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Secrets and Lives with Designer Duane Ensing

Making every activity art

- Story by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe

From a very young age, architecture was one of Duane Ensing’s passions, but he took a meandering path through visual arts, sculpture and landscape design before integrating house design into his professional life, joining Villamar Design six years ago and launching the design department.

“As a kid, I used to draw houses and build homes with Lego,” he says. “And I’ve always been interested in the arts. I painted, explored creative expression and played music as a kid, and my mom was an artist and creator.”

Duane, who moved to Victoria from Vancouver with his family in 1985, achieved an honours degree in visual arts at UVic, focusing on drawing, photography and sculpture, before entering into a career as a landscape designer.

“I did landscape design for a very long time, and I knew some of the people who worked [at Villamar],” he says.

When Villimar offered him a job, he decided to make the change.

“I started with project management, and when working there, I thought, you know, we need a design firm here.”

Duane quickly helped establish an in-house design department, which grew rapidly into a small team of talented people and gave Duane the space to flex his creative muscles in a new way.

“Everything I do is art,” he says. “My landscapes are sculptures; [I’m] designing it in a way that has interest and colour and texture. You’re creating something new. It’s similar with house design. They’re these sculptural pieces with form and function and level changes.”

Having that artistic background has perhaps given him the ability to have a slightly off-centre perspective as well, and see challenges in a different light.

“I feel as an artist or a creative person, I like to leave my mind open to the possibilities of doing something, even exploring things that I don’t even know whether we can do it, but saying, let’s explore the possibility.”

He adds, “What my hope and dream is with every custom home is to have something that really meets your needs—while having a few extra cool things you could do—turning your home into a place that’s an extension of your personality.

The 7 Sins


Whose shoes would you like to walk in?

Leonardo da Vinci and Will Smith. Leonardo da Vinci because he was intelligent and quite skilled. He was multi-faceted: a painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect and engineer—and really just seemed like the problem solver of all problem solvers. And Will Smith because he’s a pretty down-to-earth soul, but also very accomplished in several fields, and still a family man. He cares about people and from what I see and read, in front of all his adventures, he still maintains a fairly balanced life. Two very successful people with ambition, creativity, balance and adventure.


What is the food you could eat over and over again?

I’m a sugar addict, followed by big salty cravings. Given the choice though, I’d probably make home-made pizza my “return-to” food. I find pizza so inventive and creative in taste (for both salty and sweet). Favourite pizza so far: onion, garlic, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, cayenne, bell peppers, potato and chicken. Potato, you say? Umm, oh yeah.


You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?

Small condos in multiple places like Greece, Italy, Norway, Peru and Kathmandu. Each of these places would give me a base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Hiking, mountain biking, city life and beaches…


Pet peeves?

Poor spelling. I have this thing that really sets me off and makes me question everything about you when I see misspelled words. And don’t even think about getting me going with the left lane drivers. Ugh. I’m feeling a serious blood boil coming on.


Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?

The first thought going through my head was Bora Bora. Do they even have any land there or just cabins that float over the water? And who cares about WiFi; give me some books and a relaxing seat or bed. I can feel the relaxation starting right now! Next best spot to do nothing is overlooking the ocean at Ucluelet or Tofino.


What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?

Having multiple simultaneous career paths. Having completed a BFA in visual arts, I’m happy to say I have had a couple fun and creative pastimes (jobs?) creating art and developing interior and exterior spaces for some pretty fine folks.


What makes your heart beat faster?

Stairs and mountain biking. Not necessarily in that order. There’s a lot of things that make a home and a landscape better and stairs are a super important factor. I like to think outside the box and I have a growing portfolio and collection of “stair porn” that continues to inspire new ways to connect spaces in a cool or more interesting way. And with mountain biking, I’ll simply say that most of the trips and vacations I take involve biking—and where we go means I’m exploring new trails and finding new adventures. Who wouldn’t want that?

You can find Villamar Design here

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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