Women of Vancouver: Karin Bohn

Dec 19 2017, 6:05 pm

Women of Vancouver is an editorial series featuring stylish and professional women in Vancouver. WofV producer and stylist, Jason Sarai of Style by Sarai, recently interviewed Karin Bohn for this exclusive in-depth photo editorial.


What do you do for work?

I own House of Bohn, the Vancouver-based interior design firm that specializes in high-end residential as well as boutique retail and restaurant projects.

How did you get involved in this career?

Growing up I knew two things about myself: I wanted to be in business, and I wanted to be creative. I had a ton of interests so I wasn’t exactly sure as to what that would be until I graduated from university and by fluke ended up in Calgary working in the design business. When I moved backed to Vancouver shortly after (I couldn’t stay in Calgary because of the cold) I enrolled in a few interior design courses and the rest is history.

What do you enjoy most about your career and company?

Two things. First, I truly love the people that I work with. I absolutely love my team at House of Bohn, and I love all the incredible clients that we work with. We have such a stellar roster of great clients who are truly the most amazing people. Working with people that you love and respect really makes your job feel so special – and a lot of fun.

Second, I love the constant evolution that my career and company has experienced. It’s been such a personal and heart-felt journey to grow my interior design business to the successful agency that it is today. When I look back I feel incredibly humble and proud of how far it’s come. That said, when I look ahead I still feel like the sky’s the limit, even more so than when I fist started. It’s an incredibly exciting journey.

Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from when designing homes for your clients?

The ‘inspiration’ question is such a hard one to answer. The truth is, as a creative person, inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere, anytime and all the time. I just think that when you’re creatively plugged in, there’s no end to where inspiration comes from. You never have to look for it, it just comes. To be honest, it’s kind of a curse too. I’m always bubbling with ideas and it’s actually impossible to turn it off.

Image: Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

Image: Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

What kind of homes and businesses do you work with? Is the same process of design used for both?

My team and I work on a range of different projects, but at the end of the day, there’s a common thread to them all. Our residential projects are very high-end, luxury homes. Our clients seek us out because they’re looking for something different. Our clients want the interior design to reflect who they are personally, and they want something fresh, original and a little avant garde.

As far as our commercial clients go, we work mainly on restaurant, hospitality and boutique retail projects. We’re mindful to partner with businesses that are interested in building a strong brand and who understand the value of interior design and how it contributes to that brand. At the end of the day, whether it’s for a residential client or a business it’s very exciting and incredibly sexy. I love doing design work it and I get giddy just thinking about it.

Where do you see your career and business in five and 10 years?

Although I’m getting married next summer and I’m eager to start a family, it’s hard to imagine slowing down anytime soon. That said, I will definitely have a few kids within the next five years. As for my business, I hope to have a design-related television show well underway within the next few years, and by the 10 year mark I would like to be designing my own product line, including home decor, furniture, lighting and accessories.

What has been your greatest business challenge to date?

If I had to pick one challenge, I would say that for me it’s personally managing the overwhelming and constant juggle that comes with entrepreneurship. As you grow your business, there are more moving parts to consider and more demands that are vying for your attention. So much so at times, that it can be hard not to lose focus and become engulfed in work, especially when you love it. I’ve definitely sacrificed a lot of personal time or friends and family time because of my business, and that’s never easy.

What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?

My team. I’ve said it before, I’ve mentioned it in interviews, I’ve blogged about it, and it’s still completely true for me today. I just love that I’ve been able to build a great team of awesome women who on their own are happy, wholesome, creative people that genuinely love their jobs and who love working together. There’s a real satisfaction that comes from getting to work with people that you like and that you’re invested in. It’s an incredible feeling.

What’s the best advice/mentorship you received when building our your career?

My advice would be to be patient with your career. Success doesn’t happen overnight, nor does any kind of notoriety or accolades. Design projects take a long time to complete, and there are a lot of moving parts that contribute to one single successful project. It takes a really long time to build a career, a reputation of doing good work, and a credible practice.

Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Entrepreneurship is the ultimate creative endeavour. Although I work in a ‘creative’ field, I have to say that there’s nothing more creative than building a business, a team, and a brand. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is synonymous with contribution – it truly is about creating value in this world where none existed before… and what could possibly be more creative than that?

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?  

Don’t do it all. Don’t even try. Hire good people, and get really good at hiring good people.

Describe a typical work day?

I don’t know if there is such a thing for me. Right now my time is split between everything from shooting my new web series, to sitting in design meetings, presenting to clients, managing projects at a high level, blogging about style, and everything in between. I’m a little bit of a busybody and normally I can’t even remember what I did in the morning, let alone what a typical day looks like.

How do you manage your personal and professional life?

