Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Buying a pre-construction condo may be the most exciting investment anyone can make. Like any investment, you have to do the math with all professionals involved (mortgage, real estate etc) before you make the jump!

In addition, yes! you should research the developer and the builder in the same way you research about your carmaker before you go buy one! Investing in a condo should be dealt with like with any other long term investment, look for sound advice if you’re not sure how to assess the value of your condo.

My focus is on the interior space you are buying for your own enjoyment and what I can help you with is to find out if you are actually buying the lifestyle you deserve. Creating an interior space just for the sake of “looking cool” does not interest me much and I have a feeling it does not excite you that much either :) unless we’re just playing with decorating ideas.

When potential buyers come to me with a bunch of floors plans and ask me which one to buy, I actually look at each floor plan AFTER we talk about their lifestyle. Most of the time what they need is not on that floor plan, but they just want that condo unit for various other reasons! So here are my top 7 interior interior architectural & design elements to look for when searching for preconstruction condos:

1. When interested in a small space, look for most of the space being utilized properly- you have heard the term “wasted space”- this image shows how a long corridor can be utilized, you can use narrow bookcases or built in units (like one of my designs in the image on the right side- used primarily for decor and small storage items) however the area marked in purple on the floor plan shows how much space is actually used only for traffic. This is why I recommend to look for layouts where the main foyer is shortened in favour of other areas.

2. Ceiling height- one important factor to consider. Whether you’re looking at a small or large space, a 9’ ceiling height is ideal as it will give you many space design opportunities- full height features increase the visual perception of the overall space.

3. Kitchen and Bathroom- how current is the design and how much cabinets storage is provided. This unit for example- it is definitely for people who do not cook! Because there are no lower cabinets for pots and pans, (upper cabinets are only 14” deep max). Also, keep in mind the advantage of having brand new appliances and plumbing fixtures! Most developments offer current selections, so I wouldn’t worry about buying something ‘not so trendy’.

4. Features List and Finishes- Too many times people are intrigued when they move in their first condo to find out there is no ceiling fixture in the bedroom- and we’re not talking about a capped fixture (in which case you can buy and install a fixture), we’re talking about no junction box whatsoever. As you can imagine, adding one in a concrete ceiling is virtually impossible so you have to live with track lights (not a winning design!) or floor lamps, but the light beam is not the same as with a ceiling fixture. So my advice is to read every single document you obtain from the sales centre before it’s too late.

When it comes to Finishes- pay attention to what is included in the Standard list and what are your options for Upgrades. The more choices the better, of course! See if the upgrade finishes boards looks good to you, so you avoid spending money later on ripping out tiles and installing yours- it’s more costly for sure. Decide now if you want a bathtub or a shower, the expense of replacing it after you move in may be much higher than you think (unless you are a contractor).

5. Orientation- are views important for you? then always consider what is in front of your building AND the size of your windows. You should consider if natural light is important to you. Everything changes when you have smaller windows- the paint colors don’t look the same, the overall open feeling is not as strong as with full height and wall to wall windows, however it gives you more wall space and it is easier to incorporate a traditional design, eclectic or a mix- therefore you should consider the type of furniture and furnishings you like.

6. Overall storage space- this one is always tricky. You always have the option of buying a storage unit, if you are very selective on what you store inside your codno unit. You may consider storing off-season clothing in a storage unit OR look for a condo with at least one walk- in closet OR consider converting a small den into a walk in.

7. Furniture Layout- when you go to a sales centre where marketing plans don’t have the furniture shown, I highly advice you to do a simple exercise and try to lay out the furniture you already have or intend to buy. You may have few surprises- and better now than later. Not sure how to do it? Send us the plan and we'll do it for you right here on this blog!

Would you like to know specific questions to ask when pre-viewing pre- construction condos? Stay tuned, I am about to reveal many detailed design questions that should help you be an educated buyer before you step into a sales centre!

Make sure to enter your email address in the yellow bee box on the right side to be notified before this  information is posted. It could save you a lot of money, just because you will know what to look for!

Bottom line- it is all about your lifestyle! Always ask what your options are when choosing upgrades. Can you only upgrade finishes or can you also add more lighting? Some developments allow for different types of customizing your unit so ask for all the details.
Know all your options before you it is too late. Too many times people call designers and ask for pot lights when there is a 8’ concrete ceiling!?

Buying a condominium should be very rewarding, that is IF you analyze carefully your needs and what the interior space has to offer. The interior elements are only one small part of the equation- discuss all your options with your lawyer, mortgage consultant and of course the real estate agent who should be able to put together many pieces of the puzzle.

After winter always comes Spring and that’s when new and really good pre construction condo opportunities come to market so do your homework- get ready! :)


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