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style advisor

Prince Edward County hotelier Alex Fida says contrasting styles makes spaces feel unique and magical.Illustration by LAUREN TAMAKI

I’ve been fortunate to call Prince Edward County home for nearly 35 years. When my Swiss mom and Austrian dad immigrated to Canada in the late 1980s, they discovered the magic of the County and chose Bloomfield to set up their restaurant and motel, Angeline’s.

Being a queer European immigrant child in the Catholic school system in rural Ontario wasn’t always easy so I created a world of objects and spaces to escape any sense of judgment or fear. As a teenage, I would get dropped off at auctions and return home with a collection of vintage items that I would repair and resell in a little vintage shop I called Orange Alex. Being able to find discarded items and make them into desirable objects felt like my superpower.

When I was in my 20s, a move to Europe was calling me but my father’s sudden death led me back to the family business. Now, in my late 30s, I’ve had 16 springs, summers, falls and winters running the inn. Angeline’s is an unusual combination of structures: an Italianate house from the 1870s, 1950s motel and 1860s log cabin. Completely contrasting styles are what makes them magical and I attempt to let each structure tell its own story. When designing, I ultimately try to create spaces that I would enjoy. Since the interiors are such personal expressions of my inner self, they tend to evolve and change as I move and grow.

Hosting thousands of clients a year with a small team is incredibly rewarding but there is an intensity that challenges even the most seasoned in the hospitality industry. The division of personal and private spaces at the inn and my other property, House of Falconer – an Ontario cottage cum gothic structure in the heart of Picton – are very blurry for me. All of the objects, art and furnishings are part of my personal collection and are constantly flowing through spaces, never fully belonging to me.

I’ve found that stepping away completely from the business allows me to recharge my creative, mental and physical batteries so I’ve begun returning to Europe in the off-season and spending my late fall and winters seeking inspiration and personal connections.

Strong ancestral roots pull me back to Berlin. Its creative communities are experimental and progressive. It is a unique place where neighbourhoods show the scars of war and economic depressions yet rejuvenation is around every corner. The “alt bau” buildings wear graffiti like fresh tattoos.

Two hours north on the Autobahn is the hamlet of Mecklenburg and Gutshaus Rensow. Owners Kristina and Knut have stripped back centuries of alterations to reveal the original 17th-century manor house. Collections of stones, feathers, leaves and bones are treated with as much care as fine European furniture, linens and objects. It’s a maximalist space that feels rich and considered yet unstuffy, embracing decay, dust and cobwebs that add to its beauty.

A chance encounter in Picton led me to new friends who had recently moved to Hastings, East Sussex in the U.K. There, I was introduced to the magical houseware shop A.G. Hendy and Co. Alister Hendy is an accomplished chef, photographer, shopkeeper, stylist and collector. The exterior looks as though you have walked into the early 20th century and the interior is filled to the brim with vintage enamelware, handmade brooms and brushes. Its chaos is well organized and beautiful.

Nearby in Firle is the magical Charleston Farmhouse, an enchanted rural meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group. One of its stand-out features is hand-painted decoration by queer artist and resident Duncan Grant. Stunningly simple geometric patterns on the trim, walls and floors are softly lit by wavy-glass windows overlooking an expansive walled garden. Collections of primitive furniture, porcelain and freshly cut flowers adorn the spaces harmoniously.

Returning home from these places, I often feel inspired to explore bolder patterns, colours and textures. Objects and textiles from Berlin flea markets will travel in my carry-on and live among my other found treasures. I’m reminded to continue to embrace worn and softened elements and allow the weird and wonderful to come forward.

It is these extraordinary experiences that give me the courage to push the boundaries of my aesthetic and continue to collect and create the layered environments I share with my guests. But their effects are also more personal. I have come to realize that this exploration of things and spaces is an exploration of my own internal “home,” and it helps me understand the collection of quirks that make me who I am.

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