Rising Sun

From France in Old Shanghai to neoclassical Italy in Vancouver, Stella Sun divulges her journey to the helm of the interior design world.

Photo by Milos Tosic

Since she was 3 years old, Stella Sun has known she wanted to be a designer. “My parents loved beautiful things, beautiful furniture,” she says.

Growing up in Fǎ Zūjiè, a primarily French neighbourhood of Old Shanghai, Sun absorbed the area’s diverse culture. Yet China did not offer the educational opportunities she craved. Driven by her aspirations, she moved to California in 1960 to study art, and now designs high-end Vancouver homes.

Sun has a neoclassical, heavily Italian style, the markings of which include elaborately detailed furnishings, intricately carved woods, opulent fabrics and classical artwork.

Palladian architecture, she says, is of particular inspiration. It draws on the values of temple architecture in ancient Greece and Rome. “It’s very symmetrical and elegant, and lasts forever,” Sun says.

Sun is youthful and impeccably elegant at the age of 73 — it’s easy to assume she’s decades younger. And she’s endearingly straightforward. While she gives her clients “120 percent” and feels most rewarded when they are happy with their homes, she’s not afraid to say to them, “Are you crazy?” when they want something that won’t work.

Sun laughs and says, “They tell me, ‘That’s why we hired you, because you always tell us the truth.’ All my clients are my friends.”

Stella Sun’s favourite things

Absolute refinement defines Stella Sun in every aspect. Resplendent in an opulent yet classically elegant Valentino gown and strappy Jimmy Choos for a night out, she is the essence of flawless sophistication. The dark mystique of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium fragrance and silky Dior eyeshadow are her beauty staples, while a spacious monogrammed Louis Vuitton tote is a must for work essentials. Maui Jim sunglasses are Sun’s chic and practical choice in eyewear; and a stunning sapphire-and-diamond ring, an heirloom passed down from her mother, is her most cherished piece in the jewellery box. Inspired by the eternal beauty of Venice, Sun has spent many a night at its elaborately outfitted Gritti Palace hotel, her dependable Rimowa luggage and comfy travel shoes in tow. Old-world treasures are a constant source of joy, whether admiring a Niermann Weeks Sevigne antiqued-mirror table, or the 1894 Spring painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. And when her workday is over, downtime for Sun means a meal out at an exquisite Japanese restaurant — Manhattan’s Kappo Masa is an all-time fave — or relaxing with a soul-tugging read, such as We the Living, by Ayn Rand, and a favourite sweet treat of fine dark chocolate.