May 22, 2024

Article content

What do senior residential homes, a cannabis company and state-of-the-art dental office have in common?

All three are being designed by award-winning interior designer Serina Fraser, who owns boutique design firm Clear Interior Design, which specializes in — well, everything.

Fraser’s impressive portfolio boasts big names in Ottawa like Shopify, Accora Village and Chartwell, in addition to other large-scale commercial and residential projects.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

She has a climbing revenue stream, is almost entirely referral-based and recently won a distinguished business award for her current and, likely, enduring success.

Fraser refers to 2018 as a “whirlwind” year after her ‘Forty under 40’ accolade from the Ottawa Business Journal and has no intention of slowing down. She said the award has given her “the means — and the obligation — to push the envelope,” personally and professionally.

“I always wanted to achieve more,” said Fraser speaking about the early stages of her career. She graduated from Algonquin College in 2000 with a diploma in advanced interior design and was hired immediately out of school at HOK, a global architecture firm.

However, she never dreamed of working her way up in an established design firm. The goal was always to start her own business.

After leaving HOK, Fraser worked an array of jobs. She wrote for a magazine, was a visual merchandiser for the Rideau Centre, worked for a furniture store, a high-end kitchen company and architect, all while building a devoted base of clients.

“I kind of created my own path by just trying things out, while at the same time carrying clients to build a business. I think at one point I had four part-time jobs,” she said. “Then I just did it.”

Advertisement 3

Article content

In 2005, at just 26 years old, Fraser launched Clear and it quickly took off. At one point, she had 30 to 40 projects happening simultaneously.

A hip surgery in 2013 forced her to take a six-month hiatus from work. That’s when she realized she couldn’t continue on her own. She needed a team.

Clear now has two additional full-time employees and a handful of part-time designers.

Unlike many start-up companies, Clear had little difficulty retaining clients and adding new ones. Instead, the biggest challenge for Fraser was learning how to run a business and lead a team with no formal training.

“It’s an entirely new skill. You have a learning curve, definitely, when you are in charge of other people and trying to support them,” she said.

In 2014, Fraser began working with a business coach and set a number of strategic targets — to secure larger scaled projects, hire talent, increase revenue and diversify her portfolio and clientele.

She has achieved, and even surpassed, all of her goals.

Three examples of Fraser’s large-scale projects are the revitalization of Accora Village, a rental community in Ottawa’s west end that serves more than 8,000 people; interior renovation for three existing building communities by Chartwell, an organization that offers senior living options across Canada; and the creation of a functional work environment for more than 180 employees at Accreditation Canada in a 2,500 square foot space.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Since Clear’s inception, Fraser has worked on almost 500 modern interior designs in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, including small and large-scale residential projects, residential developments, school interiors, boutique shops, restaurants and corporate or commercial projects. Some projects are worth more than $1 million.

Part of Clear’s success is linked to the idea that they don’t specialize in one area, but rather take on projects of varying styles and sizes.

“We try to be diverse. We try to let our clients come to us with visions of their own and themes that we can help them develop and design,” said Fraser. “We’re focusing on creating a reputation of excellence in creativity.”

Interior designer Serina Fraser spent about four months transforming Mati Restaurant. It was inspired by California and the Mediterranean, transpiring into an easy-going, yet fine dining feel.
Interior designer Serina Fraser spent about four months transforming Mati Restaurant. It was inspired by California and the Mediterranean, transpiring into an easy-going, yet fine dining feel. Photo by Urszula Muntean

One project, which highlights Fraser’s diverse portfolio is Mati Restaurant, the first and only eatery the Clear team has worked on — at least so far.

She met one of the owners by chance and they dove into conversation about Fraser’s design work and the restaurateur’s vision for a new restaurant. The synergy was immediate.

“These are the kind of clients we like to work with. People that have ideas and passions and want to collaborate in what they do and what we do,” she said.

Advertisement 5

Article content

In representing the owners’ vision, Mati is a chic Greek-Mediterranean restaurant on Preston Street with an indoor charcoal grill and crudo preparation station.

The interior pays tribute to a casual fine dining atmosphere with brass lighting and accessories and walnut, black and white features that add casual notes. An 18-seat rectangular bar is the focal point.

Nods of white, black and walnut casually complement the upscale brass lighting and accessories.
Nods of white, black and walnut casually complement the upscale brass lighting and accessories. Photo by Urszula Muntean

There’s even a dedicated “selfie-wall,” which is a designated area designed to be picture perfect for guests. It’s a hidden vestibule with a number of gold hexagon-shaped tiles parallel to a mirrored wall.

Fraser said the completed project is “unbelievable.”

There are two traits that seem to define Fraser’s path to success — it’s her balance between being eager and cautious, knowing when to launch, hire and expand.

She said her goal isn’t to have rapid growth, but smart growth with a motivated team that’s interested in collaboration, diverse design styles and “just being amazing.”

Article content


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *