For Angie Johnson, the sunny Northern California coast was a drastic shift from urban Montreal, but the change of scenery proved to be a great source of inspiration. The fashion designer behind boho-chic label Norwegian Wood settled in the town of Novato on the northern edge of Marin County, with her husband Aaron and their Boston terrier Mary. "The area is home to the Grateful Dead and has a progressive, earthy, bohemian history. So many interesting artisans and characters still live out here; you never know what great tucked-away place you'll stumble upon," says Johnson, who is originally from Winnipeg.
With artistic inspiration all around, the designer turned her roomy 1970s ranch-style three-bedroom house into a live-work space. The transition allowed her to add homeware to her line with a collection of textiles and reworked vintage furniture. "I suddenly found myself with the space to work on larger projects, so I started experimenting with techniques and came up with the painted and woven rope chairs," she says.
Johnson's living room also serves as a staging space for her new designs, which she shares on Instagram. (It's not far from her studio, which is the next room over.) Some Norwegian Wood designs Johnson keeps for herself, like pillows and a matching wall hanging made with vintage indigo fabric. Johnson's fondness for mid-century modern design is evident in the classic Isamu Noguchi coffee table and the chess-piece-like Eames walnut Stool, both of which came with her when she relocated from Montreal.
The rest of the decor is a testament to Johnson's eclectic taste, from the soft Moroccan throw covering the sofa to the woven planters from the legendary Alameda Point Antiques Faire to the bronze bird sculpture on the side table, which she fished out from a Craigslist poster's storage locker. "I went for a side table, came back with side tables plus this bird. Five dollars!" The wood-framed hand-painted ceramic tile pieces above the sofa were inherited from her husband's father who passed away last year. "He used to travel to China a lot for work so his vast collection of Chinese antiques is now spread amongst Aaron's mom, us and Aaron's brother."
The masterful gallery wall includes a plethora of collected objects and works of art, including those of Canadian artists James Kerr and Dessa Harhay. Some bring up fond memories of life in Canada. "The hand-carved wooden moose head is from the Canadian Carver in rural Ontario. I drive from Montreal to Winnipeg every summer to the Winnipeg Folk Festival with my friend Marc Simard, where we sell our wares together. The Canadian Carver is an iconic roadside attraction," she says.
Johnson's dreamy space is perfect for entertaining friends and sampling an array of Californian wines, which she has discovered thanks to her proximity to Sonoma wine country. Falling for California came easily. "I love the fact that it feels like summer year round, even in the rainy season," Johnson says. "Marin County is so beautiful, with hiking trails just minutes from my front door and Stinson Beach about 45 minutes away. It's nature's paradise!" And a bohemian one, as well.