New Home, Naramata, BC
Georgie Award Finalist 2013
New Home, Naramata, BC
Georgie Award Finalist 2013
Interior Design, East Vancouver, BC
Green Build Award Finalist 2013
Georgie Award Finalist - Best Residential Renovation ($300,000-$499,999) 2013
Vancouver Home Magazine, Dec 2013
Complete project list:
Local Motion Therapy
Ocean Park Residence
Sikorski Naimer Residence
We’ve all heard it said that kitchens are the heart of the house, and given the time spent in most kitchens, it is no surprise that this is the place where most homeowners will spend the most money.
The kitchen, in many ways, is the most complicated room in a home because it needs to accommodate more functions than any other space. When embarking on a custom kitchen design, the list of considerations is immense. An effective way to organize the process of design is to categorize the details under the headings of: use, layout, style, budget and materials.
This column marks the first of a two-part column that will first talk about use and layout, and then address style, budget and materials in the next article.
Determining how a kitchen is used lends itself to the exploration of the habits, hobbies and day to day functions of your household. Do you love to bake or have elaborate dinner parties? Or do you have small children and need a space to watch over them as they do their homework while you prepare dinner?
Mapping out the way you plan to use your space will help you figure out which appliances you need, what kind of work space may be required, and even how the space needs to flow in order to carry out the various tasks that need to be accomplished on a regular basis. The end of this initial exploration should bring about a wish-list of components that establishes the program for your kitchen. This program can then be used to layout your space.
Kitchen layouts can be as unique as the families they are designed for, but there are fundamental principles that can be adapted to organize an efficient space. Most kitchen planners will start with a workspace “triangle” composed of a sink, fridge and cook top, or range. You typically don’t want to have to travel more than three to seven feet within the confines of this triangle, but with the advent of even more appliances like built-in espresso machines, steam ovens, microwaves and refrigeration systems that separate fridges from freezers, the traditional “triangle” is starting to look like a crazy many sided polygon. All these new appliances, combined with fixtures like bar sinks, ice-makers and hot water dispensers can certainly leave one’s head spinning when searching for an organizational strategy.
One way to start would be to move from specific to general layout planning. In order to do this, you can think of breaking down each activity. For example, let’s think of what it takes to get you your first cup of morning coffee. If you have a built-in coffee machine, it might be good to have it located by the china cupboard for mugs, near a sink for accessing water or cleaning parts, and by the fridge for cream. Thinking about how you use each appliance starts to influence what surrounds them, and the relationships they have with each other. In essence, the various operations of each appliance and fixture will actually start to dictate its location.
This matrix of kitchen tools will then be grounded by circulation, work stations, and places of repose. Some of the more typical layouts or shapes for kitchens are the U-shape, L-shape, or a galley style kitchen. These more traditional shapes assume only one work station in the kitchen, but the evolution of design ideas along with the growing sizes of kitchens and lifestyle changes have created even more shapes like a double L that incorporates a peninsula, or even a G shape that has a free-standing island in the middle of a U-shape kitchen.
Regardless of the shape of the kitchen, circulation paths should not be less than three feet or more than six feet with work areas set apart so as to not interrupt food or beverage preparation. The same can be said of the dining areas in a kitchen like a raised bar, or nook area. It is, however, important that these spaces maintain not only a visual connection to the work areas, but be able to interact with them as well.
With today’s busy schedules, having places in the kitchen where guests and family members can interact with those preparing meals has become a critical component in design. More often than not, meal preparation is just as much of a social activity as the actual dining.
Today’s kitchen is not only the source of physical sustenance, but also a place that facilitates the mingling of friends and family. In this sense, the kitchen is, truly, the heart of the home.
With the unsettling realities of the state of the world settling into 2009, the idea of having a place to decompress or, quite frankly, hide is a welcome notion.
