Amanda Aerin Believes Good Design Has The Power To Change Lives
The entrepreneur, creative director and TV personality opens up about design as therapy, the importance of education and using struggle to fuel reinvention.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen Amanda Aerin before. As well as being a design expert on CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show, she has amassed over 80,000 followers on Instagram for her educational, authentic approach to design and speaks publicly on trends across North America. She’s collaborated with brands on a number of projects and is in the process of releasing her own line of custom furniture.
She describes her signature style as being made of four things. First, an appreciation of clean lines and timeless esthetics. “Start with the classic,” she says. After that, “a kaleidoscope of bright colours, some patterns and then the antique.” Combine those together and you’ll have an Amanda Aerin room.
Though it might appear Aerin’s success came quickly, after winning a contest to work in television 10 years ago, design has always been an integral part of her life. She shares a story of when she was 12 years old, and her mother gifted her $200 to redecorate her room. “That really set a feeling in me about what could be achieved in a space when you make it your own,” she says.
From there, she honed her skills and continued exploring her art. She shares how, while having a family of her own, creativity came out of necessity. “I would pick up pieces of furniture from the side of the road and that’s how I learned how to sew or paint something. I would say those foundational times of trial and error gave me the confidence to try to be on a television show when I had no television background.”
The CTV opportunity she talks about came in 2012, when she was awarded the design expert role on The Marilyn Denis Show. “When I approached my audition, it was very much with the idea that I wanted to show other parents and young people looking at a creative career that if I could do this, they could, too. It’s really about having the confidence to go out on a limb. If you fail, it’s fine. If you don’t, it’s also fine.” Naturally, making the jump from living behind the camera to being in front of one regularly was tough and took some adjustments. Aerin is open in saying how she might appear comfortable and confident onscreen, but is in fact shy. “I was petrified and even now, before I go on television, I have to take a deep breath, centre myself and take the approach that I’m talking and teaching.”
She goes on to share an anecdote about advice she received from one of the show’s producers when she started. Aerin says she was planning a segment where she would explain different suppliers and list various specifics about the products she was highlighting, but kept forgetting the details.
In response, the producer cut the cameras and told her to forget about the product codes and be authentic, because that’s all the viewers want. “It was the simplest advice, but the best advice I’ve ever received. Even today when I get a script, I’ll read it, think I’d never say it like that, take the top three things I want to get across in a teachable moment and share them as I would with a colleague or friend.”
“When things are difficult, I turn to design. When things are great, I celebrate with design. It’s really at the core of who I am”
It’s this spirit of sharing and offering something that’s educational that still spurs much of Aerin’s work. “Our viewers and followers are very smart people. They don’t want to be sold information,” Aerin continues. “They just want good, practical, fun advice and something that’s going to lighten the load.”
For Aerin, who believes “good design changes lives,” this has never been more paramount than through her own periods of struggle. “For me, even through difficult times, design and creativity became therapy. I feel it’s escapism. When things are difficult, I turn to design. When things are great, I celebrate with design. It’s really at the core of who I am.”
She continues to say how everyone can be empowered by that notion and take charge of design to better their situation. “It could be something like rearranging your bedroom or changing a scent in your home to something that’s more relaxing for you.”
Design has become such a part of Aerin’s life that she has also used her personal style as a vehicle for change. She discusses how the opportunity that saw her starting work in television was a moment of reinvention, and she decided to make conscious changes to her personal style to reflect where she saw her career and trajectory going. “My current fashion and personal style didn’t reflect where I wanted to go,” she explains. “So, I created a mood board that would form who Amanda Forrest (before she changed her name to Amanda Aerin) would be in five years.”
This influence from the world of fashion plays a part in her professional work. “I look to fashion designers as a way of gauging what colour palettes will be popular, as well as what’s happening with innovative materials. I’ve done work where we take beautiful fabrics and have them made into accent pillows or framed. There’s a cool collaboration between the two.”
Since then, Aerin’s career has moved in the direction she wanted to take it. Her portfolio of work includes clients such as IKEA and Sunwing, and she offers a number of services that span both residential and commercial design. “Being able to tailor design with marketing is fascinating,” she shares.
Of all the projects she’s embarked on, Aerin marks two as being standout. For the first, with Kim Crawford Wines, she designed interactive pods that would travel across Canada. Visitors entering the pods would enjoy a multi-sensory experience that related to the taste of different wines. “It was the perfect way to show how all the senses are so combined,” she says.
“I would say success is defined by my health, a career that I love and the ability to share my gifts with others”
The second highlight was her collaboration with interior mouldings and door company Metrie to design an interactive trade show booth in Las Vegas. “This was interesting because, when I started, the moulding industry was very male dominated. I was able to align with a company that’s so male dominated, but had the foresight to bring in a group of designers, half of whom were women. The booth had to be large enough to walk through and showcase their trims, but they really appreciated the female spin on it.”
For Aerin, collaboration is key. Even with her projects with individuals, she works to ensure the process works both ways, hosting a number of meetings to uncover what a family’s functional needs are, and where their personal tastes will align with that.
“I joke that I’m a furniture whisperer,” she says. “I feel I’m intuitive to a client’s emotions when they’re speaking and feel their energies about what’s paining them in the space versus what’s getting them excited, and I’m able to translate that to a design that’s tailored to them.” That’s followed by a process of going to different stores and figuring out what should be shopped for, both new and antique, and if anything needs to be custom-made.
Today, as well as hoping to amp up her custom furniture division, with a focus on keeping as much of the fabrication in Canada and the employment with Canadian families, Aerin is keen to spend some time in Europe, with living in Paris for a few months high on the bucket list. She’s also getting married to her partner in June 2022, after spending eight years together.
“I would say success is defined by my health, a career that I love and the ability to share my gifts with others,” she says, reflecting on what being successful means to her. “I don’t know how it gets better than that.”
INTERVIEW BY ESTELLE ZENTIL