Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Summer is most people’s favorite season for many reasons. Whether you live in a house or a condo, having even a tiny small outdoor space can make a huge difference. Even in the smallest condo space, creating a seating area or a small garden can be the easiest way to extend your indoor space outdoor especially during summer and fall season. Many condo owners choose their space considering the size and orientation of their balcony as one of the main criteria.

For many, the balcony is a calming space to relax and reflect or a welcoming space to share and entertain. Before designing your balcony make sure to check your condo documents and ensure what are you allowed to do on your balcony which is a common element with an exclusive use by the resident of the suite. Also keep in mind all unique issues involved – high-rise logistics, security of anything you place on your balcony, make sure you accessorize it with easily managed plants; temperature and wind effects just to name a few.

Thank you everyone for sending questions about designing your condo balcony! There are so many condo dwellers that spend most of their summer evenings on their balcony. Whether you enjoy watching amazing sunsets (and having a garden in the sky gives you a huge advantage), reading a book, listening to music, or simply just enjoying your mini garden, your balcony can be prime real estate in the warm months. After reviewing all questions received, here are my most important 5 tips for designing your balcony:

1. Consider the time of day you would be spending most of your time on your balcony and think of the orientation (hopefully you thought about that before you purchased it!). Do you work during the day and only spend your evenings on the balcony? Make seating and lighting your main priority. Solar lights are very popular as they can be hidden in your planters!

2. In a small condo space, most likely your balcony is not that big, and as you know every inch counts. Opt for small scale items when it comes to seating, tables or planters or folding loungers. A two-seat bistro table works well for extremely small spaces. (photo courtesy of Emu).

3. Your balcony design style should be consistent with the interior space, mixing retro plastic flower containers with a traditional interior design will make your balcony design look like an afterthought. Continuity in design and flow are very important in small spaces.(photo courtesy of Crate and Barrel)

4. Use a portable water feature to block off the noise coming from traffic- depending on the location condo balconies can be quite noisy all year round but people love water for the calming, noise pollution cancelling benefits.

5. When choosing plants keep in mind not just the orientation but the patterns of wind: sun and wind could be damaging your plants if they are too high- but balcony gardens are the best in creating a level of privacy especially for downtown condos located in proximity of each other.

And a bonus tip…

6. Are you going to use the balcony for all four seasons? Think of where to store all seating furniture during winter and when buying planters think of your Christmas decoration- maybe mini ever greens will keep the balcony festive looking at all times? Long way to go until Christmas....for now I hope you fully enjoy your summer!

This blog post answered the most frequent questions regarding condos balcony you have a question?

Monday, July 19, 2010


Having a kitchen design that matches your lifestyle is definitely the key of the ideal condo kitchen. Open space kitchens are designed not just to allow you to enjoy cooking with state of the art appliances but they are also designed to be a great entertainment space.
The kitchen represents the most important element of an open living/dining/kitchen condo space and many of you have sent me this question- should you design the rest of the space to match the look of the kitchen? The answer is: when you select the finishes for your kitchen (the most important are the 3 elements- cabinets, countertop and backsplash) keep in mind the overall look you plan to have for the entire open space because the look has to be integrated- not necessarily to match the kitchen but to work well with it either by matching or by contrast.

One of the companies focused on innovative ideas for the future is Hettich with a history going back to an inventor, Karl Hettich, who found a better way of making parts for cuckoo clocks and set up a small company in the Black Forest in 1888!

Hettich is launching "Kitchen Concept 2015" and they predict some very interesting concepts and a trend forecast for kitchen and home environments in 2015. “In terms of design, "Kitchen Concept 2015" interprets the kitchen as the hub of the home. It is integrated in the home environment rather than claiming to be the centre of attention.” Their concept works extremely well for many of the condo floor layouts equipped with a linear kitchen layout.

Here are some of the features:

1. Drawers and pot-and-pan drawers that can be opened from both sides.

2. Separately controllable drawers in the dishwasher can be opened from both sides.

3. From the aspect of ergonomics, "Kitchen Concept 2015" shows height adjustable wall units.

4. Control panels on the base unit provide the capability of raising and lowering cabinet elements independently of each other.

5. The touch screen in the hob or large screen in the kitchen front can be used, for example, to display oven temperature and remaining cooking time.

6. That’s an interesting one “It also caters to the “iPod generation” when individual zones of the hob are no longer firmly defined or switchable circuits but flexible areas that can simply be drawn with the finger to suit the size of the pot or pan being used.”

"Kitchen Concept 2010" presented back in 1999 also clearly confirmed Hettich's innovative and future-focused development competency: Many of the forecasts from then- now either form part of modern kitchens or are about to be included in them. "Kitchen Concept 2015" aims to provide kitchen furniture and white-goods manufacturers with inspiration for taking the kitchen forward as the hub of the home.

