In the space behind Lori Burwash’s desk there is a wall of books. Not sitting on a shelf, mind you, but arranged in a collage – 12 framed black and white images that were taken from A Book of Books, by Abelardo Morell.
To those who love the printed word, Morell’s book, published in 2006, is a keepsake because it’s filled with photographs that pay homage to books as works of art. It was also the perfect gift for Burwash, who has spent the past 25 years working in the world of words.
"My husband found this book several years ago,” says Burwash, who lives in Calgary’s Parkdale neighbourhood. “When we moved into this house he surprised me by having the images – everything from a sculpture of a hand touching an open book to a template of a particularly beautiful [print] font – framed for me as a surprise.”
Burwash worked many years in children’s publishing in Toronto before moving to Calgary in 1997 and beginning a freelance career as a writer and editor. “It was the perfect gift because I’ve been obsessed with words since I was a little girl.”
When Burwash, her husband, Bruce Johnson, and their children relocated to Alberta they lived initially in a “nice little infill.” The downside of that property, however, was that the couple had to share office space in the basement. “It had billiard green carpet. There was a wet bar. It was like some weird bachelor pad. I felt like I was suffocating. It was not ideal,” she says.
When it came time to move, Burwash says she made one point clear. She wanted to be above ground. This office is at the front of the house, facing onto the street, with a large picture window and she has filled it with her favourite things.
“Bruce [an interior designer] tends to like natural palettes and I love bright, bold colours. Orange is my favourite colour, so the silk curtains were my way of getting some vibrancy, and I like to think richness, into the room,” she says. “This space isn’t matchy-matchy, but it is indicative of me, and I love it because I’m surrounded by the various stages of my career, as well as different stages of my life."
The antique secretary desk, for example, belonged to her grandma Annabel, whom her daughter is named after. “I remember as a child she had this desk with a long, trailing plant sitting on top of it. I would sit at it, pull the desktop down, and feel very official. It’s a wonderful memory,” Burwash says.
The decades-old treasure is paired with many contemporary flourishes, including the office suite made of black metal with a maple surface, and the “lit” art that is mounted on the wall behind a well-used leather chair. It is a piece from Calgary artist Christopher Willard, and it says, in tiny print, “So Much Content in so Few Words.” The walls are painted a gun metal grey, which gives the space a certain gravitas.
“Some people might find the decor of my office an odd mix,” Burwash says. “But our style often ends up being this quirky combination of old and new that you wouldn’t normally think would go together. We like to think it does because it comes from a place of the heart.
“And in my mind, if a piece of art or a piece of furniture speaks to you then you can find a way to make it all work together. I love this office because it’s a natural expression of who I am.”
Get The Look
Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal paint, $60 a gallon at paint retailers (benjaminmoore.com).
Murrieta 2018-19 by Curtis Cutshaw, $12,400 at Herringer Kiss Gallery (herringerkissgallery.com).
Tizio Classic Task Lamp by Artemide, US$590 through lumens.com.