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THE INDUSTRY LEADER: Housing policies must focus on supply

THE INDUSTRY LEADER: Housing policies must focus on supply

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THE INDUSTRY LEADER: Housing policies must focus on supply

Not enough new housing is being built for sale or rent and this results in higher prices, higher rents and long waits lists.

by Dave Wilkes
BILD

The other day I was listening to pundits on talk radio debating the issue of housing affordability — and what can be done to address the high cost of putting a roof over your head.

It sounded like the experts were talking right past each other, apparently discussing completely different issues. I realized it was because their definitions of housing affordability were different.

It seems to me, though, that some of the solutions can be the same. Housing affordability is a complex subject. At the risk of oversimplifying, there are really three different definitions. The first is housing — houses and condos — that the average family can afford to buy. The second definition is housing that the average person can afford to rent. And the third is not-for-profit rental housing, where collective ownership (co-op) or a degree of social assistance (subsidized housing) helps ensure that the cost of housing can be borne within the income of the resident.

All of these definitions of housing affordability are valid and all come with specific issues to address if affordability is to be tackled as an issue. Unfortunately, as is often the case with highly political topics, it is the differences that get debated — winners and losers get picked and opportunities get missed.

What is common to all three definitions is lack of supply. Not enough new housing is being built for sale or rent, and there is not enough not-for-profit rental housing to meet the need. This results in higher prices, higher rents and long wait lists. A number of factors affect the supply of all three forms of housing. All are subject to the same lengthy bureaucratic approvals process prior to being built. All three require land that is adequately serviced with existing infrastructure that can accommodate the increased usage (for infill projects) or new infrastructure if it is an entirely new development. Lastly, all three forms of housing are subject to layers of regulation, reliance on community acceptance and the political will that exerts influence on building projects around the GTA.

Any one of these factors can add cost, impact the number of new units that come to market, delay new housing from being built or halt construction entirely.

On the cost side, newly built homes that fall under the first two definitions are also subject to government fees and charges that increase purchase price or impact rental costs. BILD recently published a study on the government fees, taxes and charges applied to new homes in the GTA. It demonstrated that the layers of tax-on-top-of-tax added almost 25 per cent, or $186,500, to the price of an average single-family home in the GTA.

In the lead-up to this year’s municipal election, we need our governments not to pick winners and losers, but to focus on housing policies and reforms that can have broad benefits and increase housing supply.

David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and BILD’s official blog.


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THE LAWYER: The problem with inclusionary zoning regulation

THE LAWYER: The problem with inclusionary zoning regulation

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THE LAWYER: The problem with inclusionary zoning regulation

The promise of inclusionary zoning in the draft of the regulation and the reality of what was actually passed by the province is radically different.

by Tara Welat
Robins Appleby

One of the legacies of the Kathleen Wynne government is the total reversal by the province of its position on inclusionary zoning. The promise of inclusionary zoning in the draft of the regulation that was released by the province in December 2016, and the reality of what was actually passed by the province on April 11, 2018 is radically different. Municipalities across Ontario are now equipped with expansive and discretionary tools to mandate affordable housing in any new residential development with 10 or more units – which includes both condominium and purpose-built rental projects.

Whereas the draft of the policy imposed a cap of 5 to 10 per cent on the amount of affordable housing units that could be mandated in a particular project and obligated municipalities to provide financial incentives to offset the financial burden, the actual regulation imposes none of the above protections for developers. In fact, aside from providing the municipality with expansive powers to mandate affordable housing, there is little framework that is provided.

For example, municipalities are permitted to set the following with respect to inclusionary zoning policies and bylaws:

  • Target areas (site specific or area wide) within a municipality where inclusionary zoning will be required;
  • Minimum number of required affordable units in a subject development;
  • The affordability period (i.e. how long the units must be kept as affordable);
  • The price of the affordable units (rental or sale);
  • Incentives to offset the developers costs in making housing units affordable;
  • Provision of offsite affordable units, in addition to those required at the development site;
  • Mandate a portion of net proceeds from the sale of an inclusionary zoning unit to be distributed to the municipality (up to a maximum of 50 per cent of net proceeds); and
  • The process by which the above are implemented and reported.

