Carmen’s Corner

Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Sunday, March 31, 2013


This is one of the questions I get all the time. How do I choose warm paint colors if my kitchen finishes are cool? Or vice versa.

There is this idea that once you have selected your kitchen cabinets, countertop and backsplash in cool tones you are stuck with the cool paint colors throughout.
This is also very important for real estate agents when they show a condo unit that is all ‘cool’ and potential buyers seem to be against cool color tones.

Well, there is always a solution :) or almost always. While certain finishes combos allow for a mix & match of cool and warm tones, others seem to just simply work better if you stay in one range.

Let's have a look at some of the options…

You see the ‘scotch maplekitchen cabinets, with kashmir gold granite countertop? Many of you may be tempted to go with warm orange-sandy colors throughout. In fact, just by incorporating a cool tone backsplash (like the dark charcoal one shown- which is one of the color tones you actually find in the granite) you can play with a wide range of cool paint colors that will only make your cabinets and countertop pop and stand out as a vibrant accent in your kitchen area.

Another example is the off white kitchen cabinet doors. Off white is usually preferred (vs pure white) by people who prefer warm colors. When you pair off white kitchen cabinets with dark brown granite countertop and matching backsplash, you have both options on hand- to use off white paint colors and make the kitchen cabinets blend while the countertop & backsplash will stand out OR you can go the opposite direction, use cooler darker paint colors close to the backsplash and make the cabinets stand out.
The advantage of using granite countertops is that they almost all have a wide range of color hues which allow you to play with the paint colors and go from cool to warm in an instant!

One of the 'preferred choices'  in selecting your upgrades is to use the same countertop finish for the basksplash. Whether it is slab (best option if possible) or tiles of the exact same type of granite, it will allow you to create a kitchen with a very ‘clean’ look.

However, as this may not always be the option, you have to think about your final outcome:

-       Do you want the kitchen cabinets, countertop and backsplash to be tone on tone and paint colors much darker or lighter? With this option your entire kitchen will stand out and could create quite a statement! This option is great for “U” and “L” shape kitchens.

-       Do you want the kitchen cabinets and countertop to stand out and backsplash to match (or go with) the paint colors? This option is great for linear kitchens.

-       Do you want the countertop and backsplash to be close in color and the kitchen cabinets to be much lighter or darker? Then you have the option to either visually connect your paint colors with the countertop & backsplash OR with the cabinets. 2 different options, 2 different looks! This option is also great for linear kitchens, however it works well with all other kitchen layouts especially when you have a reasonable amount of closed doors cabinets.


One more tip- the smaller your kitchen is, I recommend less changes in finishes and colors in the kitchen space. If you think about it, appliances take quite a bit of space and break down the overall look (that if you don’t have panel ready appliances) and the intent is to keep the overall look of your kitchen quite simple and not overdone so there is more visual space for your small appliances, accessories etc.

like I said....this should be fun! :)

Monday, February 18, 2013



As you may already know the color of the year is Emerald Green. There is so much to do with an intense color tone like this one. As spring is approaching many of you may opt to incorporate this color in your new palette and there are several ways to do it.
First of all my advice is to use this color Not just because it is color of the year but because it is one of your favorites colors. Some may find color green re-energizing, cheerful, a way of self-expression, adding creativity, as well as soothing the nervous system. Green is the color of nature, peace, harmony and well-paced energy. Depending of the shade of green and the color combinations you use for the entire space, green can create some very dramatic spaces!
You have to first think of the influence this color has on you and design accordingly.

Here’s what I mean:

1.    If you need to create an energizing space, it is important to choose the right shade of green (cooler tones and more vibrant) as well as the amount of this color used in your space. It is a balancing act to add color to a space (small or large), though usually when the goal is to create more energy within a space, the punch of color has to be impactful.
     You can either frame a linear kitchen as in this white and walnut contemporary kitchen where the “L” feature and the exposed wall behind upper cabinets is creating a true punch of color and brings more energy into the kitchen space area.
Few green colors tones from Benjamin Moore that would fall into this category are (you can find them in both the Canadian and the American sample kit).
You can create more soothing spaces with the warm sandy tones and green combo, or more dramatic spaces with the pewter, ebony and green combo.

      2. Adding creativity, a way of self-expression- many opportunities here, from using green in artwork and accessories as in this image from no other than the Pantone Design Hotel inBrussels.

     I personally think this is the easiest way to not just create a very personal space but to layer the tones of green to allow for mixing in other colors later on when you decide to infuse other color tones.
     Accessorizing the space with small and large easy to change furnishings is one way of introducing color in the most impactful way especially when talking small condo spaces.
     From area rugs to throw pillows, vases, light fixtures, artwork, wall clocks,  stools, bedding, when placed in key areas throughout your space, they can help you personalize your space and bring uniqueness into every small detail.


