenate from hosting loved ones on our sunny patio, having deep conversations alongside in-season food from local growers. I aim to move daily by going for a morning walk, a stretch or yoga session. Lastly, traveling is a big part of my life. We love traveling slowly and getting to experience the local scene. Indulging in local food, wandering in nature, visiting markets, art exhibitions, design galleries, and exploring architecture.
You live in one of our favourite places in the world, Vancouver Island! How did you end up on the west coast of Canada and what is your favourite part about living there?
I agree with you – I feel so lucky to live on beautiful Vancouver Island! Prior to moving to Vancouver Island, I traveled for quite some time in various places around the world. From Copenhagen to Peru, New Zealand to Tuscany, Portugal to Buenos Aires, Paris to Bali and more. We came to realize Belgium no longer felt like home. After owning a tourism business in Antwerp and hosting several Canadians, my husband and I landed eight years ago in beautiful Victoria.
Despite the fact we had never been to North America, we sold all our possessions back in Belgium and arrived with just a few suitcases! We were looking for a slower pace of life, high-quality of living, where we could raise our children with lakes, mountains and the coastline just a stone’s throw away. Victoria exceeds what we were longing for and more. I truly enjoy the farm-to-table scene, the small but creative community, the long summers, dips in the lakes, and the incredible natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest that influences my design work.
“ I truly enjoy the
the small but
the long summers,
dips in the lakes,
and the incredible natural beauty of the
that influences my
The west coast of Canada offers stunning and unique natural surroundings. How do you ensure your interior design harmonizes with the natural environment?
I believe that each home setting is unique and brings its own characteristics. A good interior design follows these patterns, brings cohesion and works in harmony and connects to the landscape. I like to utilize the natural sunlight, maximize the space planning, and favor color palettes that flow from outdoors to indoors. Bringing in natural and local materials that are sourced intentionally, such as linen, ceramics, stone and wood, as well as curating items crafted by local artists can truly elevate a space and create a sense of calm.
You now live in Canada but have roots in Belgium; Are there any specific cultural influences from there that inspire your work?
I'm convinced that Belgians have inherited a sense for design aesthetic due to the country’s history and practices, from skilled craftsmanship to beautiful architecture, timeless interiors, fine cuisine, fashion and the selection of materials such as Belgian linen.
I grew up with a large extended family, many of them are farmers and others are creatives, most of them live in farmhouses authentic to their agricultural roots through a subdued palette and refined use of raw natural materials. Traditions from the countryside were very present for me, from sourcing food in the garden, to hosting and dining outdoors, living sustainably and buying less but better. I grew up in cozy living spaces in historic homes built with high-quality materials – think of high vaulted ceilings, beautiful fireplaces, inviting kitchens, wooden floors, lime paint and cobble stone pathways outside. What I love about the architecture and interior design in Belgium is that it has a great balance of old meeting with new, with natural materials and products built to last. These innovative designs have shaped me in the work I create. Many well-known Belgian architects, interior designers and stylists such as Vincent Van Duysen, Axel Vervoordt and Nathalie De Boel, inspire me.
You spent this summer in Europe with your husband and two sons; How did your recent trip inspire your design perspective, and did you discover any new design concepts or ideas you'd like to incorporate into your work?
Earlier this year we traveled four months through Europe, we first visited our loved ones in Belgium, with a side trip to Copenhagen and Paris, followed by a month of slow travel in Greece and two months in Italy, of which about a month in Puglia, a stopover in Amalfi Coast and Rome, followed by a month of travel in Tuscany. This was an ultimate moment to pause and reset - A combination of slow travel with my little family and to nurture inspiration for my work.
I got inspired by the colour scheme of nature, and the authenticity of building techniques. Houses built with forged cement on the Greek Islands, woven linen in Paros Island, limestone buildings and sculptures in Puglia, travertine and marble stone in Tuscany. Innovative and sustainable design solutions in Copenhagen and inspiring ideas with concrete, brick and wood combinations in Belgium.
While this trip was quality time with my family, I intentionally visited ateliers from artisans, met with interior designers, new and vintage home stores, art galleries and artists establishing relationships to collaborate with in the future.