Although the extra height/density caused by the inclusion of required affordable units would be excluded from the height/density calculations for the purposes of s. 37 payments, developers are not permitted to provide the municipality with money in lieu of the required units.

What we will see in the coming months is each municipality engaging an independent body to prepare an assessment report to address the current and planned housing supply and the potential market impacts of inclusionary zoning before they can go on to develop official plan policies authorizing inclusionary zoning as part of general or site-specific zoning bylaws. Once such policies or bylaws are enacted, they will generally not be appealable to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The upshot of the inclusionary zoning regulation is that municipalities will now wield even greater powers, which should be a cause for consternation among developers. It is important to keep in mind, however, there is also opportunity for municipalities to provide incentives, such as increased density, streamlined approvals, cuts to development charges, cash incentives and tax benefits, just to name a few, which could potentially create a win-win situation for all.

If municipalities approach inclusionary zoning solely as a stick with which to force affordable housing onto developers, it will certainly have a chilling impact on not only affordable housing but all development, and it will make the “non-affordable” units in a new development even more unaffordable as a result. The success of inclusionary zoning will rest on whether municipalities can skillfully tailor attractive incentives for developers and use them as a metaphorical carrot to induce inclusionary developments.

Tara Welat is an associate in the real estate group Robins Appleby LLP.

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THE BRANDER: Make your amenities right for your buyers

THE BRANDER: Make your amenities right for your buyers

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THE BRANDER: Make your amenities right for your buyers

Condo amenities that meet the needs of the market’s evolving demographics are a great way to rise above the competition while avoiding excessive cost.

by Adam Savoni
Community

With so many young families finding themselves priced out of the GTA’s lowrise market, there is a growing appetite for family-friendly condos that must not go unnoticed.

While three-bedroom condominiums pose similar affordability challenges to single-dwelling units, more modestly-sized units with family-oriented amenities can be a big sell for families looking to explore the condo lifestyle.

Condo amenities that meet the needs of the market’s evolving demographics are a great way to rise above the competition while avoiding excessive cost. Golf simulators and lap pools are still popular among some, but if the location and target audience are appropriate, you are bound to appeal to more buyers by offering family-oriented amenities.

With limited suite space, parents will appreciate common areas where their children can burn off some energy and play with other kids. Some of the more common amenities that cater to young families include kids’ rooms, family rooms, rooftop splash zones and even dog-walking spaces.

Make sure that the spaces are inclusive for all members of the family. Something as simple and inexpensive as a desk and WiFi connection will allow parents to catch up on work, or take a moment to themselves while the kids are at play. These amenities should act as refined spaces for both children and adults to create a healthy feeling of community that’s so important for any new development.

It is critical that the marketing agency is brought into the conversation as early as possible to ensure that the amenities are aligned with the overall brand. It goes without saying that the brand should not only create a sense of excitement for the audience, but influence how the product comes together. Your agency can offer new and innovative ideas for the amenity spaces while working with the interior design team to make sure they are on brand and on point.

It’s worth noting that the inclusion of modern, desirable amenities should not be limited to condominium projects. New purpose-built rental developments with well-planned and well-designed amenity spaces will go a long way towards changing public perception around rental projects and renting in general.

Community has launched multiple purpose-built rental brands that incorporate progressive amenities, all of which have proved to be very successful. One such example is The Livmore in downtown Toronto. The project was competing against numerous condo developments in the surrounding area, all of which had investor-owned units for rent. To stand out, our team took the amenities within the neighbourhood and complemented them with unique, modern spaces in the building itself. This immediately placed The Livmore on the same level as its condo counterparts but without the large down payment and 25-year commitment, as illustrated in the tagline “lease is more.”

Using amenities to enhance your brand are just one of many ways to help your project, whether condo or purpose-built rental, appeal to a broader audience. Your agency should be putting in the research hours to stay on top of market conditions, trends and changes. Keep that in mind when selecting a marketing partner for your next project and make sure you ask the right questions.

