Western Living Magazine: Christian Woo’s Perfect Vancouver Day

The designer’s itinerary involves woodworking, tacos and architectural tours.

From Western Living Magazine Written By Stacey McLachlan, Photography by Luis Valdizon 

The gritty East Van location of Christian Woo’s workshop is a bit of a contrast against his finished pieces, to be sure—he transforms raw wood into world-renowned minimalist furniture—but the building is the ideal headquarters for Woo. Though he now lives in West Vancouver, he grew up in Vancouver proper—a few years on the Drive, a few right downtown—and still feels at home in the city. “Up until last June, I spent pretty much my whole life here, and I still spend every day here for work.”

Woo spends his weekends exploring the North Shore, but on weekdays he makes the most of his studio location: shopping in Gastown, popping out to Kits to meet his wife for lunch, or squeezing in a Seawall run. His life in B.C. has inspired much of his work in ways both subtle and obvious. His material of choice is wood—walnut, oak, ash—a clear reference to his home province. Asymmetrical benches showcase beautifully oiled hardwood; black walnut stools with a heavy grain pattern celebrate the best of nature. But the province’s vast landscape inspires the scale of his simple, modern pieces, too. “I feel that my time spent here, our geography, spending time outdoors, has, in a sense of place, influenced me,” the 42-year-old designer says. “It’s large: we have large trees and huge mountains, and that sense of proportion finds its way into my work.”

Though he’s always been the mindful type (as artists tend to be), Woo has been particularly reflective and appreciative of the place in which he lives and works since he survived a cancer diagnosis in 2014. “I went through a rough year,” Woo says, a minimalist to the core. Thankfully, he’s recently been given a clean bill of health, and has used this new lease on life to push forward with his work in a new way. “It was a real struggle, but everything since then has been better than I can ever imagine.”

Like this new development: Woo’s furniture line now has representation in the U.S., which brings a whole new dynamic to the business—his pieces debuted in New York last May and have found homes in Soho and San Francisco showrooms. “It’s busier than it’s ever been,” says Woo. “We have only enough time to work on so many projects, and we’re lucky to work on diverse things that we enjoy.” Some of those projects branch beyond furniture and into interior design, like an upcoming collaboration with celebrated Vancouver architect Michael Green, and a restoration of a West Vancouver home that was originally designed by modernist architect Brian Hemingway. “It’s this incredible house that cascades down a cliff, with an Escher-type staircase,” says Woo.

His clean designs and down-to-earth itinerary of a perfect day (starting on page 34) showcase that, despite his successes, Woo, at heart, loves the simple things. “I love those days that I’m not out running around having meetings. It’s the woodworking that I love most,” he says with a small smile. “To be honest, my perfect workday is a day alone in the shop on a Saturday.”

Read more about 24 Hours in Vancouver with Christian Woo