We are excited to announce that we will be presenting on the Main Stage at the Calgary Home + Design Show, Sept 20 and 21, 2013
See link below for speaking schedule and topic details.
We are giving away 4 pairs of tickets to the show!
Tickets will be awarded to the first four people to enter!
See you at the Show!
image courtesy of www.urbannarrative.com
I was recently asked the question "What is your Design Style". My near-instant reaction was to feel the hair on the back of my neck standup in slight indignation. And why you ask? Its funny but I just get the tiniest bit tetchy when I'm asked a question to which you know the asker wants you to give a quick 'sound bite' of a response that appeals to our impatient 21st Century desires in five words or less. In thinking it over as to why I reacted this way, I had to acknowledge that it's because I've learned enough in my twenty-plus years in the design business to know that personal style should be multi-layered and not necessarily actually be definable in simple sound-bite phraseology.
In our fast-food approach to modern life there are all too many lovely interiors which by description are some sort of style or other, and yet some of them are lacking in personality, and a sense of place.
I personally do not have a 'set' design style, and that is a very conscious choice because I believe you should avoid pigeon holing yourself into a - well - pigeon hole! I also say that because when you determine the look and feel for your interiors you should not do so without considering it in context to its surrounding environment, the architectural style of the building, and the cultural context in which it is situated. Having said that if you cornered me in a dark alley and asked me this question for life or death I'd probably say on a personal level I am currently tending towards more mid-century modern influences. But that single preference is not the only style I enjoy - its just one that's perhaps a bit more front-of-mind at the moment because it is appropriate for where I am currently living and responds to my preference for light and color. While my current home reflects a bit of the mid century modern style, I would not describe my home as being 'mid century modern'. Its just a home that reflects my quirky and eclectic personal tastes with a hint of mid-century modern as a vibe, in the same way a skewered olive is an enhancement to a classic martini. Its not the main event, but the main event would not be the same without it.
Note that I also said I am "currently tending towards". Its a good thing to give yourself permission to change your design preferences as you mature and travel. None of us are a work of black and white, so let your boundaries be a little flexible to allow in the influences that your life journey brings, to enhance and inform your interiors so that they reflect your personality and not simply some generic 'design style' that can be categorized in a single word. From a purists point of view, our answer to the question "What is Your Design Style" should really be "My Own Style".
I recommend to all my clients that when they are determining their interior style preferences that they also consider it in conjunction with the style of the architecture of the home itself, as well as the context of the location (ie is city or coastal, mountain or prairie). While it is important to know what you like and dislike and have a general sense of your style preferences regardless of where you are living, you can enrich your enjoyment of the space by ensuring that their is a language of harmony expressed between the interior space and the architectural style and the location. If there is a disconnect between them it can have a negative effect on those who inhabit or use the space; Warning signs can be when you know something doesn't feel right but can't quit put your finger on it. Often if this is the case, the synergy may off between these elements.
It does not mean that if the exterior of your home is traditional that the interior must follow suit in all aspects; For example, I have seen quite contemporary interiors done in fairly traditional homes. However, to strike the balance it is generally most pleasing to have a similar type of feeling and mood conveyed from the exterior and carried through into the interior. You may be able to place contemporary pieces intermixed with some traditional and/or transitional pieces, as long as the overall mood and feel of the home has a consistency and flow, connected by a common thread.
What I am talking about is what many design peeps refer to as 'Sense of Place". In other words, that the architecture and its corresponding interior should be informed by the context of the location, and the culture in which it finds itself. Generally speaking, architecture and interiors 'feel' right when they harmonize and compliment the place. This is especially so when they are constructed using materials indigenous to the area. Think of the lovely villages in the Cotswold Hills of England in which the homes were constructed out of Cotswold Stone. Similarly how the homes in Greece are white and made of local plaster/chalk/mud. In both cases they achieve a sense of place because they 'feel' like they belong in their environment.
It is quite pleasing when you extend the sensibility expressed in the architecture into the interiors. Think back to the Greek example above, and visualise what Greek homes look and feel like; They have simple unadorned walls and furnishings, using bright colors on a white background, often with blue as a preferred color. In that type of architectural and in a climate which receives intense hot sunlight, you can use either traditional furnishings or contemporary furnishings, but generally the lines of them should be simple and unfussy, in order to compliment the architecture. Accent the interior with touches of bright color. All of it is made luminous through the type of natural light they receive.
