Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Monday, November 29, 2010


As many of you wonder if the exterior is more important than the interior of a condo, I can say that good architecture happens when both are considered in the early stages of design. While it may not be obvious how to layout the furniture in a curved space, I personally believe that this type of space has so much more to offer.

Think of the views which in some cases are 180 degrees as well as the natural light coming through. Think of the prestige and the exquisite architecture as a unique feature that will surpass many other features your condo comes with.

I can understand why some potential condo buyers may wonder how to furnish a curved space with all the in and out corners, niches, structural and mechanical elements and the sharp corners! and this is because we have been used to live in rectangular spaces with rectangular furniture (more or less). However, if you keep in mind the size of a bed, night tables and the required space around you will see that bedrooms have actually the required space for a proper furniture layout. There are many rectangular condo spaces which lack in the required square footage and are not attractive by architectural style either.

Let’s take one (perhaps) challenging curved condo space- anyone looking at the unfurnished floor plan may look at all the interior elements as challenging, however there are few things to keep in mind:

- as long as the curved space doesn’t take away from the square footage required for a decent seating area or bedroom set, you should see the curved space as an added interior design feature.

- having a continuous curved exterior glazing wall for the entire condo plan is the No. 1 interior feature anyone should be attracted by! so many options for window treatments to make your space have a cohesive style.

- structural and mechanical elements can be always switched from “challenging to work around” to “vertical elements which can be featured by design”. Here’s what I mean by that:

Let’s look at the mechanical unit in the living room and 2nd bedroom- the space between the unit and the exterior glazing is actually great for hiding the drapes when open and why not consider using motorized window coverings? As long as the space is wide enough to allow for proper installation of the hardware you can look at it as a feature.

Another question someone may pose is related to the living area furniture layout. The structural wall behind the sofa is slightly shorter than a 7’ sofa, however you can always make up for that space by adding a bar unit which will be very handy for the adjacent dining area, or you can add a plant or a large vase with tall bamboo sticks.

As new curved condo spaces emerge in so many cities, furniture manufacturers are moving along and strive to bring new products to these markets. In lieu of the typical furniture shown in the furniture layout from above, think of adding more interest by working with furniture with round shapes. There is nothing better than a marriage between the exterior architectural shape and the interior elements. Consider modular curved sofas which allow you to play with the modules to suit the desired layout.

You can use these slightly curved loveseats together or separate or these coffee tables which seem to work perfectly with a asymmetric curved space and why not even consider the more retro take on some tv units and bedroom sets.

I believe the interior and exterior architecture of the space should work seamlessly with your furniture style and layout. While a traditional style for a cutting edge curved architectural space would be a bit more challenging, I would not exclude an eclectic style design where furniture elements or artwork and accessories or custom design features could help you actually work even better with a curved space than a rectangular one.

No interior space should be challenging to work with when you absolutely love the architecture of the building :)

Would love to see your comments- do you prefer interesting curvy spaces or safe rectangular layouts?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


It sure looks like it! I was truly impressed by all the possibilities offered by these glass mosaic tiles for 2 reasons:

1. You can install them on any surface (floors, walls, ceilings- steam showers) and create your own unique design patterns- there are no limitations! Bathrooms- shower floors- this is the perfect solution for creating the required slope to the drain while incorporating your own design.

2. The concept is so unique and versatile and can be used by anyone!

If you are handy and love to try new ideas, this is one worth your time. And I wouldn’t limit the application to only bathrooms or kitchens. Think of dressing up a small foyer or even create a focal wall in the bedroom or living/dining area. Take it even can have fun creating your own accent furniture and jewellery! There are unlimited possibilities!

The Italian company Vetrovivo has introduced a new way of using glass mosaic tiles, unique in the world and above all it opens up so many new design possibilities. Some tiles come even plated in gold or platinum.

"Timeless Luxury Mosaics"

How to create unique designs in a standard 5'x8' condo bathroom? Whether you are renovating your bathroom or just want to spice it up a little bit, these tiles are one great solution! think of the wall accross from the vanity mirror, usually painted...or think of the wall behind the toilet where you could add shelving and create an interesting glass tiles pattern around it, or simply just add the glass tiles if enough storage is provided as part of the vanity cabinet.