Adam Savoni is vice president, real estate marketing at Community.

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THE REALTY SPECIALIST: Ottawa a hot market for investors

THE REALTY SPECIALIST: Ottawa a hot market for investors

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THE REALTY SPECIALIST: Ottawa a hot market for investors

Ottawa has always enjoyed a good and stable housing market, and right now the market is heating up.

by Derek Nzeribe
Milborne Group

OTTAWA – The city has become a hot real estate market for end-users, as well as Toronto-based and international investors, for numerous reasons. The Ottawa market is unique, in that the city holds the distinction of the highest household income in Canada, yet it is still seeing moderate real estate prices. This means that most potential home and condo buyers are not shopping at the top of their approval levels. A vast number of people work in Ottawa’s major industries and the federal government, so the job situation is good.

Although prices are rising, new lowrise homes and highrise condos are still far less expensive than in Toronto and other major cities across North America. Even on an international basis, compared to other major capital cities, Ottawa’s real estate is underpriced. In addition, the government regulations put in place last year to cool the market have had little effect on demand and sales the way they have in Toronto and Vancouver. We are seeing an influx of purchasers from Toronto, and even Montreal, who are looking for affordability and, at the moment, we have more demand than supply. Ottawa is experiencing a new wave in residential development, with a trend toward designing with end-users in mind.

Investors are attracted by Ottawa’s vacancy rate, which is very low at just 1.7 per cent, and to the increasing demand for rental accommodations. Investor-friendly rental stock boosted condo sales by 20 per cent in 2017. It is expected that the upswing in prices will continue without the fluctuations of a Calgary or Vancouver. All of this is good news for investors, who are gravitating toward both lowrise and highrise purchases. Over the past couple of years, investors have gone more for townhomes because of uncertainty in the marketplace, but that is changing, too. With the emergence of new condos and the incredible success of recently introduced buildings, confidence in highrise is back.

Keep in mind that condominiums in Ottawa are located in the suburbs as well as downtown. We see a lot of highrise development happening in annexes around the city’s core, such as Little Italy. These areas are vibrant locations with shops, restaurants and other amenities. People appreciate the fact that they can live just outside of the city and be downtown in five to 10 minutes.

Investors who rent out townhomes in these areas are realizing the potential in owning condo suites to diversify their real estate portfolios. The most popular areas are west of the city, where lowrise sales have been very active over the past two to three years. We are also seeing activity downtown, especially in the Byward Market area. This trend has a lot to do with major changes happening in those areas, such as the Rideau Centre and Art Gallery of Ottawa going through redevelopment stages. The trend is also fuelled by the introduction of the LRT and other infrastructure improvements that help people navigate the city efficiently. All of these changes affect the desirability to own real estate in these locations. Across Ottawa there is sufficient demand to satisfy the hot market here. We have an interesting population dynamic, in that quite a few people relocate here for reasons of work with the government. Ottawa is also experiencing a dramatic increase in high-tech companies setting up shops here – a big change since the old Nortel days. It all adds up to more people needing accommodations.

We have seen a steady growth in our population to just over one million people in the national capital region, and we are poised for more. Real estate prices are bound to rise. Purchasing a new home or condo suite in Ottawa now is a wise move, whether it is for a financial investment or to live here.

Derek Nzeribe is regional director, marketing and business development at Milborne Group in Ottawa.

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THE AD EXECUTIVE: The marketing rules are ever changing

THE AD EXECUTIVE: The marketing rules are ever changing

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THE AD EXECUTIVE: The marketing rules are ever changing

This is a brave new world – the world of Facebook, Google and Instagram, of short attention spans and instant gratification.

by Linda O’Connor
Ryan Design

With the population of the GTA expected to grow by over 2.6 million to 7.45 million people by 2031, the demand for new housing is greater than ever. That being said, with opportunity comes a crowded market, fierce competition and the dire need to stand out. While newspapers, magazines, TV and radio have their place as valuable advertising tools, social media provides layers of added engagement, and many of the old rules don’t apply anymore. This is a brave new world – the world of Facebook, Google and Instagram, of short attention spans and instant gratification.