If you've ever been on holiday to a Greece and you feel quite at home there, you may even say you 'love' the interior design style and get tempted to try in your own home, in part to try to remind you of the happy times you have spent on holiday.
However, it may be a mistake to attempt to apply that design style (either in part or entirety) to your own home which is in a completely different part of the world, in a totally different climate. Unless of course your home had the right architectural 'bones' to support a change of style, and even then you have to be careful to avoid making it feel like a caricature of the real thing. If the bones aren't right, then no matter how much cosmetics you apply on top of it, it will not feel right.
So, the moral of the story is as you become aware of your personal style preferences, to also consider at the same time the context of where your home is located and consider how this should inform and influence your interiors. Design is not an exact science and you don't have to feel cornered into making a definitive statement that confines your style into a little pigeon hole. It will feel right and will give meaning to you and the environment in which it is situated, when it reflects your personality, and responds to the architecture and cultural context of its location.
We are very pleased to introduce our interior design sourcebook, which allows you to access a wide variety of styles of furniture, every single one of which has a 'green' story. Click the link below for immediate access;
Over the past two years, we have coordinated with many suppliers and manufacturers and we have curated this collection of contemporary, transitional, and traditional furnishings and lighting to make it EASY for you to access products which benefit your own health while being kind to the environment.
While all of the products we have curated are available from various suppliers, to our knowledge our sourcebook is one of a very few - perhaps the only - book which has taken environmentally friendly furniture products from various North American sources and put it all together in one easy to read volume categorized by style.
As you will see by viewing the sourcebook, green furnishings DO indeed go hand in hand with high style, charm and grace! We hope this helps to debunk the myth that 'green' is boring, dull and lacking in style. On the contrary! It is anything but!
Use the sourcebook:
1. For Inspiration
2. To select actual furniture pieces for your project.
3. In conjunction with our Design Services
All of the pieces are available for purchase through Kevin Gray Interiors for less than retail pricing! Inquire for details.
If you need the link again here it is:
To celebrate the launch of our sourcebook, we are offering a free, complimentary design consultation to the first ten people to contact us. If you are located in Calgary this will be an in-person meeting. If you are located further afield we will conduct the consultation by Skype, or a combination of phone/email. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
The great fashion designer Coco Chanel once said that "The Best Color in the World is the One That Looks Good on You". OK. So why is that the hook on this blog post about interior decoration?
There is actually a very close correlation between Chanel's quotation and where you should start when selecting color for your own home. But we DON'T necessarily mean that you should be using color in your home because it looks good when you wear it.
We are simply suggesting that in the same way you know what colors look good on you, you should also develop an awareness for what colors you prefer in architecture and interiors. I have found that most of my clients struggle when it comes to identifying their personal preferences for color in home interiors.
Indulge me for a moment - visualize or actually sit in a room in your home. Now, ask yourself the question "What is the most important thing in this room"? Now, you could tell me that its the view, the colors, or the closeness of the furniture grouping, or the heirloom piece of furniture, or perhaps its the artwork, or the wonderful quality of light filtered through the trees outside.
Any of the above could well be true, but the single most important thing in the room is YOU.
OK we hope you don't mind being called a 'thing'. But you see, what I find many of my clients forget when they are designing their space - and including choosing colors for that space - is that before they start anything or look anywhere else for design/color inspiration you need to start with who the room is being designed for, and have a fairly good idea of the color's which are most appreciated by that person(s).
While there are other factors that must come into consideration when selecting color schemes, such as the orientation of the room, the architectural style of the home and the context in which it is situated (inner city, suburbs or country acreage), the starting point should always be to identify personal preferences and let the other factors be considered secondary to that.
If its your home and your room, then start by assessing your own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to style or color. You can go to websites, social media, magazines or other sources for inspiration but if you don't have a system to 'filter' what you are seeing and clearly identify the specific elements that you are drawn to in the images, it could make you more confused than when you started.
