Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Monday, February 22, 2010


How can I design my very small den so it’s a home office, guest suite and provide additional storage? I get this question all the time! You’ve probably heard about multifunctional furniture, yes, this is one of the few solutions you have to consider when living in a small condo space.

A den in a condo is a space that can be anything from home office to library, music room, guest room, family room, dining room, nursery, child’s play room, breakfast area, home theatre, art lounge, entertainment area, walk in closet or maybe just shoe storage for all shoeaholics out there!

I’m sure you’ve heard of and seen a Murphy Bed, definitely a great idea for a small condo space. But there’s also the Hidden Bed. Isn’t it great to be able to convert the furniture layout from a daily use to a night use and to have a home office during the day that changes into a guest bedroom and even a children sleeping area (if you consider the bunk beds option). But what’s really great about it is that you don’t have to move anything from your desk while converting the desk into a bed.

“The Hiddenbed is a new revolutionary system that allows the construction of bed and desk furniture even in very small rooms, with style and comfort. Hiddenbed doubles your space. Objects up to 40cm high (standard) can remain on the desktop when the bed is in use (e.g. computer case, lamp, Hi-Fi devices, etc.). Removal of objects is not necessary!"  Read further….

This is an amazing concept and with few different design variations, this could become a "must have" item for a very small condo space. What’s interesting is its safe and smooth operation…Watch the video.

Next week, I’ll go over different design styles for one den space, stay tuned…

Until then, please email me your top 3 dilemmas about living in a small condo space, I'd love to answer your questions.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The idea of living "green" is clearly gaining ground these days.

In all aspects of your life, all of your actions, you may see things as beneficial or detrimental to the environment, or the ECO-logical system; we all live in that system and respecting it is really respecting ourselves. One way of being environmentally friendly is by using the 3 R's (reduce, reuse, and recycle),

The term environmentally friendly also means not harming the earth in production but also giving back to the earth in the process.

Talking about eco furniture- here is a company that didn’t have to go far to find its resources for eco furniture but instead they had to go deep into Venice waters.
 Briccole Venezia, this eco-friendly furniture design company is a part of the larger project wherein designers are instructed to use reclaimed wood from Venice’s waterways. Each uniquely designed piece of furniture of Briccole Venezia is made of boards cut from the post. Since using a reclaimed material, each piece is unique and can truly add personality to any condo space, small or large.

“Wood can be a planning obsession; solid wood belongs to architect’s “being able to do” before being a sort of imprinting for our design, for the Made in Italy, generally speaking.’ And being trained as an architect, I cannot agree more.
“Obtained from the original shape of the mooring post of the briccola, this stool represents the “basic” element of the “Briccole di Venezia” collection. The trunk is sectioned and smoothed at both ends whereas the vertical surface was expressly kept just as the sea had shaped it.” says Davide Riva. See how this amazing line of furniture is created…

When considering your condo design style, why not consider adding one eco piece of furniture or even designing around it and make it an accent that stands out and adds warmth to your space.

The key to living green is to just remember to take care of the earth in the same way we take care of ourselves, of our homes, working spaces, cars, streets etc. It is the new eco conscious YOU.

Our actions affect our eco-system. Other than light and heat, practically everything created on Planet Earth is destined to remain here. Common sense, a heavy dose of skepticism about product claims, and a desire to leave the world better than you found it are all the tools you need.

When looking for a condo, many of us consider ONLY the ones with a sustainable design. How about you consider decorating your new space with at least one item that is eco friendly? Why not start with your furniture? Make note of it next time you go shopping for furniture….until then, remember the 3R’s….reduce, reuse, recycle.

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Monday, February 8, 2010


Talking about small condo spaces, where were we? Ah, let me guess…you moved in and your space seems smaller than you thought. No need to panic, there are always solutions. As I pointed out before, each space is different because it is personalized by the person using the space has certain needs, design ideas, existing furniture to work with + each small space is different even if the layout is the same- did you read the post "3 IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A SMALL SPACE "? you can review it here…

Here are few more ideas that will help you bring style and comfort to your small space:

1. Layer the walls- use built in bookcases or shelves, then place furniture in front of them, use built-ins as a backdrop for art & photos.

2. Don’t be afraid of accent dark colors. A darker accent wall works well in a small space and creates a focal point, making the room feel bigger. Color can be a great tool. You can use it to energize a room, or create a soothing space. You can use it to make a personal statement which is otherwise hard to do when you have little room to stretch with decoration. Color can carve our distinct areas in a small space.

3. Light the room with track light and accent lights in the corner (table lamps or freestanding)- they appear light and will lighten up the corners.

