THE EQUALIZER OF FIGURE3
“My favourite aspect is being part
of a team of entrepreneurs and drawing
ideas out of everyone”
Having grown up on a farm with five brothers and sisters, Suzanne Wilkinson was raised in a very
traditional household where each member of the family played their part and were treated as a unit.
Today, she is a partner at Figure3 and seems to have a similar outlook on her leadership style.
“My favourite aspect is being part of a team of entrepreneurs and drawing ideas out of everyone,” says
Wilkinson. Since Figure3 works in various sectors, from high-rise condominium development to corporate
offices, there’s a lot of cross pollination. This is where Wilkinson’s strength of bringing together the
best in the business and pulling each individual’s expertise comes in handy to get the best results for
“People inspire me,” she says. “I’m fortunate enough to work with a lot of amazing talent. I get really
driven by working with a group of people with endless creative ideas.” Dominic De Freitas, a partner at
Figure3 describes Wilkinson as “the equalizer”. “Suzanne’s greatest ability as a leader is to instill trust
and independence. She guides you to discover the right answers without giving them to you,” he says.
For Wilkinson, the pre-planning stages of a project is the most important, which is where a lot of the
fusion of different people comes into play.
“The way I like to inspire my team is by really seeing what sparks that light in their eyes when they’re
working on a project,” she says. “If I see a designer that’s really interested in one aspect of the project,
I’ll encourage them to dig more, research more, go find new and exciting ways of solving that problem
and then bring it back to the team.” She describes her job as the conductor of those ideas to ensure
that there’s one cohesive design coming out of the team.
Wilkinson had an interest in interiors since she was a little girl. Her first exposure was in high school
where she took a woodshop class and had the opportunity to work with materials by hand. “It really got me into understanding forms and objects, and working with materials such as wood; it sparked my interest in further exploring design,” explains Wilkinson, who originally was thinking of pursuing a
business degree. Her father was a big influence on her choosing to pursue interior design and learning
the business first hand as she continues her journey in the industry.
Wilkinson is one of four partners at Figure3, and the only woman. When asked what her experience
has been like as a woman in design, she gracefully responded with: “I don’t really focus on specifically
being a woman in business or this industry. I focus more on what I have to offer as a business person
with my partners and as a leader in design with my designers. I see myself as an equal to all genders
that I work with.” Even outside of the office, Wilkinson continues to design – this time a passion project
of her own. “Design is really something you live and experience – you breathe it all the time,” she says.
After purchasing a property in Roncesvalles, where she lives with her husband and three kids, the
opportunity to build a laneway house arose, and the couple jumped at the challenge.
“It really got me into understanding forms
and objects, and working with materials
such as wood; it sparked my interest in
further exploring design”
“Design is really
something you live
and experience –
you breathe it all
A laneway house is a home built in your backyard off of a driveway. Wilkinson says it’s a very
unique opportunity and it’s a way for her and her husband to leverage her design experience
and his construction experience to build this custom home for their family.
“This is a passion project for my husband and I,” she says. “We really love urban dwelling and
the idea of finding new and innovative ways of living in our growing city.” The couple decided to
engage architectural firm Williamson Williamson Inc. to realize the vision.
“One of the luxuries I’ve allowed myself to have is to be a client for once,” she says. “And have
our own personal visions listened to by a professional to help us along.”
She describes her own design style to be very clean and simple, but well executed. This will be
evident in her laneway house, which she says will be very modern but with a twist. Natural,
locally-sourced materials will be incorporated into the design. And in order to integrate the
house seamlessly into the neighbourhood, Toronto-made red brick was chosen for the exterior.
“I’ve really enjoyed the process of being a client and working with others,” she says. “Again, it’s
about drawing upon other people’s expertise to create the best result possible.”