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February 20, 2011

15 Essential Steps you need to know, when designing your dream home. Part 4 of 5

So, let’s review, we’ve looked at steps 1-3 designing your dream home.

1. Selecting your perfect structure.

2. Floor plans and elevations.
3. Function

Then steps 4-6 of designing your dream home:

4. Budget
5. Mood and Style
6. Overall design

And steps 7-9 of designing your dream home:

7. Bathroom and Kitchen design

8. Furniture Plan
9. Lighting plan

Now... we move on to steps 10, 11 and 12 !

10. Window coverings: 

When designing your dream home, be aware of oddly shaped windows. For some reason architects love to add them in! Notice the angle at the top of the window below, it dips down in the centre.

These windows are very difficult to cover. If you like horizontal blinds these can usually be used in some of the more difficult, or odd shaped windows, however not everyone likes horizontal blinds. Many clients prefer window coverings that can be slid to the sides so that all of the glass is showing. Transom windows (especially if they are arched), although beautiful, are especially difficult to cover. (Please do not cover windows with furniture as in this photo below!)

Determine what kind of light coverage do you need. Do you sleep in - then curse the sunlight in the morning; or do you embrace it? You may need room darkening, or light filtering blinds. Do you have a window needing privacy? A window with lots of glare? Many solutions are available.

traditional bedroom design by portland interior designer Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc.

Discuss your drapery needs with an interior designer or window coverings specialist. Note these can be a little pricey, 30% of your room's budget usually goes towards window coverings. 

11. Fabric: 

OK, so we are really getting to the styling part here. We know the mood we want to achieve. But where do we go from here? One idea is to start with a ‘signature fabric’, this is a fabric that sets a style or creates your desired mood. Determine the placement of your signature fabric. This can be an expensive fabric - perhaps use it just for the front of a small pillow. Confirm your signature fabric suits the ambiance you desire. Use this fabric to set the colour tone of your room.

Now select complementary fabrics, but allow in general, no more than three different patterns in one room! Determine placement of all fabrics i.e:

- patterned drapery fabrics for the windows - like the example above

- perhaps a cream and raspberry stripe for an ottoman,

- teal polka dots for the chair backs.

Finally select trim to customize draperies or throw cushions. Then use your signature fabric to pick colours for the rest of the room.

12. Wall colour: 

Now you can finally pick a wall colour! Can you believe we had to wait until step 12 for this? Wall color is not usually picked until near the end of the design, as there are so many different colours of paint to choose from. Kimberley Seldon says " picking a wall colour first is like buying a lipstick, then look all over trying to find a dress to match." 


Remember to keep the room’s atmosphere in mind. What is your light level? Resist the urge to paint a dark room in a light colour. Donald Kaufman says "Light wall colours never come to life in a dark room..." If the room is sunny, play that up - don't use a dark colour for the walls. Look at your signature fabric for wall color ideas. 

I can go on and on about colour but really colour expert Maria Killam says it best when she says "Painting a dark room in pale colours simply accentuates the shadows in a space." 

Other questions to ask when selecting a colour 'theme' : Are you drawn to warm, neutral or cool colours? Do you prefer many colors or a monochromatic look? 
Personally I throw out the colour theory I was taught in design school. I don't understand how someone can look at a room and say "do I want a complementary colour scheme? What about the split - complementary colour scheme or maybe an analogous colour scheme?" 

Maybe, just maybe those theories come into play when looking at how to spice up a room with accessories or accents, but in general the main points to remember are: ensure the colour flows from room to room, keep either a clean, (or conversely), a muted or a dirty colour scheme throughout, and remember to consider the undertones - more about that in a later post.

Finding all this confusing? E-mail me to find out how you can have the home of your dreams! Stay tuned for our last 3 steps!

February 13, 2011

15 Essential Steps you need to know, when designing your dream home Part 3 of 5.

So, let’s review, we've looked at steps 1-3 in designing your dream home:

1. Selecting your perfect structure.
2. Floor plans and elevations.
3. Function

Then steps 4-6 in designing your dream home:

4. Budget
5. Mood and Style
6. Overall design

Let’s move on to step #7.

7. Bathroom and Kitchen:

Powder Room / Half Bath traditional bathroom

In our last blog I had mentioned that when considering the overall design of a new home or renovation, I always start with the kitchen.  I find the kitchen counter top to be the most limiting.  Yes, there are lots of different materials; quartz, granite, cement, laminates, etc.  But I still find the colour palette generally starts with the counter tops. 

Classic White traditional kitchen

Then we move onto the cabinetry itself – do we want stained or painted? The trend is certainly towards a light coloured, painted finish, Colour guru Maria Killam points out more information about which colour cabinetry to select. 

When I specify a painted finish, I usually go with a MDF material for the cabinets. I find all kitchen cabinetry or wood in general, contracts and expands with the moisture in the air. If you are using wood, the joints will split a little when the wood swells. If the cabinets are stained, that small gap is not noticeable, but if they are painted, it certainly is noticeable. MDF does not contract nor expand to the extent that natural wood does, so we don’t have to worry about any tiny cracks. 

That being said, if a raw (unpainted) area of MDF is exposed to water for an extended period of time, this will swell and will not go back down. However, all areas of MDF should be painted, leaving no ‘raw’ areas. Just take care to dry off those dishes before stacking them in the cupboards.

Backsplash detail contemporary kitchen

Now we’ve got appliances selected (as stated in my last post), cabinets and counter tops selected, let’s select our sinks and faucets.  Speak with your cabinet manufacturer and find out which size sinks you can accommodate.  Ensure the sinks will be large enough to contain all the splashes from either washing dishes or washing hands.  Select faucets that are easy to use and go with the general style of your home.
In the bathroom when selecting your tub – don’t be afraid to visit showrooms and lay in the tub.  There are two things I don’t like selecting for clients - tubs and beds – they really are a personal preference. Make sure you’ll be comfy in the tub. 

