Condo Design Tips from an Award Winning Designer!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


There are few condos in every city with some of the best locations! It could be waterfront, mountain view or lake view, they are always better than 'facing another condo view’. Moving is an expense that many people don’t consider when contemplating their runaway from an old condo to a new one.

So one dilemma is (and the only one that I can solve): will my condo ever look as good as a new condo? of course the answer is YES! the interior of your condo can look as good as a new one and I have great news for you- you don’t have to spend a fortune!

You see... many people think that going through a big reno will be a huge task and the cost out of their range. Maybe that was true a decade ago when all the good things were ‘custom designed & custom made’. With so many resources all around us, I can say that if you plan in advance your renovation could be one of those really Big dreams come true.

Even if your condo is not so old, maybe just like ‘middle age’ :) you can always do few things to keep it up to date.

I am a designer and yet I am no advocate of hiring a designer for every little reno. I have met with few couples over the past few weeks who are anxious to do a condo renovation and love to see how much they would like to actually be involved in the process. I always get so excited to meet with them and give them as many tips for a successful reno as I can. The part that I love to be involved in the most is the design concept & planning. While we, as designers, have learned this partially in school and definitely with years and years of experience (by far the most important part), it doesn’t always come easy to others to envision the outcome and how to get there step by step.

If you read some of my previous blog posts, I discussed the 2 areas that deserve most of your attention when renovating an old condo (assuming that you already installed laminate or engineered flooring)  kitchen and bathroom. Take a look at these images- don’t they just cry out for help???

When dealing with really old tiles and plumbing fixtures in a bathroom reno, not to mention the white melamine countertops it must be better to just change everything! Not just because how tedious it would be to re-grout the old tiles, but the look needs to be updated.

The good thing is that you and a few good tools & classes you can attend at your local HomeDepot could be the answer to ‘how to successfully handle a renovation' . Talking about Homedepot, did you know that many renovations have been done using their materials, ideas and experts like designers and contractors?


When your kitchen still has the old style white white mdf cabinets and oak trim, you know it’s time to make a change :) The change could be ‘cosmetics’, meaning you can change the cabinet doors only if the actual cabinets are in good shape, or you could change the cabinets completely along with the countertop, backsplash and appliances!

Whether you prefer design that is more traditional or contemporary, Ikea and Homedepot have many ideas for you.

Go for dark sleek slab cabinet doors and more importantly be open to new kitchen design trends- like wall oven & microwave, different style cabinetry. The old formula ‘lower cabinets, upper cabinets, counter and backsplash in between’ is long gone!

Think of maximizing your storage space if full depth counter space is not vital for you like in this white kitchen.

Think of using new cool looking appliances like this angled vent hood.

Think incorporating a wine storage where it could make your cabinetry look quite attractive, not just at close reach.

Think of mixing different types of wood veneers and glass & aluminum frame door.

Use every inch of side gable panels and toe kick by using shallow storage space like this utility closet concealed in a side gable and this amazing toe- kick drawer!

Where else could you save some space?

The garbage bin is not to be ignored- usually you just have a cabinet under the sink where it is expected of you to fit your garbage cans as well as all cleaning products, and you start buying all kind of wire shelves that may do the job.

In fact, it is so much better to have one full retractable garbage ‘drawer’ where all garbage & recycling bins are in one spot easy to access.

What I like about some of Ikea kitchen cabinets is that they come in similar wood finishes as living/dining furniture currently on the market, so when you consider an open concept condo, it will make the space look and feel as one.

Backsplashes come in various types from glass tiles to ceramic tiles to thermoplastic panels! take a quick look at these backsplashes.

‘These backsplash panels create an instant designer look. 18 inch by 24 inch backsplash panels are available in 13 styles and 21 finishes to provide numerous combinations. Unlike traditional tin panels that require decades to acquire an antique look, these backsplash panels have that turn-of-the-century authenticity right out of the box. Finishes range from Paintable White or Brushed Aluminum to Bermuda Bronze or Cracked Copper.

Adding an artistic element to your kitchen or bathroom has never been easier. The backsplash panels can be cut with a snip, scissors or utility knife for quick and easy installation.

Installs with two-sided tape or polyurethane construction adhesive.’ Additional installation details can be found here
The great thing is that you can also paint them and if you need a bold color to make a statement in your kitchen, this is the right product for you!

I also found some great wallpaper, with bold colors and patterns.

