Blue Panda is committed to supporting the visibility and growth of the local business community. This month we decided to spotlight the talented Rnea Garrah of Iron & Ivory, an Ottawa-based interior design company she runs alongside Kayla Pongrac.


What inspired you to begin in interior design, and what is it like operating your business in Ottawa?

From a young age I have always loved decorating and design. After graduating with a social work and psychology degree I worked in the field for 10 years, growing a bit tired and looking for a change. With continued interest in design the next step made sense. I applied for the design program and took it from there. Watching people like Sarah Richardson grow her business from one person to a huge design firm was very inspiring. I wanted to learn the theory behind the designs, and what it takes to make a design beautiful, functional, and sustainable.

Now, I don’t have much time for TV at all, instead I’m keeping busy growing my business here in Ottawa. It’s been a lot of fun meeting people in the community. Almost everyone I have done work with has referred RAI design to another friend or family member, keeping my business busy and my network ever-growing. My most recent change has been partnering with another inspiring artist/designer/architect, Kayla Pongrac, as we share the same visions and goals to grow our business here in Ottawa and other cities worldwide. We will be changing our business name to Iron and Ivory. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have a partner to share inspiration with, share the workload, and to help our clients achieve beautiful spaces.


How would you describe your creative vision?

In this day in age we are constantly being influenced by the media, learning what everyone else has done. So when a project is just starting it is very important to me to ask a lot of questions to get a feel for what the client wants in their project. The creative vision comes after collecting answers. From that point, I will do a lot of reading or online sourcing to compile different materials that will form a unique design space. I make it my goal to create a space that will stand the test of time, and has a “wow” factor or feature accent that captures the eye.


What was your approach to designing our brokerage office?

Designing Blue Panda was a lot of fun, as Maxime was a very enthusiastic client to have. I asked him a lot of questions and presented him with an array of mood board photos. Maxime was excited with the direction, so the project moved fairly quickly. We really wanted a place that represented his new business approach, a place that is classy, contemporary, with some fun elements. Designing the office took an entire team, and without everyone it wouldn’t exist as we had experts doing millwork, painting, rope installation, concrete polishing and design.


What are some of the new technologies, materials, finishes or even design concepts you are enthusiastic about, and how do they influence your creative vision?

New technologies and materials are always exciting for designers. Using innovative products in projects brings a unique design element to the space, usually creating conversations and “buzz,” which is the goal. Any customer hiring a designer is looking to us to show them new products or suggestions that will make their project better, whether its for beauty or functionality. From finishes on walls, such as new tiles, new finishes, to new smartphone devices or appliances that make life easier. Here are few noteworthy products:

Lutron Serena Shades. I learned about this on, a great site for designers to stay in the loop with new products for our clients. These are essentially roller shades, but much more advanced than the typical remote shade, with dding iOS app controls and now an Apple HomeKit integration. Plugged into a home Internet router, the Smart Bridge adds an impactful automation tool, one benefiting not only home privacy/security, but also interior temperature regulation throughout the summer.

Peel and stick wallpaper. Anyone that has had to remove old wallpaper has probably vowed to never again use it again. However, now companies are making wallpaper application like a sticker rather than glue, making it much easier to remove. A company worth noting is called ZNAK wallpaper, they have created wallpaper using fun shapes that you can tear off, to customize your wall design.