Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Monday, June 28, 2010


When kitchen showrooms open their doors at Merchandise Mart in Chicago, they sure know how to impress! This year’s Neocon showcased again top manufacturers in the kitchen and bath industry. From cutting-edge contemporary designs to traditional designs blended with today’s world of technology, kitchen showrooms were packed with a wide range of great design ideas. While proper space planning, finishes & appliances selection could solve many kitchen dilemmas, two companies caught my eye for their strong design message which I believe is the key to any successful design.

Poggenpohl Porsche Design Kitchen P’7340 "Made in Germany"- in Poggenpohl's eyes “stands for a level of quality which provides inspiration throughout the world.” As the oldest kitchen brand in the world, Poggenpohl infuses any kitchen design with a clear message: “The essence without compromise: Passion. Performance. Purism. Precision.”

Launched two years ago, this kitchen  catches your attention with just few elements you notice right when you walk in: it's unique shape, high quality finishes, seamless execution- a simple definition of “sleek”. “In various formats and individual additions, several frames create a modular system that permits a wide range of different uses.”

Luxury based on its purity: Porsche Design is unique.Those who both design and own Porsche Design products share a common fascination for its properties: The timeless aesthetic. The classic modernism. The hi-tech screen can also be integrated in the kitchen work area. As all of the electronics are installed behind glass, they are protected from dirt and splashes of water. Handleless fronts emphasise the uncompromising aesthetics of furniture. Where handles are needed or preferred, practical aluminum rail handles underscore the kitchen's horizontal lines.”  The appliances are designed without handles – instead, they are operated by a specially developed sensor-activated touch system.

Based on a modular system, there are practically infinite possibilities in creating a custom designed kitchen. Working within a frame is not limiting when there are unlimited possibilities for placing elements within the frame. It’s all about creativity- click here to explore more of Poggenpohl Porsche design Kitchen.

When it comes to custom kitchen designs many of my clients welcome ideas based on a mix of modern and classical vocabularies. I found more than I expected in the showroom of Chicago-based De Giulio Kitchen Design, founded in 1984 by kitchen interior designer, Mick De Giulio. “De Giulio’s distinctive compositions are inspired by cultural influences and technology, and combine an experienced sensibility to craft, fine detail, and classic proportion.” While some traditional kitchen designs tend to look old school, De Giulio approaches space design in an equally classic, inventive and focused on finely detailed craftsmanship. Few elements worth a close look are:

- flexible sink- workspace and sink locations can be customized with sliding teak cutting boards and a series of teak accessories, including knife racks, a drying rack and a colander. When condo spaces come with limited kitchen spaces, using kitchen design ideas to maximize space and introduce multifunctional surfaces prove to be a sturdy investment.

- Paneled doors for the entire cold area of the kitchen- the Apothecary cabinet- what a great detail! you wouldn’t even know that behind this uniquely crafted cabinet door there is a fridge & freezer and while glass doors have been used in other kitchen designs, mirrors have been carefully introduced to kitchen spaces previously.

-Connect your living space with your kitchen space! Afterall kitchen serves dual function, it is no longer the place where we only prepare meals but it’s where family and friends come together, today's kitchen space is the receptacle of multiple functions. While condo spaces have a variety of layouts, the idea of blending the kitchen area with the living area (perhaps the den or family area) is one of the best take aways from this amazing display!

- mosaic tiles countertops- yes! mosaic tiles can be a great feature for any size working surface- it adds detail, sparkle and a great match for the glass tiled backsplash.

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Monday, June 21, 2010


Summer in Chicago has a very unique flavor especially right after Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup! The place where the modern skyscraper was born Chicago's skyline is one of the most memorable in the world. Among many reasons for travelling to Chicago, from the annual Blues festival to world’s design trade fair this city continues to be the attraction for architectural innovation.