Countertops! what a great way of upgrading your countertop!

Bathtub wall is definetely a wall that deserves some attention! With most layouts the long bathtub wall is a great place for any tiles details.

     Bathrooms don't have to be cold and sterile and function driven. They can be extensions of your bedroom or other rooms in your home. Make your bathroom comfortable and cozy and treat it like you would any other room. 

Shower floors-some condos come with a preformed shower pan or with square or rectangular mosaic tile. With Vetrovivo you have so many styles, shapes, colors and patterns you can choose from which allow you to create really interesting designs AND work around the required slope to the drain.
What I like about Vetrovivo is that you don't have to use tiles wall to wall to cover the entire surface with just glass tiles, but you can insert the glass tiles as accent colors after covering the surface with grout and really add just a splash of color exactly where desired.

You can create any patterns you want and use this design solution in lieu of wallpaper, as you can see in the image on the lfet side some glass tiles can even be used as jewellery. Think also fo Christmas tree ornaments, napkin holders or any other decorative idea!

You can actually play online with your creativit and come up with some cool designs, select your own tiles and colors right here.

Interested to find out how to install these amazing glass mosaic tiles? You basically have to skim coat the surface with grout and then insert the glass tiles, however the grout must be of great resistance to water as the exposed grout surface is much larger than in a regular mosaic tile installation. Here are all the installation steps

Monday, November 15, 2010


What I love about lofts is that you can truly create an original space where old meets new without having to worry about matching every piece of furniture. With most condo loft conversions, the beauty of the old interior space plays a major role in the design. Sky is the limit when trying to find ways to design a loft and most of the time the space gives you hints of what is needed. It could be the height, or a beautiful stained glass window or perhaps the concrete floors, wood beams and exposed ductwork that inspires you.

Many condo owners, who are avid travelers or spend the summer at the farm or cottage, are returning to their condo as winter holidays are approaching, just to be together with their loves ones and create wonderful moments together.

Returning from the farm or summer cottage empty handed? Think of incorporating some of the old steel and old wood beams from the barn in creating something unique.

How about “recreating new from old” into a hobby?
Ben and Kate Gatski, possess an uncommon vision-to honor agriculture through art. They established Gatski Metal to design and fabricate unique metal works for indoor and outdoor spaces. They collect parts from farms and farm machinery dealers across Pennsylvania.

Take a look at some of the furniture pieces they have created. Each item would look so interesting not just in an old loft converted into a condo but even in new condo spaces where eco friendly elements become part of your life style.

Beam and Steel table:
"It originated from beams that were rescued from a Pennsylvania barn before demolition. The large beam was sawed down to size and sanded to form the top of the table. A recycled metal pipe and flat sheet steel were cut by hand to form the base. A clear coating was applied to the entire table for a shiny finish. It is perfect for a decorative end table." You could also use it as a bar stool and keep in mind that each table will have a different look!

Size: 26.5”h x 13”w x 7.5”d

Barn Beam Console Table

So many condo owners are asking me where to find interesting console tables for their very small foyer, but they want something that is unique and has personality as well as something handmade- well, here it is- a console, entry or sofa table made with reclaimed wood and recycled farm machinery steel.” This table originated from beams that were rescued from a Pennsylvania barn before demolition. The beams were sawed into pieces, sanded, and then joined together with a large bolt. The base is made with two pieces of recycled steel hoops bent into shape.

Recycled Tractor Hood Table

“This bar or entry table is made from the hood of a recycled Allis Chalmers 180 tractor.
Handmade in PA by Ben Gatski, each table features one tractor hood to form the base, with a new piece of US made10 gauge steel top. It can be used indoors or outdoors – perfect as an entry table or great for holding drinks on the patio. The table has adjustable chrome feet – perfect for any surface.”

Size: 34” high by 40” wide by 12.5” deep.

Barn Loft Table

These stools are absolutely gorgeous! And how great that Ben and Kate thought about “multifunctional “ ! “Modern lines blend with a rich agricultural history in this statement end table. Beams were rescued from a Pennsylvania Barn before demolition. They were sawed into pieces and sanded and a piece of recycled steel was cut and shaped into place. A clear coating was applied to the entire table for a shiny finish.