So how do you develop a filtering system? Here are some things that will help you be focused while doing this. While looking at an image, answer the following questions. It is NOT important at this stage what the style of the room is that you are looking at; For example, you may see an image of a very sleek contemporary interior which you like even although you would not be that contemporary in your own home. Likewise you might gravitate to an image of a particularly charming traditionally styled interior. For this exercise the style of the interior is of secondary importance.
1. When looking at the image, try to define in one or two words how it makes you FEEL. We are emotional creatures and how we feel when we look at an image of an appealing interior resonates throughout our entire physiology. The space you are looking at must inspire you to WANT to be there, and in order for it to accomplish this effect, it had to first create a feeling in you. What is that feeling?
2. Now, attempt to isolate and identify the colors in the space. This is more than just the paint color. Start by identifying the predominant colors on walls, floors, ceilings, then identify colors on furnishings, window coverings, and accessories.
3. Note how the blend of colors has been balanced. Specifically identify the predominant color and the secondary colors and accent colors.
4. If you have a paint fan to hand, find some colors that are approximately similar to the ones you have identified in #2. You are not using the paint fan at this point to select paint colors, you are simply using it as a tool to look at all the colors identified in #2 and isolate them so that the colors no longer are identified with the image.
5. Do the paint colors you just isolated match the feeling you identified in #1? If they do match that feeling, and if those colors do indeed appeal to you (in isolation from the style of the room you saw in the magazine/internet image) then you can be fairly certain that this palette of color represents at least some of your own personal preferences.
Repeat the excercise for a number of images and then compare the color palettes you isolated. Is there a similar theme running through them all, or is there a variety of themes? Most of us will identify a variety of different themes, with a majority of them being similar and a lesser amount of them being quite different. This could be referred to as your primary and secondary color palette preferences.
Be assured that its perfectly fine to like colors and/or styles which are quite different from one another. However it can be tricky to know how to take all of this new-found information and make it useful.
The trick is in knowing how to filter it down to the next level so that you can begin to narrow down to make color choices which would be most appropriate for the space you are planning to decorate.
That's where the secondary 'filters' come into play; the architectural style of your home, the orientation of the room(s) in question, the function of that room, and the geographical location (context) of the home. But we're not going into that in this blog post because that would take too long. Sorry!! ; ) See our previous postings on selection of color based on room orientations. We'll get to a blog about colors based on architectural styles and geographical context soon!
This 'filtering process' is kind of like a funnel where the top is wider, and then it narrows towards the bottom. At the top of the filtering funnel are your personal preferences, then come all of the secondary filters until eventually you have narrowed down all of your color selections so that what pops out the bottom is a beautiful color scheme perfectly suited to you and your home.
If you want more assistance in defining your personal preferences I suggest you try this website which has a fun color assessment exercise you can do. This excercise helps you identify your dominant and secondary preferences and gives you a written description which helps you understand the concept, mood and feeling which your specific color preference is derived from. My clients find it to be fairly accurate. Please try it and let me know your feedback on closely you feel it reflects your personal preferences. http://www.voiceofcolor.com/en/colorsensegame/index.asp
1. Use a Renovation Company – Which provides both Design and Construction Services.
This scenario plays out similar to the following: You start off by seeing a member of the sales team who will meet you to gain an understanding of the scope of work. This meeting may occur at the office of the renovator or at your home. In any case the renovator will want to see your home at some point, before they can go further.
Once the renovator has seen your existing home and taken some basic measurements they may then provide you with a ballpark estimate for the scope of work in question. The benefit with this is that it will give you a general idea of the range you can expect to pay, however be aware that any estimates given at this stage are at best a guesstimate until further design work is done, regardless of the promises the renovator may make.
Once you have accepted the ballpark estimate you then may be requested to pay a nominal deposit which will secure the design phase of the work. At that point a designer will be assigned to your project and will work with you on the details of the scope of work – creating floor plans layouts, elevation drawings, and helping you make material selections. The duration of the design process may vary significantly depending on the renovator, and depending on how quickly you as the client can make decisions.
When the design and material selections have been made the budget will then be updated and you will be presented with an updated budget estimate which is much closer to what the actual costs will be. At that point, should you choose to proceed you will be pay the renovator a deposit on the construction process and sign an actual construction contract, which will explain in detail their terms and payment schedule etc.
