Old Style | Next to the gas fireplace, an antique card-filing cabinet holds finished jewellery filed by style and colour

Old Style | Next to the gas fireplace, an antique card-filing cabinet holds finished jewellery filed by style and colour

Corner Office | Alexandra’s inspiration board is “ever-changing,” as is her desk, which adjusts for sitting or standing

Corner Office | Alexandra’s inspiration board is “ever-changing,” as is her desk, which adjusts for sitting or standing

Make an Entrance | With the business expanding, the sitting area may be converted to an office for a new employee

Make an Entrance | With the business expanding, the sitting area may be converted to an office for a new employee

Work Stations | In the jewellery-making and production area, tools hung from pegboard are in easy reach

Work Stations | In the jewellery-making and production area, tools hung from pegboard are in easy reach

Design Studio | Alexandra planned the studio renovation herself, giving her a new appreciation for interior designers

Design Studio | Alexandra planned the studio renovation herself, giving her a new appreciation for interior designers

When jeweller Leah Alexandra went in search of studio space, she found a diamond in the rough tucked inside a historic Gastown building

Up until two-and-a-half years ago, jeweller Leah Alexandra and her employees worked out of her Kitsilano home. When they finally outgrew the space, Alexandra started an office search—looking at one depressing specimen after another before settling on an 870-square-foot unit for sale in Bodega Studios on Carrall Street in Gastown. “When I bought it, it had actually been on the market for six months,” she says. “No one wanted it.”

One of the oldest brick buildings in Vancouver, the Bodega Hotel was built in 1889 and converted to live-work lofts above street-level commercial space in 1992. Alexandra—who says she could “see past all the dumpiness”—decided to retain the wood floors but gutted everything else, installing a new kitchen, bathroom and lighting, and creating an open work space. “Everyone who works here gets along,” says Alexandra. “We have a really great energy. I feel like being in a space that’s so beautiful, it fuels the creative process.”

Alexandra—who celebrates the 10th anniversary of her business in 2016—has three full-time staff: two jewellery makers plus a studio manager who handles orders and shipping. Luca, her six-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, is a regular fixture.

The floor plan is straightforward: production and shipping stations line up along one wall, tools hang from pegboard over the desks, and drawers of all sizes hold jewellery in various stages from in progress to ready to ship. Gems are organized by colour, and coloured sticky notes indicate orders for different retailers.

Flex tables in the centre are used for meetings, and Alexandra designs new prototypes at her desk beside the window. “I’m not the best drawer,” she says. “I just like to play around with the stones, actually hold things and play around with different combinations.”