Many condos have already been sold since my last year visit, it was really impressive to see the Trump Tower finalized and many other new condos focused on creating a lifestyle and not just a home in the sky. “Be surrounded with impeccable fashion; take a sunset swim in the pool, run your office from a private cabana “…and much more! I’m talking about TheEnvof Chicago. Another development that made a huge progress since my last visit is The Metropolitan. “A brand new residence in a landmark building that has served as a beacon on Chicago's skyline for generations.”

Neocon World’s Trade Fair, the reason for my visit, is North America’s largest exhibition of contract furnishings. It took place again at the Merchandise Mart, a place that has consumer events that are open to the public from time to time (like the Antique Fair and the Treasure Hunt). So much to see, so many inspiring new ideas, furniture, finishes, lighting, fabrics, artwork, accessories just to name a few. While commercial furnishings and products is the main focus of the show, I couldn’t stay away from the residential floors packed with showrooms that offer  practically anything that goes into the design of a home.

Here are my main 5 residential design trends spotted at Neocon:

1. Reclaimed wood meets whimsical and classical pieces of furniture. No need to match your sofa with the armchairs, console table and coffee tables, mix and match colors but play with the shapes and styles.

2. Easy way to add visual interest to any bedroom- use wallpaper for the headboard wall. Large pattern wallpaper where one of the color is found again in the bedding and simple accent artwork- that’s all you need for a punch of pattern & color.

3. Textures- one of the best way to showcase a piece of furniture in a small space is to mix different textures. Ultra suede, wool, stainless steel- yes, mix them up!

4. Oversized artwork and lighting can do much more than you think for any small or large condo space, it creates the look and the mood of the entire space. Whether you use a large piece of art or a composition of smaller pieces placed close together, it sure will be the focal point of the seating or dining area.
5. Color- tones of orange mixed with purple and lavender, or green yellows mixed with indigo, little pattern but different types of textures. Large pieces of furniture in neutral colors don’t be afraid to mix styles though! Then add color in the accessories, throw pillows and curtains and most importantly mix textures for e.g. silk with velvet works its magic effortless.

…and one of my favorite parts of any design trade show is always kitchens & bathrooms displays- lots coming up in a next blog!

Enjoy a quick virtual tour of Chicago…

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Sunday, June 13, 2010


When it comes to fabrics, you have to see it and feel it to believe it and then you have to style it!

Selecting the right fabric for your furniture, window coverings or throw pillows is more important than you may think. Talking about quality furniture, the fabric used for the upholstery can make your sofa or chair a one of a kind.

So many questions received about how to select fabrics for your condo furniture when you have pets, allergies or when you go for an eco design. As designers, we have access to a wide range of companies specialized in textiles for furniture and furnishings, from residential to commercial, from natural fibers to synthetic.

Threadcount is one of the companies with a clear focus on natural and sustainable products such as wool, linen, silk and cotton for your home. They take a ‘less is more’ approach to the world of fabric embracing timeless basics that will maintain their beauty over the years. And because I believe that furniture and furnishings trends go hand in hand with fashion trends, I’m equally fascinated by fabrics used in fashion or furniture. Growing up in a family with generations of fabric heritage , the 4 sisters owners of Threadcount were well versed in fabric, fashion and great design from a very early age. “We all love how fabric can transform how we feel in clothing or in a living space. Why wouldn’t we use breathable and toxin free fabrics in a space we spend most of our time?! The way we respond to the colour and the feel of great fabric is very primal.”

And here are the answers to the top 3 questions asked by our readers:

1. Pet friendly fabrics- Jane is concerned about her cat shedding a lot of hair and wants to know what are her options: For Pet friendly fabrics one of our recommendations is using leather. As a natural product, any surface wear only adds to the leathers character and its it easy to just wipe off pet hair. If leather is not your thing Microfiber fabrics such as Ultrasuede is known for its inherent stain resistance, its easy to clean and can’t be scratched. If neither of those are an option we recommend you choosing a plain untextured fabric so hair doesn’t stick, you can always spice it up with decorative pillows. Also machine washable fabrics that are great for slipcovers, like denim or heavy cotton. Leather has come a long way! Printed leather is one of my favorites!

