University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Mia Parres

Class of 2008 – Innis, USP

Mia Parres is an Innis alumna whose focus at University of Toronto was on fine arts, architecture, and urban planning. After her time at the U of T, Mia furthered her education at the Architecture Association in London, England; at Parsons, The New School of Design, in New York City, and then returned to the city to study at Ryerson University. Mia’s design capabilities range from satisfying the functional needs of the everyday, relatable, and budget-conscious client on HGTV’s The Expandables, to fulfilling the aesthetic dreams of her high-end clients across Ontario and the United States with Sarah Richardson Design.

What were your programs of study while at U of T (i.e., minors, majors, specialist)?

My first year at U of T started with a direction of architecture and drama. Once my years progressed I became a Fine Art History major and studied Urban Planning and Architecture in most of my courses.

In a few words, please outline your career path. What inspired you to pursue your current career?

I originally wanted to be an architect; after leaving U of T with a great background and breadth of knowledge in that field, I went on to study a more hands on approach at the Architecture Association in London, England.

Afterwards, I attended Parsons, The New School of Design, in New York City to study Interior Design and Lighting, and finally, I completed a four-year degree in Interior Design at Ryerson University.

I was also inspired by my mother, who is a U of T Masters Graduate in Fine Art History, and my father, who is a theme park architect.

How did your time at Innis College influence your career?

Innis helped me get involved in the surrounding architectural culture of the city, as well as be a part of the campus life with my friends and professors. It was a great beginning to my independence as a young woman.

What types of challenges do you face as a designer?

As a designer, a typical challenge that I face daily is balancing my design aesthetic with the needs of my clients. Although it can be challenging, it is something I’ve grown to really love. When you have a happy client, it’s an incredible feeling!

What is the Expandables? Please describe the process to you had to experienced to be selected as a host of the show.

The Expandables is a fun and relatable show about families overcoming the construction and design challenges in their home, and ultimately changing the way their lives’ function. They call on Rob Evans and I, as experts, to give them the new foundation they need to start living their best life; this includes tearing down the walls, and starting with a clean design slate.

A few years ago, the production team approached Rob and I while we were both working in our respective fields of design and construction. They wanted to create a show that hadn’t been done before and they enjoyed our dynamic and banter. Throw in our construction team, our approachable homeowners and a lot of fun moments and you have The Expandables!

How does designing on a television show differ from designing for your everyday client?

Our team for The Expandables are used to working with client needs for families with a few kids, a lot of chaos, and a quick turn around. Our budgets are usually dependant on the needs of the client and what the family can afford, and our team makes all the furniture and finishes relatable to an audience with similar issues and goals. In my every day job, with Sarah Richardson Design, we work with high end residential clients, from downtown Toronto, to Muskoka, to Ottawa, and all over the U.S. Our budgets range from a single bathroom renovation, to an entire house, and one of our main goals is to give the client everything they can dream of!

What is the most important lesson you have learned during your career?

Always be hungry to learn. There is a saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”, but I think it is important to be “Jack of all trades, master of as many as you can be!” I’m inspired by the world around me, as well as my design mentors.

While attending UofT, which, if any, extra-curricular activities were you involved with outside of the classroom (e.g., clubs, teams, volunteerism, on-campus employment)?

Even though I am from Toronto (Riverdale area), it was important to me to live on campus and be immersed in campus life as much as possible. I loved being a part of all of the ongoing activities and volunteering wherever there was an opportunity to give back.

Did you participate in any “experiential learning” opportunities as a student (e.g., fieldwork, international experience, internships)?

I participated in as many experiential learning opportunities as possible. One of the best ways I found to this was to find smaller class sizes in my upper years. It gave me the opportunity to get to know my professors as well as my fellow classmates and really have the full experience from each diverse learning experience.

What is your favourite memory from your time spent at Innis College?

One of my favourite memories from my time spent at Innis College was the on-campus living experience. I lived right on St. George, in Innis Residence, in the heart of downtown Toronto, and it was a wonderful time in my life.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with current Innis students?

My best advice to current Innis students would be to immerse yourself in as much as possible. Get involved with the city, the school, the diverse range of classes, and see your time at Innis as a chance to grow as an overall dynamic and inspired person. Innis is a wonderful foundation to begin your journey as a student of life!

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