Pros: It’s a one-stop shop, and you are dealing with the same team all the way through. In many cases, the renovator gives you a very good deal on the design services or offers other incentives because you are using them for the whole thing. If you like the company and click with all levels of their team then this is an excellent option. *see additional notes below at the end of this document.
Cons: With some design/construction companies you may find that if you don’t’ like the designer or the design they are coming up with that you don’t have another option, or conversely you may like the design but find their construction workmanship to be lacking. You then may feel stuck with a company which overall does not meet all your needs consistently. Also, in some cases this scenario forces you to build 'down to a budget' rather than 'up to a standard'. In other words, some renovators want to do your full scope of work but in order to complete it all within that budget they have to lower the standard of finishing.
2. Contract the Design separate from the construction
In this scenario you contract the services of a design professional first, prior to engaging any renovation company or independent contractor. Once design drawings have been done, you can then take them to a number of contractors/renovators to get comparison prices.
The designer will come out to your home to view it and get a general idea on the scope of work. At the same time the designer will want to understand a bit about you and you will want to assess whether you feel this is someone you could work closely with. You want to ensure the designer is listening to your needs and has understood both what you have said, and is also able to suggest other ideas which you may not have already thought of.
Before you meet with the designer, ask if the initial meeting is simply a meet and greet, or if they will be giving you advice. Some designers like simply to have an introductory meeting without talking specifics about the design, then if you decide to proceed, they will then talk design in subsequent meetings which they will charge you for. Some designers charge for the initial meeting, but many do not charge as long as you are not talking about design in detail.
A designer will usually not be able to quote you for a project simply from a phone conversation. At the most they may provide you with their typical hourly rate(s). If they do give you a figure for an entire project over the phone, question them to be as specific as possible about what that includes. Speaking as a designer I never give a client an estimate over the phone because there can be so many variables in a project that I simply cannot know from a phone conversation.
Once you are past the initial meeting stage, and the scope of the design work has been determined, the designer will put some sort of fee agreement in place. How fees are charged varies from one firm to another and also may depend on the extent of design work you require. Some firms will charge an hourly rate with no maximum. Other firms will charge an hourly rate for the initial concept design stage (in which basic floor plan layouts will be determined which helps the designer and you to clarify the scope of what they will actually be designing in more detail) and then provide an estimate for the development of the design and the material selections, and other designers will charge a fixed fee based on a clearly defined scope of work.
In most cases if the scope of work is exceeded either at your specific request or due a circumstance beyond the designers control *(see note immediately below) they will charge an hourly rate or fixed fee for the additional services.
*Unforeseen things that can add to the designers scope of work include but may not be limited to: A material that has been selected and then the supplier has not stock of – so the designer has to select another material, The client requests more changes to the design than the designer has reasonably allowed for, the clients contractor requiring more design supervision than the designer has budgeted for, and so on.
Pros: When approaching a contractor with your design, your designer becomes a more neutral party who is not tied directly to the contractor. In this way, the designer can help you ‘vet’ the contractors and help you make a decision. Also, when your designer is helping you make material selections, you can select from almost any supplier, versus working with a renovator who has limited choice of suppliers. You then have a wider selection within your budget range. Also, if you hire an independent designer you have a larger range of designers to select from, and a greater chance of finding someone who is best suited to you. You will pay more for the services of an independent designer, however if they are worth their salt the value-to-investment ratio wi
Cons: When constructing the project, should you use a renovation company rather than an independent contractor, be aware that some renovator companies prefer drawings and specifications to be prepared according to the format their in-house design team use, regardless of how professional your designers drawing and specification format is – in this situation you would have to have the renovator agree to use the drawings and specs provided regardless of the format or have them agree to at least take the specifications and ‘input’ them into their own procurement system, or as a last resort pay the designer an additional sum to revise the drawing/spec format to suit the renovators requirements. Having said that, there are many renovators and independent contractors who will work with any designers’ set of drawings and specifications as long as they are complete, and are easy to understand.
Another ‘con’ is that unless your designer has a good grasp of what things cost prior to starting the design process, you could be paying their fee for something which you cannot afford to build, and in so doing waste money that could have been invested elsewhere. In this regard I recommend engaging a designer who can explain budget ballpark ranges of typical costs to you prior to signing a contract with them. Also if they have an estimator they can go to during the early stages of design, it is an added bonus.
