Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Monday, January 31, 2011


The first month of 2011 is almost behind us but many design trends are shaping the look of our interior spaces.

Two large design shows have presented great ideas for interiors most of them suited for condominiums, I am talking about Imm Cologne show in Germany and the IDS show in Toronto, Canada.

Both shows have many elements in common, here are just a few:

1. Recycled materials, especially reclaimed wood mixed with stainless steel, glass and stone- represented a large part of both shows.
Few examples are: this table lamp from Om , this great reclaimed wood table top from Cherrywood Studio and this amazing kitchen island from Draenert made out of 100% recycled materials.

For condos with no kitchen island, it would be a great idea to mix (for example) a white or black high gloss kitchen with a custom island/dining table made out of reclaimed wood.

2. Natural fibres and felt have been highlighted in home accessories from area rugs to upholstery and small fashion items at both shows. I love the felt pebbles- ottomans!
One of this year trends presented at Imm Cologne was Emotional Austerity-Emotional Austerity. It is one of four trends identified in IMM's Trend Book, an annual trend forecast put together by a Trendboard made up of selected influential designers.

'This trend is characterized by simply constructed, light and filigree forms as well as natural materials and colors. The elegant ambiance is defined by clear and unostentatious aesthetics. '

3. Natural wood combined with colourful and/or high gloss surfaces. These materials and textures in various combinations dominate both furniture design and kitchen cabinets design.

One company specialized in condo furniture, Casalife showcased this year at IDS a very attractive and compact extendable dining table for six as well as a matching credenza for a condo dining area.

For a super stylish condo, the black chair and matching foot stool is one of the most comfortable chairs I have sat in and notice the natural finish wood detailing to the back and the underside of the seat. I often recommend using oversized planters for accents especially for condos with a 9’ ceiling, an oversized planter emphasizes the height of the room even more!

4. Kitchen design- kitchen has become a showcase element in an open space.
Shelving is not just for function but it creates an interesting backdrop for any living/dining or den area.

Lots of ideas for open spaces- like a visual separation between the kitchen and the living space by using a one or two sided bookcase.

Starck for Warendorf kitchen vignettes presented by Philip Starck at Imm Cologne, are the recipe for most condos- compact kitchens, designed for any open space with the dual function island designed to be used either as a work surface or as a dining table.
5. A fun collection of lamp shades from Arbutus Denman from Vancouver!

6. For all our readers interested in adding a faux brick feature to their condo interior, Century Architexture has a great selection of thin faux bricks that could create a focal point in any interior space.

I particularly like the Distillery Collingwood's unrefined look especially for the mix of tones of light taupes and browns. With a very dark taupe paint color surrounding the brick, this could add charm to any interior space- whether it is a fireplace feature or just a large feature wall in a living area or perhaps a bedroom headboard wall finish.

7. A great selection of fireplaces at this year’s IDS. For the lucky ones who live in a condo with a gas line in their interior space, there is an Xtreme option- watch this video.

Xtreme Fire Sculptures from Travis Industries on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Would you like to know which is the MFADQ in January?

You may have guessed, the most frequently asked design question is “what are the color trends for this year?”. If you’re not new to my blog, you probably read about 2010 color trends, european design trends, fashion trends. Trends are not accidental, in fact, they are very much connected to how we live and transform our lives every day. Think of how much technology has influenced furniture design, automobile design, and fashion design.

Every year there are new trends in all areas of design, and while most people want to know which colors are trendier in 2011, there is more than color to explore.

If you search online for design trends you will find so many opinions and trendsetters that you may not quite understand how to use each trend. In fact, many trends vary from one company to another, which could be very confusing! I will try to translate some of the design trends and show you an easy way of recognizing if any of 2011 trends is for you.

Among all 2011 design trends, there are few that caught my eye especially as they are more oriented towards working around a personality as a trend instead of just a color or a pattern.

I think this year will be more about comfortable spaces and when you know how to combine "comfortable with stylish" you've got a pretty great space!

Here are some of my favourite trends from around the world :

1. COLOR- when it comes to color, each paint company has its own colors as defining for this year’s trend. Some chose what I call “happy colors” as a response to the global economy in much need for some happy news! and others chose “relaxing colors” in response to our society emotional stress.