I cannot count how many times clients have come to us with the request of wanting to have a bathroom with a “spa-like” quality—a place where they can have a temporary reprieve from the comings and goings of the day-to-day grind. If you really think about it, this is a pretty tall order for a single room in a house to fill, but it is amazing how having just one space dedicated to being a sanctuary can influence the overall feeling in the rest of the home. The way a bathroom is equipped, designed and detailed can certainly enhance this experience.
On the most basic level, the bathroom is conceived of as a purely functional space traditionally associated with sanitizing and often times, rushing around. However, the need for a place for stillness has inspired a series of new concepts to help outfit today’s bathrooms. Each concept, infused with technology and design, isolates each activity to a separate zone.
The tub area should be situated in an area that has the potential to evoke the most serenity. It should be furthest away from the door, and off the path of circulation. Placing a tub in an alcove, with an operable window to welcome in fresh air or glimpses to a peaceful outdoor scene can certainly enhance the bathing experience. It is also a great idea to have a wide enough tub deck to allow for the placement of candles, or even a glass of wine. Tubs themselves have come a long way and are not only available in a variety of sizes and shapes, but may also have the added soothing benefits of air jets that create the effect of bathing in champagne bubbles, or water jets that can massage tired muscles. One of the newest features available in tubs is chromatherapy. Chromatherapy uses rhythmic coloured light sequences that are believed to aid in the restoration of inner balance. In the end, however, sometimes nothing beats just a good, hot soak in a traditional clawfoot tub.
The idea of taking a “quick shower” can also surrender to the notion of infusing more relaxation into one’s daily cleansing ritual. Today’s showers have the option to come equipped with a “shower system.” A combination of multiple sprays, or a shower arm combined with a large rain shower head, or waterfall spout can facilitate a varied and soothing experience. Steam showers are also quite popular, but they need to be installed with benches, and proper ventilation in order to have the full effect of an in-home sauna. It is also nice, space permitting, to have a shower stall that is designed for two.
Unlike showers, tubs, or toilets for that matter, the wide selection of sinks and faucets available has little to do with technology and almost everything to do with esthetics. In this sense, the design of the vanity area provides an opportunity for a unique architectural expression. In addition to selecting fixtures and finishes that best suit the overall feeling you are trying to evoke, consider having varied counter heights to accommodate different functions. A lowered area, between 27 and 29 inches, is a perfect height for applying makeup while sitting down, while a sink height of 32-34 inches is best for tasks that require standing up. You can even incorporate counter heights that range from 36-42 inches to facilitate more storage.
These cleansing stations seem best served when there is some separation from the toilet area. This can be achieved by either creating a separate room, or by erecting a small wall to block the sight line. However, this most base of all bathroom activities need not be bereft of luxury. Toilet technology aside, natural lighting, good ventilation, and beautiful finishes can make the toilet area a part of the spa experience.
With all your zones established, you should also consider some general components that will further enhance the quality of your spa-bathroom, or any other bathroom in your house:
- Provide a mixture of natural and artificial lighting that can be adjusted to create a serene setting.
- Use natural materials.
- Install a heated floor.
- Incorporate audio-visual components.
- Provide plenty of ventilation, natural and mechanical.
- Make certain there is plenty of storage and areas to hang towels and robes.
Unlike most rooms in a home, the bathroom is perhaps the only room where it is perfectly acceptable to just lock the door and, on a more symbolic level, shut out the day’s worries. In this sense, it is the perfect place to create a private oasis that offers a peaceful and invigorating respite from the rest of the world.
One of the first things that should be done when considering embarking on any type of construction project that may add square footage to, or change the exterior look of your home is a zoning analysis.
More often than not, a designer can help you realize your design goals while working within the confines of your zoning. That said, there are times when zoning bylaws, be they outdated, or somewhat vague, inappropriate, or seemingly unfair when measured up to your project, can be challenged. The arena for this bold act is known as a board of variance hearing.
All municipalities have different schedules and different procedures for processing appeals of this nature; however, there are some general guidelines and tools you can arm yourself with if you choose to go down this path. My design partner, Kevin Vallely, and I were recently successful at a hearing in the City of Vancouver in which all the terms of our appeal were granted. Included in our appeal was a request for a relaxation in height, and allowable square footage. Although the actual presentation and verdict took all of 15 minutes, our process for this appeal began in early June.
