I was on a family trip to Vancouver recently, strolling through the historic Gastown district, when I came across a fascinating shoe store. Unlike the other trendy shops in the neighborhood, John Fluevog was literally created out of an alleyway.

Exposed brick walls, concrete floors, track lighting and a pitched glass ceiling defined a space that was cleverly outfitted to showcase the Canadian designer’s shoes, which were displayed on everything from baker’s racks to tables hewn from tree trunks. While my daughter looked at the footwear, I spent the entire time admiring the architecture and design details.


When I told some of the employees how much I appreciated the space, they told me they loved working in the natural light. I loved how the potted trees made the shop feel like a cool outdoor market.


John Fluevog, it turns out, came back to Canada following a successful career on the West Coast and opened his eponymous shop in his home-town. He’s been designing forward-thinking footware since the 1970s and his customers include Scarlett Johansson, the Beach Boys and Madonna.

Just seeing how unique his shoes were, I would bet money that Fluevog himself was very involved in the design of the space. Fluevog’s shoes are sculptural, with a look of Victorian grunge. There’s always something quirky and interesting that makes you look twice, whether it’s a chunky heel that seems to face backward, or an unusual cut or material.


I could appreciate how Fluevog wanted the space to reflect his design aesthetic, especially when I saw his quote on the wall. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to design shoes that don’t look like everyone else’s,” he said. “Doing things against the mainstream is a lot more fun.”

What a great way to put it. As you design your space, whether it’s your home or business, think about how you might showcase your personality in ways that are outside the box — or outside the shoebox!

Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit And keep up with Cathy’s dream home makeover at her photo blog, Homefront.