According to Pantone Color Institute, 2011 color of the year is Honeysuckle- 'A Color for All Seasons Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day – with nothing “everyday” about it.' I would recommend to use this color wisely as it is a stimulant color.

As Pantone describes it 'Honeysuckle is upbeat and dynamic when used on large areas like the entry area of a house or an apartment. It is an appetite and conversation stimulant when used on the dining room walls. In the kitchen, it adds a fun touch on the table in placemats and other linens (patterned or solid), colored glassware, candles and small appliances.' 
Here are two examples showing one of the best way to use this color so it doesn’t become overwhelming in any space. Use a background of a neutral color, ideally a cool light neutral color and play with monochromatic textures- then insert this color as an accent just for an eye catching effect.

Looking for more colors for 2011? Benjamin Moore has put together a wonderful collection filled with colors for every age, every gender, every location. Here are the 3 style movements:

- Soulful… 'On the style front, this is visible in"ethnic glam" designs, pattern-on-pattern, map motifs and hand-worked decoration such as beading and embroidery.'

- Spirited…”The antidote to stress is anything that makes you feel happy, joyful, playful. Striking that emotional balance can be a challenge. In fashion and furnishings it's reflected in spirited designs featuring geometrics, stripes and cubes, dots and curlicues, studded or stitched outlines of shapes and silhouettes.”

- Dreamy…”Reality can be harsh and is best countered by a dreamy odyssey where wishes are nurtured. Translated into a design perspective, that means transparent and sheer materials, blurred decorative details and softened textures.”

2. Trends by Heimtextil -the biggest international trade fair for home and contract textiles held in January every year. They came up with 4 interesting trends, all four concepts are very easy to implement in any home design.

SOBRIETY– ‘a return to the essential and traditional- The new consumer landscape is characterised by quality, longevity, sustainability and significance. The Sobriety trend theme shows where short-lived, seasonal trends end and consistent value begins.‘ If you ever thought of creating a timeless design for your home that would not be affected by any trends, this is for you. Here is an image of a seating area you could create in your living room. The classic, simple and elegant style of the sofa and armchair will never lose their charm. You could play with the area rug and accessories that will add a tone of “trendy” to your overall furnishings.

MIX MASH- 'combines the high-tech with craftsmanship, new with old and it clearly shows how tradition is being turned on its head and stylized ethnic influences from all over the world meet with novel patterns, prints and fabrics.' Think for example of how you could create a clean contemporary design for your condo and still have some key pieces of your own cultural heritage or great findings from your travels.

UTILITY- 'consumer society has changed – utility invites you use it. Utility stands for simplicity, accessibility and an invitation to use. Nowadays, a decisive factor in purchasing decisions is the consideration about what is really important.' Is it more important to look good or to feel good? This relates to you as a person and to your space!  you can find more details here...

WILDERNESS STYLE- which means being at one with nature. A new interest in crafts from the past, including milling and wicker-weaving are evolving. People are looking for distinctive individualistic features marked by imperfection not perfection. A new organic look is being created.
While many of the new trends will make you wonder if... "should I change my current design to be more trendy?" or "how much should I tweak to create a trendy space?", I can assure you that any space made to look and feel comfortable will be a great start! But if you would have to choose one of the trends from above, which one would be your fav and why?

Monday, January 10, 2011


As soon as the New Year started (Happy New Year!), buying a new condo is already on many people’s goal list for 2011.

While travelling for the past couple of weeks I could not help but notice how many people talk about their condo. I love finding great design inspirations from hotels and resorts where people go to relax and enjoy all the services and amenities some cannot enjoy at home.

Living in a condo gives many of us the benefits of enjoying a hotel lifestyle and while floor plans vary drastically in size and shape, no one can deny that condo lifestyle has its own tremendous advantages.

As I was planning to do a comparison of condo floor plans from around the world, I’m happy to share with you some layouts sent in for discussion by our readers! It seems that everyone has the same space dilemmas regardless where in the world their condo is located. Here are your top 5 questions and answers related to condo layouts.