4. Create thematic groups of favourite accessories, photos and artwork to add interest and depth to a small room.

5. Arrange your furniture to optimize space and traffic flow in your space. Functional is critical you have to be able to move around the space or it becomes claustrophobic. Furniture that can work in many settings where space saving is crucial to overall design.
It's great to see a fresh design that is multifunctional where the furniture can serve more than a singular purpose.
Multifunctional furniture is in constant development, it is interesting to watch how the manufacturers are following the “green” approach, as mentioned before, green with a consciousness is a big trend for 2010!

The flexible chair
This chair, created by the FlexibleLove furniture company, converts from seating one person to up to 16 people! Made from 100% recycled paper and wood waste, it is perfect for both small and large spaces.

If we can change the size of the furniture, why not change the size of the light fixtures? Watch this video showcasing the “Size changing lamp”.

Dining areas- I know, most small condo spaces don’t have a well defined dining area as the open space sometimes challanges if to use a smart design approach. But assuming entertaining is one of the main functions of your space, it is interesting to watch if furniture manufacturers will come up with a smaller version of this Expanding table.

Until next time….enjoy your living space.
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Monday, February 1, 2010


I must say this is one of the questions I get most of the time “can we use one of your condo model suites designs for our townhouse?”. And the answer is always YES, but you always have to consider the layout of the space before replicating a design you choose.
When it comes to design, condos and townhouses layouts could be very similar. When thinking about how to design each space, there are few things to be considered first and foremost.
Below is an example of how one space can have at least two different furniture layouts, both generated space functionality and not only the esthetics. 

 Wall space- the size of all walls, location of windows, pilasters or columns, and walls height (the presence of bulkheads is very important as they can create lower wall spaces that need to be addressed accordingly). Some of the kitchens are connected with a travel path like in the layout below, in which case the kitchen island can be designed to either connect the kitchen with the entrance or totally separate them, visually and functionally. 
Always keep in mind that you have the option to have a kitchen island designed for dual functionality, food preparation and dining table. The kitchen and dining table design have to work together and create a cohesive look.
- When it comes to living/dining area one feature that must be taken into consideration is the open stair. There are 2 main options- you either arrange the furniture so it faces the stair- this creates the feeling of a very open space; the second option is to create a conversation area that has as the main attraction- the fireplace, a great focal point for any space, this option creates a more intimate sitting area, the stair remains visually part of the travel path and not part of the Sitting area.
See more images of this integrated dining/kitchen area...
- For the Den area there are many possibilities, it all depends on what is the function of that space, it could be a home office, a library, a tv area and if enclosed it could become a guest room!
- On the second level (see the color image below), bedroom 2 and bedroom 3 are very similar to a condo bedroom but they have a plus- it allows for a built in bench in front of the window which will add storage space but also sitting space, so important for decorating a bedroom!
- Master bedroom located on the 3rd level has a great layout! I mentioned in a previous blog “the small suite” that all layouts with an irregular shape, with niches, nooks and an asymmetric layout are in fact a bonus, because the area occupied by the bed is easy to be configured first, then the remaining areas around can be beautifully designed as seating areas, built ins for audio video systems, fireplaces and even water features!

In addition to different design options, here are few things to be considered before making a final decision:

- Ownership is to be considered first, when buying a condo you own only the interiors of that condo, when buying a townhouse you own the land (in some cases), the interiors plus the yard or deck. The condominium owner also shares tenancy with other units owners in the common areas, such as the driveways, parking, elevators, outside hallways, recreation, and landscapes areas that the homeowners association homeowners. People are attracted to townhouses because they have all the advantages of houses but none of the upkeep.

- You definitely have more privacy in a townhouse than in a condo, but safety is considered higher in a condo than in a townhouse.

- Condo communities may provide such shared facilities as a pool, gym, tennis courts and clubhouse, all maintained by the condo association, which takes care of all day-to-day management tasks. This is one of the key advantages of condo living - all of the joy of using the amenities, none of the hassles of maintaining them. A townhouse is like a house in that the owner owns both the structure and the land on which it sits; but it is not free-standing, the land is limited to the front and back yards.

- There are many buyers looking for more square-footage than a condo could provide. The difference between a townhouse buyer and condo buyer was that the former is looking for a small garden/patio, for more privacy (considering that you don’t have another unit below or above yours), and prefers a multilevel living space.

Changing lifestyles has seen people seek to simplify and downsize from large, detached homes. Condominium ownership is the most likely answer. But living in a box, no matter how nice, doesn't appeal to everyone. Townhouses are seen as a transitional step and a good compromise for downsizing home buyers.

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