Stratford tips from Abby Campbell

Abby Campbell is a furniture designer and interior decorator extraordinaire. Two of her pieces are featured in the rooms at Edison's. The first is a cement headboard. Yes, cement. Abby, always looking to capture the latest trends, felt that it was time to move on from fabric and barn board headboards.  The cement headboard fits in well with the industrial theme of the Inn. The second piece is a beautiful bench at the foot of the king size bed in the music themed room. The bench is made from a reclaimed beam with steel legs. Since moving to Stratford six years ago, Abby and her family have embraced the small town feel of Stratford while appreciating some of the big city comforts from a wide range of restaurant to world class theatre. 

WHY DID YOU LEAVE TORONTO?

We were on the search for a new home and just couldn't find what we were looking for. It actually had nothing to do with the 30 houses we toured, rather my husband and I both felt that something was missing in our lives while living in Toronto. We just didn't feel connected to the community. In fact, we didn't even know the names of our neighbours and we are both social people. We felt it was a dangerous path that we didn't care to take, especially considering we had two small kids.  

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE STRATFORD?

We both grew up in the area, my partner in Seaforth and myself in Mitchell. We considered Kitchener, London and Stratford as all have trains stops which was important for my husband who works in Toronto. Stratford is just so gorgeous and visually interesting. There is real beauty in the buildings and the city has so many trees in its core. How can walking around the river not put you in a good mood. 

WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST A VISITOR DO IN STRATFORD?

Start off by taking a drop in class at Moksha Yoga. Afterwards, head to a cafe - Balzac's, Revel and Edison's - for a coffee and don't worry about changing. You will be accepted just the way you are. One of the best things to do is talk to people while waiting in line for your latte. There are so many interesting people here. Get some exercise by walking around the river. Head back to your hotel for shower and then for some shopping at one of the many great clothing shops - Dana Nicole and Grace Boutique. Drop by the Sean Norrie Gallery on the way to the Taverna for cocktails. Taverna has gorgeous lighting. Finally, off to Mercer Hall for dinner. The place is alive with chatter and laughter.  Order the deep fried sushi.  

WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT TODAY'S DESIGN?

What really inspires me is flipping through design books and magazines featuring Scandinavian designs. I love the masculine, minimalist and functional approach that they take to furniture. 

HOW IS YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGN UNIQUE?

Many designers and decorators are taking on a template approach - what works for one client will work for most clients. I prefer to explore the unique personality of each of my clients so as to inject their own style into my work. My focus is on original, custom work and on functional solutions.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE SINCE MOVING TO STRATFORD?

That we not only know our neighbours but many of them have become our close friends. On our moving day to Stratford, we not only received a friendly welcome from many of them but food as well - delicious morning glory muffins. One of the neighbours later mentioned how much he liked the changes to the backyard. I asked my husband if he had given our friendly neighbour a tour but he hadn't. We found out that he was over at another neighbour's house which bordered our backyard. They were having coffee while enjoying our efforts.

WHAT IS YOUR SPECIAL PLACE IN STRATFORD?

The TJ Dolan Conservation area is a sweet spot in the middle of the city. It is so quiet and beautiful. I can get a 20 minute break in nature just a few minutes away. There is a lovely bridge with a view to the cemetery.

Abby's company is ACampbell DesignThe TJ Dolan Conservation Area is a 15-20 minute walk from downtown. To get to TJ Dolan, cross the Huron Street Bridge on the City's West end, by the courthouse. After crossing the bridge, take the stairs down to a road that runs along the river.  Cross over St Vincent Street and continue down the road. Once you hit the cemetery, turn left across the bridge. The start to TJ Dolan will be on your right. There a number of trails ranging from 3-4.4 kms.