3. A Variant on #2 is to have your independent designer coordinate the construction.
This is where the designer would do all of the design as in #2, but would also then contract out the construction and oversee it. To charge for the construction work, some designers take a markup on the sub contractor’s prices, while other designers will charge a project management percentage fee.
In my own case, I will only engage in contracting a project if the client will allow me to use specific sub trades who I know and whom I have a track record of working with. The reason is because if the client wants my assurance of turning out a good quality end result, I need to be confident in the trades I am using.
This is in particular reference to the following trades: Demolition, framing, drywalling, painting, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, hardwood, tiling and finish carpentry. When it comes to other sub trades I will work with a wider variety of them, with a few exceptions. When it comes to suppliers of materials I also work with a wide variety of them with only a few exceptions.
The reason I make these caveats is because if I have to work with trades whom I do not know, or whose workmanship is below my standards of acceptance, it usually means that more time is incurred in resolving problems, which in turn costs you more money, which in turn adds more time to the project, and I have less control over the end result.
Pros: In this situation you again have a one stop shop and have one point of contact all the way through the job. Also, since your designer is in charge of construction they have much greater control over the quality of the construction work, and are more assured that the design intent will be retained by being closely involved with all on-site troubleshooting and resolutions.
Cons: If your designer is not strong in project management and scheduling a project, the timing of the project could extend unnecessarily. Also, if for any reason you had a disagreement with your designer early on in the project which was not mutually resolved, you could have a more challenging relationship through construction, but this can be avoided if it is clear up front that the design contract is totally separate to the construction. The other con is if the construction end of the contract is a cost-plus (markup) basis, the designer can use it to hide any losses they have sustained on the design side of the contract. My personal preference is to do a project management fee for the construction management side of things.
1. Regardless of the contractor or renovator you are considering, always ask them how busy they are and get them to quantify that. You want to ensure that the site manager assigned to your project is dealing with a manageable workload, has experience in managing your particular type of project, AND that the sub trades he has at his disposal are also available. As a general rule of thumb, if a site managers project load outside of a whole home renovation is any more than three to four projects it is a given that the level of proactivity and attention to detail on your project will decrease.
2. Always look for your contractor to schedule more time on a project rather than too little. When doing a renovation there is ALWAYS something unforeseen and you are better off with a contractor who will give you a rough time frame and then add an additional amount of time onto it for ‘unknowns’.
3. Question renovators or contractors who promise a firm completion date. In the renovation business there are so many variables and once walls and other surfaces are opened up there may be unforeseen items which will require upgrading, whcih of course will add time to the construction duration. Yes, they should e able to give you an approximate estimate of construction timelines, but if they say they will be finished by 'x' date you really need to question why they are saying that, given that there could be unforeseen variables.
4. Further to number 3, look for a contractor who budgets a contingency amount for unknowns, and clearly shows a line item in the budget indicating what contingency amount is being carried. A contingency should be somewhere between 8% to 20% of overall construction estimated costs. The variance is due to the size and/or complexity of the project. A small but complex project may require a higher contingency than a large but straightforward one for example.
5. Look for a contractor/renovator who is bonded and insured (obvious but important), and find out if they offer any warranties and if so what specifically do they cover.
6. Contractors/renovators charge differently. Some charge a mark up on all products and services and they do not disclose what that mark up is so there is less transparency in the pricing. Others charge a construction management fee and do not charge a mark up on the services and are very transparent with the costs of their subtrades. In addition, most contractors/renovators charge an additional fee for changes after the contract has been signed. Determine which method is the most comfortable for you.
7. If you are going to contract the design and construction separately, a scenario I recommend is to have your contractor/renovator already selected prior to – or very early on in – the design process. That way the designer can involve your contractor in the design process and have the contractor comment on the budget as the designer is developing the plans and selections. To do this, you would need to interview various contractors first to determine the one that best suits your needs. In this scenario my recommendation is to find a contractor who charges a project management fee and is transparent with the subcontractor pricing. In this way, both you and the designer can keep better tabs on budget while the design is being developed. The contractor may or may not start charging their fee during the design process.
Kevin Gray is a residential interiors specialist, who has more than 20 years experience in the interior and architectural design industry.