Well, as I mentioned before, to be honest it’s really not that easy for me. My work life tends to rule quite often so I tend to surround myself with people who are in some way affiliated with what I do or are like-minded. That said, I definitely focus a lot of energy on my fiancé and I really try to make him the ultimate priority. Other than that I balance my time between my family, closest friends, and a little working out when I can. I put it in my outlook calendar.

Outside of work, what do you do in your spare time? What are your favourite hobbies?

I’m a big golfer. It’s one of my favourite things to do with my fiancé during our time off. In addition to that I try to go to crossfit as much as I can, yoga, and I live in Yaletown so I also run the seawall when I get the chance. I like to be active is much as I can and I think it’s healthy to get your mind off work by exerting some physical energy.

What book are you currently reading?

Oh my gosh. I have such a bad habit of starting books and not finishing them. I literally have about 10 books sitting on my nightstand right now, all of them maybe only 1/4 read including, Primal Branding, The Sell, Being The Boss, Not That Kind Of Girl, Selfish [Kim Kardashian’s picture book], The Secret (read it once already), A place of Yes (read it twice already), Me Inc., and there’s probably a few more in there that I’m forgetting…

What three books would you recommend everyone to read when it comes to business and lifestyle?

Primal Branding. Fire Starter Sessions. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.

What charitable organizations/programs do you work with?

I’ve been trying to start up a pro-bono project with BC Cancer for quite some time now. The Jean C. Barber Lodge is where a number of cancer patients stay when they’re coming into Vancouver for cancer treatment. Unfortunately the facility is run by volunteers only, and the lodge itself is tired and depressing. I’ve been eager to get my team in to help renovate the lodge so that it becomes a much more positive, comfortable and uplifting place to stay for patients who are undergoing treatment and their families who are going through such a difficult time.

Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

How did you get involved with this cause/organization?

My dad passed away from cancer when I was really young. I had a really close relationship with my dad and I have such fond memories of my time with him. I’ve been wanting to get involved with an organization that’s close to my heart for a very long time. Cancer is something that so many people are affected by, and it’s something that I can personally relate to. Its an area where I would like to make a difference.

Why is giving back important to you?

It’s important to me to give back because I’d like to something that doesn’t just serve myself and my business. Even though I work very hard, I still feel very lucky and ultimately blessed in this life. For me, giving back is a way of showing gratitude.

What does a typical weekend look like for you?

I hate to admit it, but my weekends are actually pretty short. Right now I spend a lot of time blogging. I have a lifestyle blog that I’ve been building and growing and I love doing it so much that I just can’t stop.

Other than that, the weekends are time fore chores and sleep. It’s all very exciting stuff.

Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

What your favourite places to go eat in Vancouver?

I’ve traveled to so many cities around the world and in my opinion Vancouver has one of the best food scenes. My all time favourite is both the lounge and restaurant at Hawksworth. I’m a big fan of Chambar and Homer St. Cafe. I also love Bauhaus and Ask for Luigi. There’s also this little, tiny hole-in-the-wall vietnamese place in International Village that I go to for Pho. I’m totally addicted.

What do you recommend someone to try when at Q-Shi-Q Japanese BBQ?

They’re not opening until later this month so I haven’t had a chance to try everything yet, but what I have tried is literally amazing. Q-Shi-Q such a great addition to Vancouver because it’s not typical Japanese food. Instead it’s BBQ and tapas, and when you do go, you have to try the spicy chicken skewers. You’ll need to drink a ton of water but I promise they’re delicious.

What do you like most about your experience at Q Shi Q Japanese BBQ?

The Interior Design. Obviously.

Image: Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

Image: Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

What are you favourite cafes and coffee shops in Vancouver?

Small Victory would be at the top of my list right now. All their pastries are made with so much butter they’re completely decadent. I also really love Thierry.

What’s your drink of choice?

A double Kettle One over ice with a splash of soda and a lime wedge. I drink it before noon sometimes. Well, not really, but I think about it.

How do you think people would describe your style?

Classic, feminine and edgy.

What does style mean in your world of interior design? How has it played a part in your career?

Style is everything. Style has played a huge part in my career because I’ve literally built a business on style. A lot of people don’t know this but when I was in design school I had an instructor practically fail me in one of my final classes.

Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal but in this case it was the class that I needed to get into the diploma program. I couldn’t get in with that grade. So I set up shop instead and that was almost 10 years ago. Style is innate. You can’t teach it. And in my business, style is what counts.

Image: Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

Image: Jason Sarai / Ellen Ho / Vancity Buzz

What does style mean to you?

To me, style is the personal interpretation of fashion. Style is about bringing your own flavour to the game, and it’s putting your own personal stamp or signature on something like fashion or interiors. It’s very personal and raw. Sometimes you have to take a risk and step outside the box in order to find your own personal style.


KARIN BOHN House of Bohn


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