1. Very small condos- “how to figure out the best layout when looking at marketing plans unfurnished? “Let’s take a look at 2 layouts of very small spaces from Toronto one from Australia and one from Dubai.

 - layout A- 1 bedroom- 477 sq.ft.-Toronto- no wasted space, corridors are embedded in the actual kitchen space, large bedroom closet and wide living/dining area.

This layout has a very small kitchen with minimal lower cabinet storage- so assume cooking small meals :) This space will appear very open and bright once built due to the wide living/area wall-to-wall glazing.

- layout B- 1 bedroom- 523 sq.ft.- Toronto- long entrance corridor- if you read my previous blog posts, this is one feature that puzzles many condo owners as there is no practical use to a long and narrow corridor except for building a custom wall unit for small storage or simply accessorizing it with wall art.

An integrated kitchen with the open living/dining area gives you the opportunity to create a custom kitchen island/dining table which will provide more storage!

Living area- very small space, hence you can consider a 2- seat instead of a 3- seat sofa. Bedroom-very similar to layout A but if you love natural light in your sleep area this appears to be the bedroom of your choice.

- layout C- 1 bedroom-433 sq.ft- Australia- you walk right in the kitchen area, no foyer, small storage space and shower only- however for such a tiny space you basically have a separate bedroom and a dining area!

- layout D- 1 bedroom- 546sq.ft.- Dubai- really tiny kitchen, no foyer- you walk right in the kitchen area, large bedroom, however the sharp angle of the living area becomes wasted space whether you furnish the space as shown by the builder or as shown in the alternate furniture layout below.

2. Small condo spaces for baby boomers- “how to find a layout that incorporates my lifestyle: I want to be able to entertain at home and dine often with my friends and kids who come visit when on holidays.”

This 2 bedroom + dinette-1100 sq.ft. layout of one of the condos located in Vaughan, Ontario seems to be a perfect fit! While the dinette area allows you to create a more formal dining area (very suitable especially for a traditional or classic design), the rest of the space seems to have all elements of a comfortable life style for a couple downsizing from a house to a condo.

In addition, the corner unit comes with views of two sides of the building and an oversized balcony. This layout allows you to use the dinette also as a den area and have a less formal dining table in the open living/dining space.

3. “Are open kitchens better than enclosed kitchens?” This actually is simply a personal preference. It is hard to say if one type of kitchen would sell more or give more value to a condominium.

At the end of the day, it is all about your lifestyle.

Visually, open kitchens help the overall living/dining/kitchen space to appear larger and support a different lifestyle- one where kitchen is simply not just a place to prepare meals but entertain friends and family.

This 1 bedroom-700 sq.ft. from Miami has an enclosed kitchen running parallel to the main long foyer. You can always consider opening up the kitchen on the corner (assuming the condo board allows you to make that change after you move in).

It seems that the living area has more issues than the kitchen layout as it features just a 2-seat sofa?! In addition, the walk-in closet has no extra wall space other than the back wall, thus it looks like wasted floor space.

4. “Are long layouts better than wide layouts?” Again- there is no rule that one layout is better perceived than the other is. However, long and narrow layouts seem to appear like a tunnel for some people used to live in large spaces.

The best part of this 2 bedroom-789sq.ft condo townhouse located in Florida is the storage space as well as the size of each room or open area.

It is great to have walk-in closets in both bedrooms, which are also larger than many bedrooms I have seen. The double vanity is also a great feature for the ensuite and the kitchen looks great. This is a very nice layout!

5. “Are curved buildings compromising the floor plans just for the sake of exterior architectural design?” Great question and long debated over the past few years since more and more buildings appear to have a unique presence in the city. My answer is “No”!

If the building is designed to capture the best of exterior appearance and interior spaces, one should not diminish the other. Here is in interesting layout from Abu Dhabi- 1bedroom 814sq.ft.

It appears that corners do not necessarily create wasted space, all corridors spaces have been minimized so the actual space is inside each room and while the kitchen has an unusual shape and location compared to North American condos, it sure comes with a great view!

Lots to talk about when it comes to such a variety of floor plans, do you have a floor plans you are not quite sure if it works for you? Send us your layout and your questions and we will help you decide! :)