3. Creating dramatic spaces-any bright color and/or contrasts can add a touch of drama to a bedroom, bathroom. The key is to layer colors, patterns and textures.

     Here are a few great examples! It’s all about scale, proportions, color and the right décor approach. Take a look at how wallpaper can dramatically create a certain dynamic and vibrant look as in these images of some of the rooms at Hôtel Design de la Sorbonne in Paris.
Different pattern wallpaper creates completely different looks, yet as the contrast is evident the dramatic effect is instant.

Here is another example of dramatic spaces using color green- Wanderlust Hotel in Singapore. In fact this space is both dramatic and energizing, sometimes a fine line between the two when designing.

For a calming and soothing design effect, the approach has to consider a warmer hue of green and warm taupes/grays/browns or a lot of white and small green accents. There are many other options, but these two would be the easiest to describe in just a few words.

For example, using white primarily as your design and décor direction, green can be either used for large surfaces (as this lime green wallpaper or this sea green wallpaper), OR if your white room has plenty of natural light, you can even try a green sofa and lots of fresh green plants.

For the ‘all white lovers’, here are a few examples of how white and a touch of green (fresh green plants and outdoors) can create a very refreshing space.

The best part is actually when you can create your ‘green’ design from inside out. Creating an environmentally friendly space can be the best part of your design. From recycled materials like glasss mosaic, to reclaimed wood (flooring and furniture pieces) - yes you can make your own reclaimed wood dining table! to low VOC paints, mixing a “green design” with a green décor should be a win- win design formula!

A green interior is about making healthier choices with the materials you use in your home when building or updating your design or decor.

A green interior is simply about creating a healthier indoor environment.
No matter which green tone you go with, have fun creating your new space just in time for spring!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Every year I look forward to the furniture show in Milan! Really great design ideas from furniture, to lighting, to kitchens and this year it was special! Why? Because I finally got to see some furniture & kitchen solutions for small spaces.

You see… all furniture trade shows showcase exquisite pieces of furniture but many of them could not even fit through the narrow corridors of many of the condo units built in North America.

However, this year I was impressed by the Kitchen show especially by one company who introduced a really tiny & compact kitchen.

It was a show stopper- could barely take pictures :) as it was always crowded around it.

What I like about this kitchen called Ecocompatta from Veneta Cucine  is not only that is compact but it's also sustainable and good looking :)

It comes in either white or black, but the idea will probably be soon incorporated in different other finishes in some of the very small condos. The concept is that in an open space, the kitchen can literally be hidden and can look more like a piece of furniture rather than a utilitarian space.

Ecocompatta is basically a kitchen module. The main body consists of a work plan with stove and sink and above the dish rack, shelves and remote hood. The complete two sliding doors are designed to house freezer, refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and steam oven, sliding drawers and cabinets and a system for recycling waste.

The principle of sustainability is also expressed through the use of antibacterial materials.

The supporting structure of the kitchen, formed by two elements wired inside to allow the passage of cables, is made of antibacterial laminate, as well as the bottoms of the drawers, the partition walls and the shelves.

The damper is available in the manual and the motorized, operated with a special remote control and once closed the kitchen can blend in your overall living/dining space.

The frame which accommodates the appliances, industrial patents of Venetian cuisine, allows the use of models of appliances already on the market.

The hood, integrated in the central part so as to not be visible, has a flow rate of 800 cubic meters / hour and is operated by remote control.

Few other kitchen manufacturers showcased interesting compact kitchens hidden by large sliding doors. I noticed 2 major trends in the kitchen vignettes showcased in Milan.

- one of kitchens fully integrated-  where appliances and even countertops are hidden behind sliding and retractable doors that basically make the kitchen look like a piece of furniture and so very easy to be integrated within the overall look of your condo space.

Here's a nice example of how kitchen becomes connected with the dining and/or living space adjacent to it. This layout is very common in condo plans and the open space becomes visually more of a living space yet with all functions of kitchen/dining/living.

- 2nd trend is the one represented by large and open kitchens where you see most of everything you have in the kitchen from glasses, plates, herbs- it's almost like a living kitchen.
I think this trend will also be embraced by some developments in the design of larger condo spaces or for a house with a contemporary and lofty look.
It is more of a messy look(as some would call it) but it sure has its charm and the casual look gives more of an understated look very suitable for families who want to prepare meals and enjoy the good food and the good wine with friends around the kitchen island.

One other feature that caught my eye is the cabinet doors finished to resemble a cement or concrete look, continued also on the countertop and backsplash.

A very neutral and cohesive look that basically makes the kitchen visually disappear, but then you can always add a bar counter in a vibrant finish and think of all the small accessories- if they are all within the same color palette the overall look could be pretty cool!!
So if you're renovating your old condo or a new house you have recently purchased think of incorporating some of the latest kitchen trends, I believe they are here to stay!