How family heirlooms, a love of vintage & life in Muskoka helped Ebb & Flow founder, Devon Specht, shape the Brand
Interview by Emma Johnston-Wheeler
When I first met Devon and her brand, Ebb & Flow, one of the first things she described to me was the influence of her mother, Jennifer, and her grandmother, Maureen, two creative forces in her life with an equal appreciation for beautifully styled interior design.
The pieces that Devon inherited from her grandmother have in many ways laid the ground work for the Ebb & Flow vision. They come from a time when furniture was crafted by hand. They are simple, yet meticulously detailed. They’re ‘timeless’, and that may just be Ebb & Flow’s standout value. Devon’s products are made and styled with the same love and care that her grandmother instilled in her as a child. But to really understand the magic that Devon’s pieces are inspired by, you need to know her relationship with them (and her family) more personally.
Devon, a self a proclaimed antique collector and thrifter, has a number of cherished pieces in her home which she inherited from her grandparents. In fact, she can place the first time she saw each item in her grandparent’s Muskoka home, where she spent so much of her time as a child. The pieces carry the same nostalgic words that Devon shared with me after her recent overnight trip to the historic Sherwood Inn on Lake Joseph, in Muskoka. It’s been nearly 10 years since she could spend any proper time there, as she told me, painting a scene of her sitting in a big Muskoka chair on the point, looking out at Lake Joe with a friend. All of her childhood memories of this place, which she still considers home, seemed to swell to the surface during her brief visit.
The way Devon describes her memories of the furniture in her grandparent’s home, or in the clothing store that her grandmother owned for many years in Bracebridge, is the same way that so many of us recall those magical cherished items that we’ve come to collect from generations before us. I see myself as a child fawning over a gold locket in my grandmother’s jewellery box, that now sits in my own, and I feel the same nostalgia and love that inspires all of the Ebb & Flow products. I asked Devon more about this feeling and the vintage pieces that inspire her brand.
Can you describe your memories of your grandmother and the style that continues to influence you today?
Devon: “Everything that I remember from my childhood, whether in my grandmother’s store or house, is beautifully styled and high quality. I can picture the spare room that my sister and I stayed in at her house, with two twin beds in Laura Ashley (an English brand). My grandma would never just put a comforter on a bed, there was a bed skirt, a matching fitted sheet, floral pillow cases, accent pillows and an extravagant decorative pillow at the front…Everything was beautifully appointed but not in an unapproachable way, it was just a lovely house to be in.”
Of Devon’s most treasured vintage pieces, she recalls the gold lipstick holder that used to live in the guest bathroom on the second floor of her grandmother’s house.
“She had on the wall beside the bathroom sink, this three tier glass and metal shelf that was so ornate and delicate. She had her collection of glass perfume bottles on one tier of the shelf, and on the other tier this beautiful lip stick holder. When I think of how chaotic life is now (because we’re all so busy and juggling a million things) I think of myself waking up late, stumbling to the bathroom with half a bagel in my mouth, trying to put makeup on and rush out the door. But when I think of this lipstick holder, and how everything was styled in this bathroom, I see my grandmother mindfully selecting a perfume from the top shelf and then carefully selecting a lipstick.”
Devon and I reflected on that ritual, how it was as meticulous and careful as the quality of the lipstick holder. “What I have taken away from that experience,” says Devon, “is a personal joy for living a beautifully styled life.” She talked about the thought that she puts into setting her dinner table, or decorating her book shelves, and table tops. “You could have a bar for example,” she tells me, “lets say you have a bottle of Gin, Rum and Whisky on that bar, that’s fine, but take three crystal decanters and put the alcohol in those and visually it becomes stunning. That sense of ritual, selecting your choice liquor from the crystal decanter and pouring yourself a cocktail in a beautiful cocktail glass - that experience gives me joy.”
In glimpsing the memories behind Devon’s most treasured items, it really comes across how in awe she is of each of the pieces. Even though all of them now serve a function in her home, they still carry the same magic they had when she was child seeing them in her grandparent’s house. In fact, Devon’s absolute favourite piece of furniture is her grandparent’s coffee table. She laughs telling me that it’s size makes it somewhat un-functional by modern standards, but she loves it all the same.
“This particular table is maybe 3 by 2 feet, but it’s such an interesting and delicate accent. The frame is molded to look like bamboo and the whole thing is gold plated with a glass top. It used to be in my grandparents living room with an atlas, a couple of magazines or a Muskoka history book sitting on top of it. I can picture my grandfather in that room lying on the couch beside the coffee table, wearing his slacks and golf shirt, with his glasses on reading a book. Even though it’s not that functional, I would never let it go. I’ve moved it to five different apartments now.”
A similarly ornate mirror inherited from her grandmother now takes it’s home in Devon’s apartment. “It’s kind of simple,” she says, “a beveled wood frame with a carved design, painted gold.”
As Devon continued to walk me through her favourite pieces, pulling up pictures of her carefully designed home on her phone, the timeless nature of the furniture/decor that her grandmother collected became more and more evident. She showed me another cherished piece, a vintage silver plant stand, and pointed out how funny it is that this trend is resurfacing. “Its been blowing my mind lately,” she exclaims, “that every home décor store I go into, there’s one of these stands right at the front, with beautiful pots sitting in it, and I can still remember this one sitting in my grandmother’s house as a kid.”
“If you want to live a well styled life,” says Devon, “I think the natural draw is to source products from a time when things were made very well. Having well designed furniture in my home has made me more aware of the value of investing in higher quality items.” She’s reminded of a couple of wool blankets, with satin lining at the top and bottom and a woven tag from an English company, that she also inherited from her grandparents. The quality really is in small details like that, she explains. “The tags I use for our Ebb & Flow blankets are woven as well. With things like that, I always remember my grandmother and I think, if I can’t make something that’s high quality, then I’m not making it. I wouldn’t put a cheap tag on my pillows to save twenty cents.”
Devon finishes off the interview by telling me more about Muskoka and her memories there as a child. “It’s hard to explain the connection to my soul that I feel when I’m on the water in Muskoka, in between the pine trees”, she says… “but it’s similar to the feeling I get when I see and use these pieces.” Each ‘timeless treasure’ in Devon’s home takes her back to the time that she spent with her family in Muskoka - memories that continue to inspire her value for beautiful design today.