Here’s where social media can play a vital role in the success or failure of any project. Being a highly visual medium, social media gives you a chance to show off your work to a wider audience and reach the right people in a way you never thought you could. Post a great picture of your project and it instantly gets shared, widening your reach and engagement levels.

Social media has completely changed how people search for, research and buy new homes. In the past, they got their information from newspaper and magazine ads, radio ads and billboards, but nowadays they turn to social media for information. This is a paradigm shift, and we in the industry must move with the times and change the way we market and advertise our projects.

Because social media is interactive, you can instantly gauge the success of your campaign by how many clicks it generates, how many likes, how many times it’s shared, where it’s shared, and so on. That’s the magic of metrics and analytics – the power to put precise numbers and data to your ad campaign in a way that’s never been possible before. Every ad dollar can now be accurately tracked and every penny can be put to maximum use.

Facebook has become a giant in digital advertising solely on the basis of the vast information it has about its members, and it has found a way to monetize that information. Whether you want your ad to be targeted by behaviours, interests, age ranges, languages or locations, your Facebook ads will be served to the right people at the right place, and at the right time.

Instagram has become another popular avenue to promote your brand and product because, as we all know, homebuyers love photos! By uploading pictures of your gorgeous homes or renderings, decor centres and sold-out events, you’ll instantly entice your customers to be more intrigued about your project. With the help of popular hashtags added to your posts, you will be able to reach new heights by getting more views to your page and generate more likes.

The thing about social media is that it’s instant, and it’s viral, but your message needs to be fast and concise before you miss your chance to attract your audience. By asking the right questions, listening to your customers, and engaging with them, you can improve your product, finetune your message, plan your events, and offer the right incentives. By providing relevant messaging in real time, you can create trust and instill confidence in your customers. At Ryan Design International, we understand every tool is only as good as the user, and social media is no different. With a proper understanding of its impressive powers, our award-winning digital team can maximize reach, optimize value and provide better and more cost-efficient media spend to reach potential homebuyers.

Linda O’Connor is the CEO of Ryan Design International.

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Lighting up our summer!

Lighting up our summer!

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Lighting up our summer!

by Linda Mazur

Proper illumination is vital for obvious reasons.

The warm weather has finally arrived and many of us will be working on outdoor living spaces for our clients. Creating a beautiful, well-curated backyard oasis, with lush gardens can be an exciting project. However, an outdoor space cannot be truly complete without proper lighting. It not only adds value to the home, it can bring great enjoyment and value to life.

Proper illumination is vital for obvious reasons such as safety and ease of mobility. Whether it’s an entryway, pathway lighting, recessed deck lighting, a security light or beautiful sconces outside doorways, we require basic lighting to assist us in the dark. However, good outdoor lighting also carries an aesthetic value.

When planned properly, exterior entryway lights can highlight architecture features, whether at the front or rear of the home. As we know, there are multitudes of styles and lighting options available from modern to traditional to period pieces — wall sconces to pendant lighting. Decide what may be the most complementary to enhance the exterior of your home. Recessed soffit lights may be another option to consider and are a great way to “wall-wash” the house, casting a warm glow and highlighting the architectural details.

Photo Courtesy DOT Furniture
Photo Courtesy DOT Furniture

Deck lighting and pathway lighting not only improves the aesthetics of your outdoor space, it obviously also enables us to move freely and safely in the dark. When creating pathway lighting remember to keep your lights well balanced and staggered to avoid the “landing strip” effect that we so often see. When lighting a staircase, I’m often asked by clients how many lights are enough? For a relatively narrow staircase, a single step light centred in each riser may be sufficient, for wider steps you may feel that you require a series of lights along each riser, or perhaps they can be positioned in the stringers.