2. Allergies- Trisha’s question: What fabrics are recommended for people with allergies, most importantly which fabrics hold on to dust: "We highly recommend 100% Linen. Linen is made entirely from the flax plant, and all parts of the plant are usable, recyclable or biodegradable. Not only is linen a pure natural fiber, it is hypoallergenic and its breathable nature leaves a natural resistance for any dust to stick. Linen has and earthy yes sophisticated look and feel, and it isone of our favorites."

3. Is scotch guarding a healthy solution? We don’t recommend scotch guarding as a healthy solution as it has been linked to fluoropolymers that may be a source of perfluorochemicals PFC contamination in people. To be safe people should look for non-fluoro based products, which is not easy to find. There are non toxic spray downs that can be found for this purpose.

When it comes to coordinating your window coverings with your upholstered furniture, keep in mind the theme you’re going for- is the overall look casual,natural and one of a kind eco friendly furnishings? Why not opt for linen, it never goes out of style!

Are you going for rich textures and patterns velvet is a great choice and when used on the right piece of furniture it could become the focal point of the room.

Are you busy decorating your cottage? Linen, cotton, fresh colors are a must have when trying to create a blissful summer escape…

Looking for a way to create a new look for your bedroom? A fresh coat of paint, a reupholstered headboard and new drapes can totally change the look!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Biggest Interior Design Questions... ANSWERED!

Wow! So many questions and lots of answers coming up!

M&J from Toronto have purchased an investment condo and are wondering which standard finishes palette is the best choice considering the unit will be rented out.
There are 2 factors to consider: style appeal & maintenance.

There are several color combinations you can create when selecting finishes for an investment condo, however the best choice is to create a timeless design that best showcases the main features of your condo. Your unit is facing north thus I suggest using light color finishes and warm tones, your space will look bright right when you come in and all finishes will have same color tones throughout the day due to consistent natural light hues during the day.

When using tone on tone finishes (for eg kitchen cabinets, countertop and backsplash have similar tones and color intensity) the tenant can easily create their own design style by adding their personal furniture and accessories that will either blend or create a contrast with the existing finishes.

Talking about maintenance, you want to opt for finishes easy to maintain by each tenant so at the end of each rental time period your condo is in great shape and does not require renovations. Best floor finish to consider is laminate flooring more resistant to scratches than engineered wood floor. Quartz countertops are my no. 1 choice- unlike granite or other stone, quartz kitchen counter tops are highly resistant to permanent staining from wine, lemon juice, fruits and vegetables, soda and tea.

Next question is about window coverings for large windows. Considering the north exposure there is basically no direct sun light thus using full height white or off white sheers or sun screens would be my main choice. Let the tenants bring their own drapes which will match the rest of the furnishings of their space. This is where their personal style comes into play.

Anne’s question is related to “How to select furniture for small spaces?” Yes, this is one of the most frequently asked questions! Here’s her question: when you walk into a large condo space, the wide open space brings that “wow” factor instantly. How do I create the “wow factor” in a small condo space? Very interesting question! This is my no. 1 goal when I design a model suite. It’s not the size of the space that creates the Wow factor but the first impression of someone walking into the model suite. The quick answer is “it’s all in the details!”.

When furnishing a small space I always think of the largest furniture pieces that are functional but also will catch your eye when you walk in. As we can’t have too much furniture in a small space, I spend a lot of time trying to find the right fabrics for the upholstery, the right window treatments, area rugs and accessories. And because we aim to create not just visually attractive condo spaces but also sustainable spaces, we are constantly looking into fabrics that help a simple piece of furniture be not just “Wow" but also sustainable. In the next blog post I will go over some of your questions related to fabric selection, stay tuned...

Small space big style- here is a quick example of how one owner went about incorporating her personal style into the design of her condo.