The interior design of your home speaks to a “natural-minimalism.”. What advice do you have for homeowners who want to achieve this look and feel in their own spaces?
To create a natural-minimalist home I would recommend reflecting on your values and lifestyle. From this deep reflection a vision can hold you true to yourself and create a thoughtful and balanced design. This can help you choose a cohesive color palette that is timeless and allows you to purchase less but purchase better. Consider investing in craftsmanship, local artisans, and curate a selection of local, natural materials that elevate your home and bring patina over time.
Can you share your top tips for creating a calming and organized home environment, especially for families with children?
I believe that a well thought out space plan and design can create a calming home environment that also benefits children. Children's day-to-day life can be very occupied. Creating a space for a smooth daily routine, sourcing intentionally and assigning a spot for each possession in the home will limit clutter and provide an instant calmness to a family. A few practical tips that can help are; utilizing pretty baskets and hooks to store items, opting for open shelving for décor objects and organizing toys and clutter in enclosed spaces.
“Creating a space
for a smooth daily routine,
sourcing intentionally and assigning a spot for
each possession in the home will limit clutter and provide
an instant calmness
to a family.”
Where do you source design inspiration? Are there any shows, books, magazines, or online resources that particularly inspire you?
My biggest inspiration sources are from my travel experiences. The landscapes, natural materials, and cities that I have visited will often inspire me to make selections for colors, materials and textures. Some of the locations that highly influence my work are the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the grasslands of New Zealand’s Southern Island, the vastness of the Atacama Desert in Chile, and the lifestyle of the Mediterranean. The most inspiring cities to me would be, Paris, Antwerp, Copenhagen and Cusco.
At home I get inspired by walks in nature and the coastline here on the island. I enjoy online reads from Est Living and The Local project and listen to podcasts such as Rip & Tan from Jenni Kayne Home as well as Natalie Walton.
Can you share a personal design philosophy or mantra that guides your work in interior design?
The philosophy that resonates through my designs is cohesion. Making use of scaling, proportion, a cohesive color palette, materiality, layers, and textures to ensure a natural flow of all the elements throughout the project.
Another pillar of my design principles is to create a space that creates comfort and serenity while remaining timeless. Each process is evaluated against its purpose, durability, sustainability, and aesthetics. Each of my clients is unique, that’s what I truly find inspiring about my work. My work further grounds itself in listening well to their individual stories and helping them identify what nourishes and comforts them and fosters living well. A home should be a space where you can rejuvenate and rewind. My process always starts with getting to know the client well before creating the vision for the project. This personalized approach ensures that the project remains true to the client and guides the cohesion of the home or project.
How do you recharge and find inspiration in your personal life to bring into your design projects?
I strongly believe that your dwelling is an extension of your being and how you want to feel day-to-day at home. I find it calming to open the windows of our home, let the sunlight in and spend time in the garden with my little family. Enjoying home-made food while having good conversations with friends. I believe in a good balance of work and life where there is time for wellbeing and self-care to nourish mind and body.
Lastly, I am grateful that thanks to offering creative direction and styling for brands, I am also closely connected with many of the talented creatives that thrive in the local area, across Canada and internationally. It’s inspiring to be part of a scene that is focused on uplifting each other, it really feels like partnerships that leverage creative thinking is a benefit to all parties.
Finally, what advice do you have for homeowners who are considering hiring an interior designer? What should they look for in a designer, and how can they best prepare for a successful collaboration?
Try identifying if an Interior Designer or Stylist’s vision resonates with you. Not all their projects might align with your vision since every project is unique, however seek for common points of alignment to your overall style. Another aspect to look out for is how well you connect with the person. Depending on the scope of work you will spend a lot of time together – usually throughout the entire project, compared to any other trade worker. I personally offer a complimentary discovery call before commencing on projects. It’s a great opportunity to explore if our vision aligns. This meeting helps define if it is a start-to-finish project, an à la carte package, if it includes custom millwork design or if the project is better suited for design consulting. It helps both parties get excited about the project.