Casa Oriental's Stephanie Smith. Photograph by Lia Crowe

Secrets and Lives with Stephanie Smith

Oriental Casa President loves finding design solutions

  • Mar. 31, 2021 1:30 a.m.

– Story by Angela Cowan Photography by Lia Crowe

Despite being exposed to the art and design world from her youngest years, Stephanie Smith never really thought she’d end up there for her career.

“My mom is an artist and is in design, and she also did art studies at Emily Carr,” Stephanie says. “She had a gallery when I was a young teen, so I learned how to cut glass and frames, and do all the assembly from about 12 years old.”

After finishing a degree in business and marketing, Stephanie agreed to let her mom train her at Ethan Allen furniture—“I really thought it was going to be a short-term venture”—and she has been in the design and furniture industry ever since.

Now the president of Oriental Casa’s flagship North American store on South Granville, Stephanie has come back to loving furniture after taking a few years away.

“I saw people shopping for mostly throwaway pieces, things that would just end up in a landfill in a few years. I’d been in interior design for so long, and I had been losing the passion,” she says. “So I left furniture for a few years, but this line really brought me back. It’s so unusual, and just the details in each piece…you could easily mix in a piece and create real interest in your room, or do a whole room and create a dramatic, beautiful look.”

Besides being beautifully designed with intricate detail work, it was the quality of the pieces that sold Stephanie.

“There are no springs…it’s all solid rosewood. It’s some of the heaviest furniture I’ve ever moved, and I have moved a lot of furniture in my life!” she says with a laugh.

Seeing how the pieces fit into her clients’ homes and knowing they’ve invested in something that will last decades has brought her a whole new level of satisfaction too.

“I love helping people, and I love finding design solutions,” she says. “This became the passion, and it fulfills me so completely. I’m never tired of it.”

THE 7 SINS

Envy:

Whose shoes would you like to walk in?

Arlene Dickinson from Dragon’s Den. I’ve always loved what a great business woman she is for so many reasons. Watching her over the years has been inspiring, and I have always felt I related to her. From building her self-made fortune, seeing all of her supporting causes and how she shows her passion for what she believes in, I have always admired her…not to mention, her shoes are always fabulous!

Gluttony:

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

Sushi! I never tire of sushi, although, funny enough, I have a severe shellfish allergy. I’ve always loved a meal with variety, and there is always endless selection with sushi.

Greed:

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

Leisure property! I’ve always been a dreamer, and I’ve dreamed of having a small quaint place on a lake—somewhere that memories are made for a lifetime. A place to get away and enjoy fun experiences and time together with all the people I love. A place to leave for my kids to cherish time spent together.

Wrath:

Pet peeves?

Restless legs! I’d never experienced it until pregnancy. I’m pretty busy as it is, and hate anything slowing me down. And insincerity. I’ve always trusted that people are generally good. Over time, they always show their true character: they’re either reliable or they’re questionable, and it’s only a matter of time until the latter reveals itself. I have such a love of people that it always stings to uncover insincerity, and it’s one thing I’m always disappointed in.

Sloth:

Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?

On a lake. Although I’m not a strong swimmer—I mean, I learned how by diving for money my grandmother would throw in the lake—but I am a water baby, and as long as there is a boat or flotation device, I’m there! I always thought I’d live in a floating home and be able to feel free, anchoring down wherever and whenever I felt like.

Pride:

What is the one thing you’re secretly

proud of?

Knowing my strength, on so many levels. Knowing I can get through tough times is definitely something I heavily value. I’ve been faced with situations both in my business and my personal life—you know, the ones you want to avoid or try to ignore—but I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible mentors who showed me that it’s how you deal with things that have the biggest impact. I’ve worked really hard to keep a good perspective and see things from other views than simply my own, and that’s allowed me to be mindful and sensitive when confronting anything.

Lust:

What makes your heart beat faster?

Sharing in someone’s happiness. I’ve naturally always been a pretty positive person, and I love seeing people succeed and grow and celebrate the little and the big wins. I believe that celebrating these things attracts

more of the same, and I love being around people who also adopt this attitude. Life is short, and it sure is better with like-minded people around you!

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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