Now, select tile to coordinate with bathroom fixtures, flooring faucets, etc.  Please, please, please don’t select an accent tile, if you really need an accent, perhaps select a textured tile, one that co ordinates with your general tile.  Different coloured tiles or patterned tiles date so easily.  Remember, when in doubt  use plain tile.  You can always bring in accent pieces of sculpture, or flower vases, etc. to give life to the room, don’t rely on accent tiles to do this job.

8.  Furniture plan:

It is essential to create a furniture plan before choosing lighting or finalizing the electrical plan. Go through each room and write down all the activities that will happen in each room.  i.e. in our living room we:

Watch TV
Play board games

Ensure you have furniture for each activity and plan for furniture to perform double duty for several functions.  We have upholstered ottomans that we prop our feet up on when watching TV, but when we have several guests over, they become seats, they are also pulled up to the coffee table for board games.  Arrange furniture around a focal point, perhaps the fireplace or a window with a view.
9.  Lighting plan:

a.  Choose your general lighting first. This is the lighting that you initially switch on when entering a room – it casts a soft, even light over the bulk of the room. 

b.  Task lighting next; such as Island lighting, under cabinet lighting, desk lighting.  Think about what tasks you’ll do in which rooms and ensure you aren’t struggling to see.  A tip when you are reading – the bottom of the table lamp shade should be level with your eyes when seated, this is the most comfortable level for most people and helps to reduce eye fatigue.
c.  Decorative lighting is last; such as: wall sconces, up lighting, etc.
To me, lighting is one of the most important aspects of design.  It can make or break the atmosphere of your room. Be sure to include both up lighting and down lighting (have some light sources shine up, some shine down). Ensure you have enough outlets to plug in your favourite lamp, stereo, computer etc. The electrical budget usually equates to 3% of your budget.

Stay tuned next week for more design tips.  If you need help or have any questions on home design, please email me at  I’d love to help you complete the home of your dreams!

February 3, 2011

15 Essential steps you need to know, when designing your dream home. Part 2 of 5

Last week we looked at steps 1-3 of designing your dream home.

1. Selecting your perfect structure.
2. Floor plans and elevations.
3. Function.

Today we'll look at steps 4, 5 and 6. Whether you are building from scratch, renovating, or just tackling that one room; we'll help you solve your design dilemmas.

4. Budget:

The dreaded "B" word - budget. Create a budget and stick to it. I know it's not fun, but yes, it is essential. Here’s some help…
Speak with your builder or interior designer first. They will have a set amount of money allotted for items such as counter tops, lighting fixtures, flooring etc. Shop within this budget and see what you get for that amount. Remember a good hint is to put your money in things that you touch or see on flat surfaces, these are the items that are most visually prominent.

 Materials such as flooring, counter tops and paint are often where quality really shows. Go for the best you can afford for those surfaces. Items that aren't so visually apparent like toilets, sinks, and high mounted lighting fixtures don't need to be expensive to get that great look.

Master Bathroom  bathroom

So, save on some areas and splurge where it really shows! When budgeting, don’t forget to include essential items such as window coverings, home insurance and property taxes. 

5. Mood and Style:

Choose to create an emotional atmosphere in your home. We live by our emotions. Have you ever seen a home that is lovely, but lacking something? It's probably lacking emotion or mood – the real ‘feel’ of the home.
What mood do I want this house to convey? What's my style? Traditional, contemporary, west coast or 50s bungalow? Look at the exterior of your home and continue that style throughout. Nothing looks worse than when you have an exterior that is a different style from the interior. We need a unified and beautiful look to create a harmonious home.

I live in a Frank Lloyd Wright styled home. In design school, I learned that he spent a lot of time in Japan. His homes and interiors quite often reflected the Japanese style - low, horizontal lines, and low pitched roofs. So I went with a slightly Asian look in my home, minimal furnishings, no clutter, I selected furniture for function - with a Zen like appeal.

Current issue

Look at those tear sheets you've collected from magazines, often they evoke the mood that you love. Try to replicate that mood - if you need help hire an interior designer- this can be the most cost effective way of keeping you on budget. Designers prevent you from purchasing those 'one-off' kind of items. Having those types of items in your design can throw off your focus, ending up with a home that has no cohesive flow. Designers can sum up the mood you are trying to achieve and keep you on track.
80% of your style should be one focused style. Whether it's casual, modern, country, formal or informal; keep your style in mind when selecting tile, kitchen cabinets, plumbing fixtures, or purchasing furniture.

6. Design:

I like to start with the kitchen; it truly is the heart of the home. Select appropriate appliances before designing cabinetry. Note: non-standard sized appliances or fridges will not fit in standard cabinetry. Work with a great designer who knows how to create functional kitchen spaces.

We aren't so concerned about the traditional triangle in kitchen design – whereby the stove, sink and fridge are in a triangle formation. That worked well when there was only one cook in the kitchen, but as kitchens increasingly have multiple family cooks helping out - think about work zones. We need a baking and cooking zone, prep zone, beverage zone, clean up zone. Ensure all work areas are covered and it will make your life so much easier.

Farm Sink traditional kitchen

Look through the other ‘work’ rooms of your home i.e. laundry and bathroom areas. List your day to day activities and ensure your home truly functions to enable your life to flow smoothly. Isn't that what great design is all about?
Stay tuned for more great design tips from Reflections Interior Designs.