Photo Courtesy Pier1.ca
Photo Courtesy Pier1.ca

Accent lighting is also important when planning an outdoor project. Consider adding lighting to garden beds, up lighting trees, architectural features like pergolas, arbours or gazebos, or perhaps a wall or water feature. And, let’s not forget that fire is a great feature for the outdoors. Whether it’s an actual formal fireplace or simply one of the various other options such as columns, bowls, pits, lanterns or tables, the addition of fire to your space is a wonderful feature to cozy up and enjoy the summer evening outdoors.

Photo Courtesy HomeSense.ca
Photo Courtesy HomeSense.ca

When planning and designing your outdoor living spaces, keep in mind that the drive to Smart Home automation is not lost outdoors. Consider Control4 for your lighting, sound, water features, security and more, to enhance your space with ease, as well as maintain usage control.

Our time outdoors in the summer is so short-lived; however, with the addition of proper lighting you can extend and enhance your stay to really soak in the relaxation and pleasures that the summer months have to offer.

Linda Mazur is a nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.

LindaMazurDesign.com

@LindaMazurGroup


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DDA Canada 2018 Decorating & Design Competition Gala

DDA Canada 2018 Decorating & Design Competition Gala

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DDA Canada 2018 Decorating & Design Competition Gala

by Liz Teodorini

Decorating & Design Competition gala celebrates excellence in Canadian decor and design.

A high energy gala at Toronto’s contemporary York Mills Gallery was the place to be on April 23rd, 2018. The event, hosted annually by the Decorators & Designers Association of Canada (DDA Canada), attracted decorators, designers and suppliers from across the country. Cocktails and socializing preceded a keynote address by celebrated U.S. designer Richard Anuszkiewicz on infusing inspiration from the world of fashion into interior decor.

The highlight of the gala was, as it is every year, the unveiling of the Decorating & Design Competition winners. The competition receives entries for its 10 categories from DDA Canada’s accredited and student members. Each category’s entries are then evaluated by a jury of industry peers from across the country. They evaluate the projects based on complexity, concept, materials and functionality, among other criteria. Attendees were captivated as a video of each winning project described the planning and thought behind the design. The videos were punctuated by applause as the designers, some from as far afield as Nanaimo and Calgary, accepted their awards. In all, 26 people, including three students, were recognized for their best-in-class work:

Interiors Under $45K

Gold – Gabriele Pizzale, Pizzale Design Inc.
Silver – Leanne Tammaro & Adolphina Karachok, Designtheory Inc.
Bronze – Evelyn Eshun, Evelyn Eshun Design Inc.

Interiors Over $45K, Under $100K

Gold – Lana McIver, The Interior Design Group
Silver – Marion Da Ponte, Bridgemont Properties Inc.
Bronze – Rotem Golan, Ace of Space Interiors

Interiors Over $100K

Gold – Svetlana Tryaskina, Estee Design
Silver – Charlene Threatful, Lush Interiors Inc.
Bronze – Lorelie Noble, Design Details

Powder Room

Gold – LeAnne Bunnell, LeAnne Bunnell Interiors
Silver – Gabriele Pizzale, Pizalle Design Inc.
Bronze – Evelyn Eshun, Evelyn Eshun Design Inc.

Challenging Budget

Gold – Krista Salter, KMSalter Design
Silver – Katie Golec, ACM Designs
Bronze – Kathleen Casey FitzGerald, Kathleen Casey FitzGerald

Bathrooms Under $30K

Gold – Cara Lawson, Cara Lawson
Silver – Margaret Struthers, Margaret Struthers Interiors
Bronze – Jennifer Costello, Jennifer Costello Interiors

Bathrooms Over $30K

Gold – Linda Mazur Olijnyk, Linda Mazur Design Group
Silver – Lara Kalins, Breathe Interiors
Bronze – Caroline Harrison, Caroline Harrison Designs Inc.