We had already been working with our clients for a couple of months and had reached a point in the design process where all parties were happy with the direction the design was heading. Having done technical checks throughout our process, we were aware of the non-conformities we were facing and had started to initiate discussions with the planning department in order to confirm our findings and get a sense of whether what we were asking for was reasonable. Depending on the complexity of your appeal, it is often a good idea to establish a history/relationship with the planning department so that when you present, they are familiar with your case. They can even offer some valuable suggestions and advice on how to navigate through this process. One has to note that the local authority is assuming a great deal of responsibility for allowing the construction of what you may be proposing and will therefore not take requests lightly. And although the planning department cannot actually support any attempts to effectively challenge the bylaws, they can certainly let you know that they will not “oppose” your appeal.
In order to have any success with the board of variance, you need to have a strong case. What they are typically looking for are sound reasons for why you think they should relax their regulations. The foundation for these “reasons” usually rests in a situation known as a “hardship.” Hardships arise out of a variety of incidences. In our instance, we were trying to work with an existing structure built in the 1940s. As a result, the basement elevation was much higher than where one would set it today in order to have it not count in the total allowable square footage. This higher basement also made it so that adding a second storey would easily set it beyond allowable height. In this sense, our arguable hardships would be trying to work with an existing condition while respecting a budget that simply could not afford to tear down the house and build new.
Once the base for your argument is established, you need to provide supporting documents that demonstrate that you have done your homework and are prepared to argue your case. Different boards will require different documents, but most will look for preliminary construction documents, letters describing your appeal, and photos of the existing area with your proposal somehow worked into those images. At this stage of the game, you really need to think about your submission package and whether its contents make for a compelling presentation, and if it can defend you against any opposition either from the members of the board, or a curious neighbor. The more prepared you are, the better. Having a three-dimensional model, or a beautiful rendering will only benefit your presentation. You can use these tools to demonstrate that your project will not have a negative impact on your neighborhood and may in fact enhance its overall appeal. There are also times when it is a great idea to canvas your neighbors and potentially get them to sign letters of support for your project.
Taking all these steps may not guarantee success, but being prepared will greatly increase your chances. There are always risks when you challenge authority. In the case of an appeal to the board of variance, you will have to be prepared to spend the extra time and money required to pull together a decent presentation, but a successful appeal is an amazing thing when you get the green-light to move forward and become a few steps closer to realizing your construction goals.
In the last article, we looked at how determining the specific uses in a kitchen can help inform its layout with regards to circulation, work stations and areas of repose.
While one starts to organize these components, thoughts should simultaneously be given to style, budget and materials.
A great place to start when attempting to establish the style of the kitchen is magazines. By flipping through magazines and cutting out pictures of things that you like, you are effectively creating your own “style journal.” A designer can then take your collection of images, extract your ideas and begin to create a coherent vision that incorporates the essence of what you are looking for. Establishing the theme of a kitchen, be it modern, traditional or contemporary, will help guide you through the task of selecting materials, appliances, plumbing and lighting fixtures.
A modern kitchen is typified by clean, simple lines with close attention given to the concealment or strict organization of kitchen tools and culinary accoutrements. Surface materials are often more uniform, favouring edge grain woods and stone surfaces with less movement or texture. Not all modern-styled kitchens have to have the requisite stainless steel appliances, but if you think of the basic attributes of steel—easy to clean, smooth and uniform sheen—it makes a lot of sense. Modern does not necessarily have to be stark, and there is nothing preventing you from incorporating hits of colour and texture through some carefully selected accessories and textiles.
On the other end of the spectrum, a traditionally styled kitchen may draw on inspiration from early French, English or Italian styling. Cabinet doors with raised panels made of rich, deeply coloured woods or antiqued finishes, thick clay tiles, or stone with a tumbled or marbled character start to form the base of the esthetic. One may also consider incorporating classically patterned tile inserts, distressed woods, and crown mouldings complete with baseboards and trims. A traditional kitchen usually has a heavier feel than a modern kitchen since it is often grounded by detailed flourishes and embellishments.