It can be used as side table or end table to keep your reading material beneath or is even great for holding drinks on the patio..."

Size: 22”h x 10.5”w x 10.5”d

Perfect Details for your Holidays Decor!

A simple and elegant lantern for holiday decorating. Each one is handcrafted in Pennsylvania with recycled farm machinery steel. The lantern comes with a votive candle.
The metal is sealed with a water-based enamel. This piece can be hung inside or out. Each one will have subtle variations. They are cut by hand and each piece of metal has slight color differences.

When it comes to unique loft spaces decor items, mixing old with new and some of your best travel findings is the easiest way to go!

Monday, November 8, 2010


Most old condos show their age and when purchasing an old condo there are few advantages- one would be the size of the rooms which in some cases are larger than in newer condos and the location- some of the older condos are in great locations in the city.

However, there are many factors to consider when buying or selling an old condo, and one I came across very often lately is the renovation aspect. There are mostly two categories:

1. People want to move in and renovate their condo so it looks like new or so it sells better in few years, however when they get down to making the list and getting quotes from contractors they end up with five or six digit numbers!

2. People want to move out and renovate it for a better selling price.

Before you buy an old condo make sure you obtain all available documentation from the Condo Board (your real estate agent will know exactly what documents are required). You need to know the history of that condo suite. Many times condo owners take on their own renovation projects without letting the condo board know and this affects you if you move into a unit that’s doesn’t look like on the floor plan. You should also provide the condo board with all paperwork required before you start a renovation so the next owner will know what changes have been made.

Let’s start with the 2nd category: of condo owners renovating for a better selling price. Depending on the timing you may actually consider to drop the price and let the future owner renovate according to their own taste.

At the end of the day it may cost you about the same amount unless your condo is in a really bad shape. Renovations don’t only cost money; it takes time and patience of living in an “under construction” space and it will definitely affect your lifestyle during the renovation.

Bathroom renovations would be the first area to tackle where new plumbing fixtures alone may help. Next in line would be tiles upgrade- you can read more about bathroom renovations in two previous blog posts here and here.

Flooring throughout is the next item I would consider. It is a larger investment but done properly it could create the look of a brand new space! If your current floors are carpet- definitely upgrade to engineered or laminate flooring. If your floors are the old type of 6”x6” parquet, you can just consider re-staining the entire floor in a darker color which will give a more up to date look.

One item that is often forgotten is the baseboard. Most old condos come with a 3” baseboard or even a 2 ½”. Many retail stores carry inexpensive paint grade mdf or wood baseboards and depending on your ceiling height you can consider at least a 4” if not a 5” baseboard.

Next- I would consider renovating the kitchen. Upgrading the appliances would be a must and with all great discounts offered by most retails stores, it may be an easy upgrade to consider.

Most old condos kitchens do not have an open space layout. Is this a reason to knock down walls and reconfigure the space in order to create an open concept? Maybe…maybe not!

If the living/dining area is large enough you don’t necessarily need to change the layout. Having a closed in kitchen offers a different type of lifestyle- it may not be large enough for entertaining guests while you prepare or just organize meals during a party.

The new open concept kitchens are designed for a different lifestyle, one that incorporates meals preparation and spending time with family and friends. However, if you absolutely detest having the smell of cooked food going into the living area (I have met people who never wanted the smell of cooked food in any room!), you may consider keeping kitchen as a separate room.

For the 1st category my advice is: renovate for yourself first and then think of resale. If you just moved in, change the items that you absolutely must! If you haven’t moved in, perhaps talk to a contractor and get an idea of how much you would need to invest to create the condo of your dreams, you may end up knowing exactly how much you will end up spending and you may choose a new condo.

So…is it worth to move in an old condo and renovate? It may be! If you like the location, the neighbours, the common areas look, the monthly condo fees, the size, design and functionality of the amenity spaces, the size of your condo, the ceiling height, the size of the windows (sometimes smaller in older condos vs floor to ceiling, wall to wall in new condos) the view and the price (after you considered how much you would need to invest in renovating it)… then it looks like a great find! If not, there are plenty of new condos to choose from, the number of New Developments are constantly increasing, click here to find out details.