Kitchens Under $50K

Gold – Enza Ricco, Fig Interiors
Silver – Rotem Golan, Ace of Space Interiors
Bronze – Elena Gouchtchina, Maison Interiors

Kitchens Over $50K

Gold – Leanne Tammaro & Adolphina Karachok, Designtheory Inc.
Silver – Sarah St. Amand, Sarah St. Amand Interiors Design Inc.
Bronze – Evelyn Eshun, Evelyn Eshun Design Inc.

Student Project

Gold – Jia Wei Pu, Sheridan College
Silver – Rebecca Aparicio Velasco, Algonquin College
Bronze – Catalina Radulescu, Sheridan College

“This national competition showcases our fabulous members and their talent,” says Mary Dancey, chair of awards for DDA Canada. “There were so many outstanding submissions this year, it’s clear our members are continuing to advance their craft on every level.”

For a practising decorator or designer, a win means peer recognition and increased professional credibility. “Winning a DDA award has been a wonderful experience. The response has been overwhelming,” says Marion Da Ponte, 2018 silver winner in Interiors Over $45 Under $100K. “It’s exciting news to share with friends, family and, of course, my clients — former, current, and new ones.”

The competition, which is supported by sponsorship from several DDA Canada affiliate partners will begin accepting entries again in fall 2018.

Liz Teodorini is Marketing Consultant for DDA Canada.

ONTARIO DESIGN is the official media partner of DDA Canada.


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First Impressions: Styling tips for a polished interior

First Impressions: Styling tips for a polished interior

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First Impressions: Styling tips for a polished interior

by Red Barrinuevo
Redesign4more

When all the elements in a space work together, a room becomes home.

The trend of home staging has picked up momentum in recent years. As a stylist, I can certainly appreciate the basic principles behind a well staged home, whether you’re planning to stay or sell the place.

Rule No. 1: You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Here are some of my favourite styling tips to ensure you make a lasting impression, for all the right reasons.

Step one is to view your home from the street. What’s the first thing you see? Bingo — the front door. This can be just the thing to invite guests in or send them running for the hills. Choose a vibrant colour that sets your home apart from the rest, and ensure the hardware is bright and buffed. Finish the entry with colourful potted plants on either side for the ultimate welcome.

Next, assess everything you see inside the home, from the walls and furnishings to the accessories, because even the seemingly minor details matter.

A neutral colour palette is easy to work with and has wide appeal. This applies to your walls and furniture, particularly the big, expensive items that won’t be frequently replaced, then incorporate colour through your accessories. Artwork is another great way to incorporate colour without commitment.

When planning where to place furnishings and accessories — like art — look for the room’s natural focal point and focus your attention to that. A focal point is a place for the eye to rest. This could be a fireplace, a window or an interesting architectural feature.

If your room doesn’t have one, make your own. Stand in the doorway, look into the space and see where your eyes naturally land. This is most likely your room’s focal point and a good place to focus your furniture arrangement.

Now that you’ve identified the obvious attention grabbers in your space, consider the background elements, such as lighting and flooring.

The most beautiful furnishings and artwork will be lost without proper lighting. A good lighting plan includes elements of ambient, task and accent lighting, layered at a variety of heights — floor, tabletop, sconce and ceiling.

Underfoot, stylists typically use rugs to highlight a room, increase visual impact, or to create division and definition within an open-concept layout. With that said, resist the urge to overuse rugs. They’ve certainly become a trendy piece and are even appearing in layers, with one overlapping another. Tread carefully, as it’s a fine line between just enough and over-the-top.

Last but not least, plan your accessories. Be selective; choose pieces that make you smile, help tell your story, or inspire you in some way.

One of my go-to tricks is to arrange accessories in odd numbers. Don’t ask why this works, it just does. There’s something visually pleasing about groupings of three or five. To add more interest, use books or stacked magazines to vary height.

A beautifully styled space is a careful balance between the big, obvious pieces and the small, subtle details. If you walk into a room and something seems off, explore the elements above and you’ll likely find the missing link.

When all the elements in a space work together, a room becomes home.

Red Barrinuevo is an interior decorator and principal of Redesign4more.

