Every project that Nancy Saavedra has created, she talks about the way most of us talk about our children. As the passionate owner and creative director of Art Boulle, the company that has created unique interior collections, doors, gates, staircases and more for Toronto’s most luxuriant addresses, she is one of the foremost experts in detailed and opulent ornamental iron and woodwork.
If you stroll through Yorkville, Saavedra says you’ll come across a door she designed for a celebrated doctor. “I really wanted to bring in craftsmanship and I was intrigued with the classical building and its modern windows. The client wanted a wow factor and I had this vision of contemporary squares paired with stainless steel protruding circles,” she says. “I wanted people to be drawn to the entrance and really want to know what’s behind that beautiful door. It took six months to design and handcraft and I put a lot of love into it. What we created was like a signature piece of jewellery.”
When it comes to this kind of artistry, no one does it like Art Boulle. The company, which recently celebrated its 35th year, is the perfect example of seamless relationships between design professionals and artisans; the Art Boulle team ensures craftsmanship reigns supreme the way it did back in the Baroque period when Andre Charles Boulle worked for the king and was renowned for his elaborate cabinetry. “What he did was so opulent and intricate. I wanted to bring those details into this age—marry the classic with the contemporary and bring this craftsmanship to the modern day,” Saavedra says. And that’s just what Art Boulle has done in the more than 100 projects—doors, furniture, staircases, gates, built-in custom cabinetry, detailed wall panelling and more—they’ve created using the highest-quality materials and Saavedra’s keen eye for luxury design.
Born in Ecuador, Saavedra travels extensively and always dreamed of bringing the kind of detailed metalwork she saw in French buildings into her projects. “ I’d visit churches and other beautiful historical buildings and I was fascinated by the detailed inlays, veneers and metalwork—it always caught my eye,” she says. She and her co-owner, Diego, are enthusiastic about all elements of fine art, and when Nancy talks about her love for all things design, you can feel the passion she puts into every piece Art Boulle creates. She’s behind every project, ensuring each piece meets her high standards and matches the company’s philosophy—she values integrity in and fervor for the work she’s inspired to design. “I’m inspired all the time—it’s like there are photos in my mind. I’ll go somewhere and see something I love, and it just sticks and comes with me,” she says. “It’s amazing when an idea I have comes to life with the help of our fabulous team of designers and craftsmen.”
In Art Boulle’s three decades, the Saavedras have refined their process, making projects come to fruition with ease. After a detailed project evaluation (which takes everything from expectations to concerns into account), the team works on recommendations that best fit their clients’ wish list. Adjustments are made, then manufacturing and installation are completed. Work is done the old-fashioned way, Saavedra says—by hand. “It has taken more than 35 years of collective experience to achieve the results we’re so proud of.”
There’s nothing Saavedra and her team can’t create—if she can dream it up, it can be executed. “I’m always looking for innovation and want to be at the forefront of the most unique designs,” she says. “Clients come to me because they want something unique. “It starts from an Art Boulle door and ends with an Art Boulle home.”
Saavedra mentions some of the projects that have really stayed with her: a velvet birch sofa with zebrawood inlays and stainless steel details; a rosewood coffee table; built-in bathroom vanities; staircase that combines veneered wood pieces; and metal with an ebony finish handrail; a gate in Toronto’s Bridal Path that she designed after being inspired by the incredible façade of the house. “These are all dear to my heart, as is the door I crafted for a prominent businessman in Bangladesh. This was a large project but amongst the pieces we created was an ornate French-style door with gilded 24-carat gold. It was an amazing piece and when the client received it, they called and told me how grateful and happy they were.
“When I deliver a project there are feelings of excitement and nervousness, but once the product is unveiled, I see my clients’ eyes light up,” she says. “It’s so rewarding—knowing that you brought happiness to someone. It takes a lot of sacrifice, but I don’t really see it as work. I just love what I do taking an idea and seeing it to fruition.”