Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Most small spaces condo owners have a dilemma if they should decorate their space for holidays or not. If you celebrate Christmas, you know that Christmas decorations warm up our spaces during the most festive season of the year. You also know that it will make your space a bit more crowded but you still can’t help it and add a few decorations. While real Christmas trees are not allowed in many of the new condos (as they pose a fire hazard), there are plenty of décor ideas that should make your space look “holiday ready”. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukah, this season should mostly be a season filled with sparkle, warmth, happiness, love and joy...
The first area is your FRONT DOOR and FOYER AREA: as small as that space is, you can place a wreath on the front door and you can find place for a mirror with a shelf placed right underneath where you can place some festive candles and voila, it already feels festive. Depending how large the foyer is, you may choose to group some of your holiday cards here.

One of the tricks of decorating a small space is to keep a color palette uniform throughout. We will talk about color trends for 2010 in the first weeks of the New Year, but before then keep in mind that the smaller the space it is the simpler the color choices should be. If you are planning to mix lights and hanging ornaments, try using one color throughout or max 2 colors, depending on the number of colors used for the furniture and furnishings you already have in the space.

Once you enter in the KITCHEN/DINING/LIVING open space (most common for many of the condo layouts) you should be able to see the decorations as a focal point in the space if you use a Christmas tree or as an accent used throughout the space. Another trick for making your condo space holiday ready is to group the decorations close together and create hot spots, for example: if you have a console table that could be a feature, or an end table in the corner of the living room, even better a fireplace area (regardless is a traditional one with a mantle or a wall mounted feature).

Lights are very important for holiday decoration as they add that sparkle that makes the entire space look festive. You can work wither with various candle holders or even decorative Christmas trees like this one from Crate & Barrell  
In the dining area, place center pieces with either a bowl filled with glass decorations and lights, or candles or other décor elements but keep in mind the color scheme.

As noted in a previous blog related to small condos spaces, working with height is probably one of the easiest ways to make the space look larger. Use a tall but narrow Christmas tree, if you use a wreath - accessorize it with long ribbons or greenery hanging down. If you use center pieces for the dining table or even an accent piece for the bar counter, play with the height so they make a statement in the space.
For more Christmas decorations inspirational ideas, let’s see how Martha Stewart is decorating her home!
And the most important trick, is to keep your space filled with JOY & LAUGHTER. I assure you that among all other tricks and tips, these two will make the most of your festive season. May the spirit of the holidays warm your heart and home...
Watch this for a good start :)

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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:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Small Condo Spaces

Let’s clarify one thing from the start- there is nothing wrong with small spaces. In fact, there are many large condo spaces that lack human scale and there are plenty of small spaces that make the best use of space. Floor space as square footage is not the only factor that is taken into consideration when trying to make the best use of any space.

It is the 3 dimensional aspects that buyers should consider. I have met with lots of clients who requested my advice prior to buying a condo and after going to several sales centres we sat down to discuss each floor plan. The only thing that they were considering is the square footage and price per sq.ft. While this is probably one of the most important factors to consider when making your investment, there are several other factors that need to be addressed prior to. Because when it comes to small spaces, everything needs to be functional.

With a smart design approach, a very small bedroom can be intimate and restful and a small kitchen can produce great meals.

Form follows function- as famous American architect Louis Henri Sullivan stated in the early 1900s (his actual words: “form ever follows function”). And this is especially true when you apply it to working with small spaces. If you first focus on how you want to use each room, other considerations such as layout, furniture, lighting, colors fall easily into place.

Simply put, once you establish the function everything else will follow. Just to give few examples- if you enjoy cooking than kitchen is not just a place to prepare a quick meal it could become the focal point of the entire space. Most small places are open concept, so the kitchen can be that spot where you can cook, entertain, where you can watch tv while cooking, have few drinks with friends- in other words choose a layout that has one of the best kitchen layouts. If cooking is a hobby, state of the art appliances and trendy & functional finishes are necessary- think stain free countertop, easy to clean kitchen doors and backsplash, plenty of storage for all gadgets and utensils.

Think about your lifestyle for a second: do you spend a lot of time at home, if so which room will you spend most of your time in? Do you entertain at home? Are great views mandatory for your lifestyle? Is your sleep affected by the city noises? (consider streets traffic and light pollution and even the proximity to the garbage chute and elevator lobby on your floor).

If you live in a 550 sq.ft. condo and you think it's a small space, think again :)
Here is one great example of a very small space design based on function- 344sq.ft.

Mr. Chang, an architect, can impose 24 different layouts that on his 344-square-foot apartment, which he renovated last year. What appears to be an open-plan studio actually contains many rooms, because of sliding wall units, fold-down tables and chairs, and the habitual kinesis of a resident in a small space. As Mr. Chang put it, “I glide around.” Using shifting wall units suspended from steel tracks bolted into the ceiling, the apartment becomes all manner of spaces — kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, an enclosed dining area and a wet bar.

Check out Virginia Gardiner’s article published in The New York Times.
24 Rooms Tucked Into One

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