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Monday, November 1, 2010


As requests from readers to review their condo space are pouring in, I’m excited to be able to help another couple who is challenged by the size and the shape of their condo space. Yes, I have to admit, moving in a small space could be challenging and my first advise would be to try and utilize every square inch of that space.

674sq.ft is considered a small space and yet we all want to make the most of it by being able to have the right furniture, lighting, colors and be able to enjoy the space with family and friends.

Let’s get the ball are some of the most frequent asked questions:

Q: Some initial concerns I had with the unit were the small sized living room caused by the structural column and pillars. As such I was looking for help in selecting furniture pieces which would be most effective use of space and functionality.

A: This particular unit comes with wonderful views and a very generous balcony and as mentioned before in a previous blog post, best views should be kept as a feature therefore not blocked if possible. There are different layouts to be considered – see the 3 examples below. Window coverings will play a very important role, having wall to wall sheers for example will emphasize the width of the window and of the space.

Q: What paint colours work well in an open unit with lots exterior light. Also what tones work well together if I wanted to add an accent wall. What about gray and burgundy combinations?

A: Having a bright space is definitely a plus! All colors will look very bright during the day so choosing medium tone to dark neutrals is a good option. I like to combine warm grays with deep rich tones of reds- take a look at these 2 combinations from Benjamin Moore- Affinity Colors.
Accent walls- bedroom headboard wall can definitely make a bold statement. Also the long wall of the foyer and living area is interesting and can become a strong feature with the right elements – art for example. The burgundy color tones can be used in accents throughout the space (think throw pillows, vases, flowers, bedding, artwork and perhaps even a bit of a color accent in the backsplash- see the mosaic tiles).
I wouldn’t paint the structural column in a bright color, to me architectural elements stand out on their own and don’t need bright paint colors to make a statement, but it would be interesting to see a darker gray /charcoal paint color on the column, just a shade darker than the overall paint color.

Q: What types of light fixtures look modern and add sufficient lighting.
A:This is a great question and is certainly not easy to answer in just few words because what is considered “modern” is actually very broaden. Best is to actually find few interiors that resonate with you and choose one style that you could see for your space. There are so many different types of contemporary looking light fixtures and most of the time is the material and the look that will help you narrow down your choices- do you prefer glass, acrylic, fabric shades?

The most important factor to consider when choosing your lighting is to think spatially- one ceiling fixture is not going to do the trick and brighten your space in the evening, it has to be a combination of ceiling fixtures, floor lamps, table lamps, indirect lighting (kitchen valance), pot lights (perhaps in the long foyer?).

Some lights will give you direct lighting (for example your dining light fixture that could be swaged over the kitchen island if a dining table is not an option) while table or floor lamps could create more of an ambient lighting for the space and direct lighting for reading.

Q: Would a wall mounted TV be advisable or TV stand?
A: This is personal opinion- I find the wall mounted TVs look good when part of an actual cabinet- like the image on the left side, a stand makes it look more dressed up and gives you the storage space for equipment and all cds, dvds etc.

Q: What could you do with the hallway as it is a little bit of wasted space.

A: Actually the long hallway could be really well used if you consider a built in, or a series of bookcases like Asolo from casalife which gives you flexibility to utilize the entire height of the wall (Asolo comes in few different configurations and sizes) or you could simply use the wall for displaying of art in which case any deep burgundy colors will work really well.

Q: What would be ideal to do with den space? (desk or futon?)

A: It is not easy to have a desk and a sofa bed/futon/any type of seating that converts to a bed because of the door to the washer/dryer area. It may be easier to consider your living room sofa as a sofa bed or you may be able to use this convertible bench and use a very narrow desk that can be moved around when the den becomes a guest room. Without visually being separated from the open space, I must say the Den is one of the first rooms you see when you walk in and the design, colors and how it ties in the rest of the space is very important.

Many small spaces owners are excited to move in their new condos and while the size can be a puzzle especially when columns or dropped ceilings create areas you didn’t envision when you looked at the marketing plan, they can work really well if you keep in mind just few rules of small spaces design: multifunctional furniture, 2 seat vs 3 seat sofas, fully utilize the height and the width of long walls/corridors for built-ins and storage areas and keep the look consistent throughout so when you are in the centre of that small open space you can see the colors flowing naturally from one area to another.

Any small condo space can be a great space!