Whether you prefer a monochromatic black & white design with a splash of color in artwork and accessories OR you are absolutely in love with a bold colorful wallpaper that could become your feature wall for the master bedroom or living/dining area, all you have to do is consider all readily available resources first!

To create a focal wall in your living/dining space or bedroom, all you have to do is choose the right wallpaper and perhaps create a frame around it using an mdf or wood casing profile, rent a nail-gun and a circular saw for the day then have fun staining or painting the profile.

You can use the same technique if you choose to create your own custom built in mirror anywhere in your condo space!

Really- is that easy! Before you panic and start wondering how much longer do you have to wait until your dream reno comes true, go on a short trip to some of the great stores in your area and you will be surprised what you find!

Oh, one more thing...while you renovate your condo, don’t forget to document the process and have fun :)

PS all images courtesy of Homedepot and Ikea

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I’m always super excited to attend the furniture & lighting show in Milan for several reasons including the fact that I feel home whenever I go to Europe :) Milan has long been regarded as the creative soul of the world in all design- fashion, lighting, furniture and every year this hub of creativity proves that style & function are top priority of any space.

While at the show I could not help but wonder, what are the best design lessons from this year’s furniture fair, lessons that I can share with you and inspire you to discover new ideas for your condos space.

This year it seems that most manufacturers are stepping away from the ordinary shapes and ‘same old same old’ contemporary ‘square lined’ furniture style. And the design trends predictions from the beginning of the year seem to be pretty accurate!

To select just a few images from the hundreds of pictures I took was no easy task :)lots of design ideas! I’ll give you a quick tour of the most interesting pieces of furniture and room ideas.
Shelving & bookcases are vibrant in colors and mix of textures- notice lots of color combinations within the same bookcase, a mix of wood grain and solid color, a tendency towards angled gables or even curved shelving.

Lots of ideas for loft spaces, highlighting the height or the width of any space with shelving seems to be an easy task. Think of using any of these ideas in a condo den where the need of a home office mixed with a guest area function could be solved by using see thru or fully solid shelving.

Tables- from coffee tables to end tables and dining, they seem to have shapes that are more organic. Twisted base tables work extremely well with glass top tables especially when highlighting the area rug in the seating or dining area. Also note the use of nesting end tables or clustered end tables used as coffee tables, what an easy way to provide a small space with layout flexibility!

Tv units- take a look at this sleek sliding tv unit! why try to centre the sofa on the tv wall unit (hard to achieve in some intricate small condo space layouts) when you can actually slide the tv to be exactly where you need it- closer to the living seating area or to the dining area.

Sustainable furniture- as one of the 2011 trends, I’m sure many of you will go for this style, especially when mixed with sleek white high gloss furniture pieces- a very interesting urban-nature inspired design style.

One very interesting design was the stackable Hemp chair by german designer Werner Aisslinger. He is using a new technology in which natural fibers like hemp are molded under heat with an ecological glue creating a sustainable composite material.

Color coordinated furniture and accessories- if you’re a fan of color coordinated accessories, these displays show how not only furniture but accessories are fully coordinated right from the start. I have to confess- this is how I like to design condo spaces as it makes the space more cohesive when one common element is found throughout- it could be the color, the texture, or the type of material used.

Color- big impact when used on a piece of furniture or room design. Milan this year showcased a lot more color in both fashion, furniture design as well as lighting. Notice how color, texture and lighting are mixed together to create features and focal points OR color is present simply as an accent, sure to change the look of any room!

Interesting concept!

The Designjuction event was a hit! as British furniture brand Modus, amongst others, launched few new products. One of these is part of a collaboration between Studio KG and Velcro (still under development). It is a modular partition system with shape and size flexibility- a kit of different length tubes wrapped in strips of Velcro makes quick room dividers custom designed by... You!

Lighting- was one of my favourite part of the show this year. Jewellery and lighting design went hand in hand for the past few years, but this year chandeliers were simply exquisite. I also loved the Mandala light fixtures!!

Foscarini offered a visual & auditoria feast of their products at Superstudio through a theatrical display of light fixtures, which created an impressive atmosphere of colour and light.

In an extremely theatrical setting vibrant light sculptures stand out in space like gigantic monuments. The lamps in the collection -- repeated, rotated and repositioned -- will be multiplied to present the nature of every model in a crescendo of emotions. This is Metamorphosis, the Foscarini installation at Fuorisalone 2011, in the Superstudio Più spaces. Watch this video!

Concept: Vicente Garcia Jimenez
Lighting Design: A.J. Weissbard
Music Design: Francesco Morosini