- Words and Photographs by Lia Crowe
Driven, ambitious, sharply intelligent and radically dedicated to inclusivity and equal opportunity, Ann Squires Ferguson is reshaping the foundation of the construction and design industries in Victoria and beyond.
Just this fall, she became sole owner of Western Design+Build in addition to her positions as CEO and senior interior designer, the latest on a long list of accomplishments in a career she came to by “an indirect path.”
Prior to going back to school for interior design, Ann finished out her service with the Navy as an electromechanical engineer specializing in weapons, and signed on with an audio engineering company that worked with musicians and performing artists around the world.
She watched her colleagues get pumped about their projects, and soon realized “there had to be something that I would be that passionate about.”
She says, “To discover interior design took a lot of exploration and evening classes. I learned that it was far more than paint chips and pillows. You’re interfacing with architects and engineers, and it was that technicality and coming together at the apex of design that really appealed to me.”
She had a job before she graduated, and worked with Victoria’s “godfather of design” JC Scott for a decade before joining the ranks at Western Design+Build.
While it’s common for residential firms to handle both design and construction, “Western is very unique because it’s a design+build company on the commercial side,” says Ann.
This brings up one of their other unique features: they’re entirely female-owned and operated.
“We have a kick-ass group of women, which is pretty rock ’n’ roll in the construction industry. There’s a lot of attitude and there’s a lot of tattoos,” she says with a laugh. “But they’re able to serve the clients in a really caring and devoted way, and then go and interface with the trades and earn their complete respect on the construction sites.”
She adds, “What I’m most proud of there is making the construction industry a more inclusive place.”
She loves that sense of breaking the mould.
“I don’t look like a contractor and neither do my staff,” she says. “There are a lot of people who don’t fit the mould and yet they’re fantastic at what they do.”
Ann also recently purchased Design District Access, and is poised to make some big changes there too.
“If we can open up the construction industry to women and the LGBTQ and Indigenous communities, and there’s a path there, then what’s the next step on the residential side? Interior design is often seen as a luxury, or there’s an exclusivity to it, so now we’re opening it up to literally everyone,” she says.
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
Six-year-old Annie’s bare feet, making mud pies and plucking wildflowers on the banks of the Stikine River in northern BC. I grew up in a log cabin, deep in the forest with no electricity or running water, and yet somehow with everything to stoke an imagination full of beauty and adventure! To be able to go back to that idyllic place, running free under the big sky, is true freedom.
What is the food you could eat over and
Ice cream. That delicious shiver with the creamy sweetness of pralines and crème, the luscious bitterness of double dark chocolate, the sharp edge of lime, the crunch of maple walnut.
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
Fresh flowers in every room, every day for the rest of my life. I worked as a florist for a year, long before my Navy and interior design careers, and I have never forgotten that feeling of being bathed in blooms—the earth’s way of laughing.
Lack of courtesy. It costs us nothing to be kind to one another, to be accommodating and gracious, to smile at a stranger, to use our manners, to clear our plates, to tidy that counter or wipe that spill. Small kindnesses every day make this world so much more bearable for all of us.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
The tub. My baths are my sanctuary, where no one dares interrupt, where I while away the hours frivolously. It is the one place I give myself permission to cease striving and not justify my existence in any way.
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
To have raised two kids who are kind, intelligent, articulate and capable. Our 11-year-old twins amaze me every day with their creativity, insight and humour, and to have any small part in enabling their journey of self-creation is at times both overwhelming and the greatest honour.
What makes your heart beat faster?
Being the object of desire. My husband learned long ago that those long slow kisses, while dancing, swaying to the groove together, is the way to transport me to another universe of sensuality and passion.