Photos: How an Interior Designer Decks the Halls

Ami McKay welcome a new family to the neighbourhood with a festive dinner party.

December 22, 2017

By Amanda Ross / Photo: Janis Nicolay

On any given day, Pure Design’s Ami McKay creates, reimagines or renovates spaces for a multitude of clients. But this year she brought home her signature ethos—light and airy with layers of texture—when she and her family relocated to a new space. “I was heartbroken to leave our old house, but we needed something bigger,” she says. “Little did I know that I would end up loving our new place even more—I have a bathtub! Our four kids aren’t on top of each other anymore!”

McKay’s new tree-fort-like aerie overlooks the ocean in Lions Bay and has evolved from the previous all-white palette observed in her former home—now there are saturated hues. “This time, I wanted my space to be more colourful, more joyous, more about love,” she says. Her inspiration came by way of meeting Salma Mohammad, a Syrian refugee who McKay and a group of friends helped sponsor to Canada (along with Salma’s husband and their three young children).

McKay had a light-bulb moment when she discovered that Mohammad was formerly a tailor while she herself had been collecting and stockpiling fabrics from all her years of globetrotting. Out of this happy connection sprang Pure Pillows: each pillow, sewn by Mohammad, is made with antique and vintage textiles from far-ranging locales like Vietnam, Thailand and Africa, with profit sharing going back to the newly arrived family. The pillows land on shelves this December at McKay’s Pure design studio; for now, though, they’re showcased on her soft white furniture and are almost too pretty to sit on. Instead, says McKay, “I come home from work, pour myself a glass of wine and lie down on the rug.

Clockwise from top left: Don Thomas and his wife, Ami McKay, along with Nihad Alghazala, his wife, Salma Mohammad and their three children: Rebaz, Ivan and Rabarin; and McKay and Thomas’s children: Simon, Annabel and Braedy; with McKay’s father, Bill Scott.

Mohammad and husband Nihad Alghazala, as well as their three children—Ivan, Rabarin and Rebaz—enjoy Christmas dinner with McKay’s family. “Salma is always cooking me amazing meals at her house; I’m so honoured that we get to cook for her,” says McKay.


The hand-sewn Pure Pillows on the sofa (a joint venture between McKay and Mohammad) plus an extensive art collection in the home add vibrant pops of colour throughout—like Andrea Padovani’s large-scale work in the living room.


Fir trim around the doors and windows as well as bamboo floors help provide a simple backdrop to the home’s predominantly white pieces.


The traditional gingerbread house is made by Vancouver’s the Uncommon Cake.


“You’ll never see a red-and-green Christmas from me!” says McKay. Her seasonal decor is all about natural fibres, like felted Christmas ornaments and bits of nature incorporated in from the outdoors.


“The house is West Coast in design, but I’ve got my Moroccan boho thing going on,” says McKay.

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