" Internet, television and other building services can be controlled at a central point from the hob. Photo: courtesy  Hettich.

My prediction: condo developments opening next year should show some of the elements part of Hettich’s innovative ideas.
Watch how convenient this kitchen could be!What do you think? Would you like to have a kitchen like this in your condo? Let us know, send us your comments! are there any other features you would like in your condo kitchen?

Monday, July 12, 2010


Well, it's already created, you can just order one!When the city becomes too hot in the summer, we all want to escape! Somewhere on the beach, up on the mountains, at the cottage or just camping. Here’s a very interesting idea of a portable shabby chic room with a view and not just any view but a 360 degrees. And apparently it only takes 15 minutes of inflation time to be able to cocoon inside your transparent balloon.

The sphere which does not require reinforcement consists of two half spheres in a transparent, opaque and white.
It was conceived by the designer Pierre Stephane Dumas and designed to benefit all the comforts of a hotel room (no mosquitos, humidity and no worries if the weather suddenly changes!)

When Pierre decided to follow his ecological dream the result was the company BubbleTree, which is basically a tree hut, a platform you create and install to create your own tree house. Then he came up with the idea of CristalBubble which is made of recyclable, anti-UV, crystal – clear material that can be placed anywhere.

The entrance is supported by a light weight frame and creates a barrier between outside and inside. A blower ensures that air renewal is continuous and humidity, mosquitos and other pests are kept out. If more privacy is desired, you can use the opaque BubbleRoom and if you need more space you can look into the BubbleLodge which combines several modules.

This is more than just five stars camping, it’s ecological and seems to be extremely comfortable not to mention how inspiring it must be to be surrounded by nature inside this magnificent spherical interior space.

Want to know how much it costs to have your own bubble tree? It's become so popular! During the film festival in Cannes Rent your private space in the garden of the Grand Hotel!

For more images and ideas click here.

Photos courtesy of BubbleTree.

Monday, July 5, 2010


While adding a new bathroom to your house or renovating an existing bathroom has an estimated payback of 92%, renovating your condo bathroom could be quite costly if not done properly and professionally and the payback is not always guaranteed. Choosing the wrong tiles or showing outdated plumbing fixtures can decrease the value of your condo. From contemporary to vintage looks, from small to large rooms, bathroom designs lean more towards the “spa inspiration” theme. Luxurious bathrooms are about more than just style, it’s about comfort and lasting value.

This year Neocon World’s Trade Fair showcased some of the latest design trades for bathrooms. Here are some of the highlights:

Retro style is hot! Shape coordinated vanity and mirror wall mounted on a beautiful installation of large format floral pattern porcelain tiles. Best for bathrooms or powder rooms, unique tile installations are sure to set the tone in creating a certain look as well as that Wow factor when you first walk in.

Integrated glass sinks and countertops best used for small vanities give a sleek look and are probably the easiest to maintain as there are no seams or grooves between the sink and the countertop.

When you choose a very clean and simple look, with a hint of “zen”, playing with the background tiles can add just a touch of detail. Notice the juxtaposition between the horizontality lines of the vanity and mirror cabinet and the verticality of the corner tile detail, a detail well executed in this vignette.

Glass mosaics are one of the easiest ways to add detail to a small condo bathroom. While they become a visual accent for that wall, it’s interesting the play between the linear design of the vanity and the mosaic stripes and the round mirror and over mounted vessel sinks.

If a classic style is more appealing to you, there are many ways to keep a small powder room look and feel luxurious- for example by mixing up same color but different format tiles- like a subway tile, a listello profile and white marble mosaic wall detail. Details are very important when using one color throughout, so make sure your contractor knows how to do a top notch installation.

This year, basin shapes are noticeably softer and look much more organic. When choosing nature as the inspiration, keep consistency of materials, textures and colors in mind and the results can be spectacular!

Clean, sleek, fresh and relaxing- it’s all in the details!

And for the very small bathrooms or powder rooms, colourful irregular sized round glass mosaic could be that one detail that along with a wall mounted above the floor raised vanity can become a design statement.

When buying preconstruction condos look carefully at all the upgrades options as it may be the easiest way to walk into your own luxury bathroom without the hassle of going through a reno.
If you're up for a bathroom renovation though, keep mind few simple rules:
1. Pick a theme first, ideally consistent with the "look and feel" of the other rooms of your condo.
2. If changing the tiles is not an option, pick a wallpaper with a striking pattern.
3. If traditional style is more appealing to you, adding ornated mirror frames works like magic!
4. Choose color coordinated bathroom towels and bath mat. The most budget friendly way to reinvigorate your bathroom. 
5. Add personality to your vanity cabinet by replacing the knobs, make sure they are color and style coordinated with the style of the faucets and towel holders.
Enjoy designing your bathroom,  it's definitely one of my favorite rooms to design!