Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Talking about small spaces... you must have a pretty clear idea that small spaces could be quite rewarding, starting with cost of purchasing, cost of maintenance, great for resale in terms of value and marketing efforts. There are many reasons why a small space is a desirable space for many of first time buyers, single professionals and why not even for downsizers who have multiple residences in the world. There are definitely few factors to consider when looking for a small space, as not all of them are equally well presented either on paper (when considering buying pre construction condos) or in reality (when going to open houses currently available on the market).

Next time you go to an open house of a small space, look for these 3 elements and make at least mental notes on how you felt in that space: light, height and sight. Let’s dissect each element and see why it may potentially increase the value of your space.


Attracting more daylight through the windows will make a space- challenged condo unit appear larger and generally a more pleasant space to live in. The power of day light cannot be ignored anymore, especially when it comes to sustainable design. Natural light is part of our biological needs and we’re drawn to it for its variety- from the diffused light of a misty morning, to the intense brightness on a Caribbean beach to the clear hues on a cloudless mountaintop. The quality of sunlight changes throughout the day and gives us a different look of the same wall, flooring or piece of furniture. There are many techniques of controlling the amount of natural light a space receives, but what’s most important to understand is that the amount of light and its color affects our sense of well being. If you decide to buy a preconstruction condo, always ask questions about the size and the type of windows (remember- you only see the width of the window on a floor plan!) and pay attention to the orientation. Why not incorporating your lifestyle in the equation before making a decision? Are you a morning person who likes to get up early and maybe squeeze in a 20 min yoga session before going to work?- consider east orientation. West exposed rooms are sunniest in the afternoon and keep in mind that this light can be hot and harsh so it’s important to provide shading for these windows. South exposure gets sunlight for most of day while northerly rooms receive only indirect lighting and tend to appear cool-cold especially in the winter, however great for showcasing art. Keep the orientation in mind also when choosing your design style and colors! It will take more efforts to create a warm design feel to a northern exposure, I have worked with many clients who had the right key ingredients to their design but did not know how to play all elements of the space, and natural light may be one of those freebies that can help your design.


Here is another test you can do if you love going to condos open houses. Most condominiums have the same floor layout for all the units located on a typical floor, but ceiling height may not be the same. It’s interesting to see the same floor plan with an 8 foot (2.44m) ceiling and a 9 foot (2.75m) ceiling. I assure you that the latter will make the space feel larger (we assume both spaces are either empty or have an identical design) . Most condos have to have a dropped ceiling in certain areas like the kitchen, bathroom and sometimes even the foyer. The contrast between the dropped ceiling and the higher ceiling will actually make not just the higher space appear larger but the entire open kitchen/living area. The height of the space will also tremendously help the design elements (like window treatments, wall features, selection of light fixtures to name just a few) which if planned right will add even more appeal to your condo space.


If you already looked for a condo you noticed that the view could make a big difference in enjoying your condo lifestyle. Regardless your space has a balcony or not, the view is the connection between your enclosed space and the exterior space. It’s not a secret anymore that views are features that increase the value of a condo unit, skylines or park views and lake views are priceless especially in the condensed condo communities of the largest cities in the world. When talking about small spaces, having a view definitely has an impact of the overall quality of living and in addition to that a balcony will offer the advantage of being able to escape the small space and enjoy the fresh air and the sunlight.

Having these 3 elements considered and with the right design choices a small space can become quite a great finding, sometimes too hard to just pass by...

….talking about Light, Height and Sight…check out the Penguin House in Tokyo, see how the manipulation of light and space make this small house appear much larger, watch this video:

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