A contemporary kitchen is a little more difficult to define as it seems to draw from a mixture of styles. Currently, it seems that we have reached a point in design where seemingly anything goes. This eclecticism is not really a new idea except in the formal pinning of it as a term used to define style. The truth is, most of us decorate our homes in this way: we collect and incorporate things we like.
All this said, it doesn’t hurt to exercise a bit of discipline in order to maintain a sense of cohesion. In this sense, having a consistent theme will help unify your space. This is where using similar colours and materials can help pull things together.
The finishes you choose play a critical role in further defining the type of space you are trying to create. The combination of flooring, backsplashes, cabinets, countertops and hardware will effectively become your kitchen palette. At this point of the design process, it is a good idea to visit the various showrooms that showcase these items and pull together a selection of things that appeal to you. You may discover that you love the idea of using bamboo as your flooring, or that you simply have to have a tile mosaic backsplash bursting with colour.
Working with a designer may reduce the legwork of travelling from showroom to showroom since he/she may have access to a variety of samples on hand; however, I think that these visits help provide an excellent injection of inspiration. Once you have gathered a collection of samples, you can then lay them out on a table and play with different combinations by switching out one material for another until you are satisfied with the overall composition.
When selecting materials, fixtures and appliances you should never lose sight of the budget. This is where having a clearly established vision will help in guiding your choices.
Some budgetary strategies may include exploring the use of laminates over hardwoods and stone, visiting auctions or checking the paper for appliance or cabinetry sales, and using stocked cabinets in lieu of custom millwork. A stylish kitchen doesn’t need to break the bank.
Even though a budget may determine the level of finish, it doesn’t need to override stylistic intentions if you are prepared to make well considered compromises while working within your chosen theme.
6435 WELLINGTON AVENUE
WEST VANCOUVER BC V7W 2H7
604 812 7871
DESIGNSTUDIO8 is a design collaborative providing thoughtful modern design. We seek to uncover unique design solutions that are innovative in their response to client’s needs, site opportunities and budget. We have a hands-on approach and look at design holistically. Our work is inherently contemporary and sustainable, and each project is as individual as its client. Our projects have been recognized as Green Build Award Winners and Georgie Award Winners.
Our focus is on working with you to transform your ideas into a creative, inspiring and poetic space. We find pleasure in simple things like in the way people inhabit spaces and how a daily routine can be supported by design. Great teams make great projects. We include consultants and contractors in each phase of design, to create a synergy that allows for smooth coordination through construction. We draw from our broad experience working internationally and locally in West Vancouver.
We like to share our enthusiasm and drive to take an idea and help it to grow into something amazing! If you would like a guided tour through any of our projects, let us know and we can coordinate.
Lucia brings an extensive residential and interior design background to each project. She has sixteen years of experience on medium- to high-end projects and has managed over 60+ residential projects at DS8 and Kallweit Graham Architecture. She spent 4 years working abroad in New York and San Francisco where she gained invaluable experience working on a wide range of commercial, retail, hospitality and mixed used projects. Lucia has also developed skills in landscape design and has published articles in the “North Shore News” as part of the “Building by Design” series, providing design insight to home owners.
Tina Hubert Architect
Architect AIBC, BScEng, LEED AP
Tina brings a multi-disciplinary approach to her design work drawing from her background as an engineer. Her design work encompasses innovative technologies such as rammed earth, inflatable roofing systems, and material proto-typing with CNC machines. She has fifteen years of diverse experience at firms such as PUBLIC, Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden Architects (now called DIALOG) and Lang Wilson LWPAC, working across Canada and London, UK. Her projects include large and small scale construction and renovation work in residential, commercial and institutional building types. She is a LEED Accredited Professional (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
If you require a registered architect for your project, please contact Tina at Tina Hubert Architect at 604-720-8873.