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Trend Report: Luxury redefined

Trend Report: Luxury redefined

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Trend Report: Luxury redefined

by Glen Peloso
Grafus Design Build

New York’s Architectural Digest Design Show in March was a wonderful opportunity to see current interior design trends.

What’s to come is a combination of customization and incredible details that create a totally unique space. One of the predominant trends is advanced technology, which allows some of the elements that used to be part of decor to disappear.

Gold fixtures add instant elegance to a bathroom. Faucet by THG Paris.
Gold fixtures add instant elegance to a bathroom. Faucet by THG Paris.

CUSTOM REACHES NEW HEIGHTS

The custom kitchen with hidden details is one of the trends to watch for. With differing family sizes and cooking abilities, we have individuated kitchen requirements. To that end, I was pleased to see that JennAir has developed a line of columnar refrigeration. If you want a fridge only as an icemaker, no problem. If you have a large family, you might opt for a two-fridge and one-freezer column. The choice is entirely up to you.

You are able to utilize both fridge and freezer appliances to suit your needs, it’s Wi-Fi feature allows you to makes changes through your smart phone — change the temperature, make more ice, etc. — and should you leave a door open, it will alert you by sending you a text.

Customize the stovetop appliances for how you live. Induction cooktop by JennAir.
Customize the stovetop appliances for how you live. Induction cooktop by JennAir.

When it comes to cooking, the ovens are also Wi-Fi connected. You indicate the meat, the weight and the pan. The probe signals your smart phone when the meat is cooked to your specification.

With stovetop appliances, you custom create, à la carte; an induction cooktop next to a grill followed by a wok cooker or whatever combination that suits your needs. You design the whole kitchen for the way you live and cook. The kitchen IS the party!

Make art the focal point when you're not watching TV. Projection TV by Sony.
Make art the focal point when you’re not watching TV. Projection TV by Sony.

NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T

For a long time, home design was forced to display functional electronics. We like to look at them but never like the look of them. TVs, speakers, receivers and amps all required precious floor and wall space. Short-throw projects have become the coffee table, a projector and a speaker all in one. When you’re not watching TV there is nothing to see, but when you are, the picture is perfect and the sound emanates from the table. The technology is new and the price is high (currently about $9,000 U.S.), however, the smaller tabletop version is closer to the cost of an iPad.

These projectors return the walls to the home, and the smaller version is completely portable. If the price is a little steep right now, you can consider the reflector TV that is both a mirror and a television. There is little or no room reflection when the TV is on, which is an improvement from the past.

The latest reflector TVs offer little to no reflection. Reflector TV by Sony.
The latest reflector TVs offer little to no reflection. Reflector TV by Sony.

Home automation has helped us remove light switches and the need for house keys and speakers are hidden in lighting, to name just some of the new technology, but more and more these functional elements have a hidden form.

When it comes to the elements that we do see, both the devil and the future are in the details. Mosaics that mimic the Roaring Twenties, three-dimensional tiles that seem to grow flowers through them, hardwood flooring with in-laid metals along with wall coverings with custom images or large-scale wall “tattoos.” You create a space that is as unique as you are.

All of these elements are more and more customizable so your home is truly a reflection of all the things you love. It seems as though the future is as customizable as you would like it to be, and as hidden as the flashlight and calculator, which are also on your phone.

Glen Peloso is an interior designer and principal of design firm Grafus Design Build.

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A living room to last a lifetime

A living room to last a lifetime

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A living room to last a lifetime

by Jo Alcorn
Whitewash & Co.

There is nothing worse than a living room that is poorly laid out and/or lacking function. I recently redesigned a family room so it is comfy, cozy and a room the family wants to gather in.

And I did something that some might think is radical — I converted this family’s gas fireplace to an electric fireplace. Electric fireplaces have come so far in recent years and it’s something I recommend in almost all my designs now. For this space, I selected a Dimplex electric fireplace, which appears so real people have to look twice. The flame clarity and colour is like nothing I have ever seen before. Another feature I love is that you can use it all four seasons, as there is a no-heat option.

The fireplace was the jumping-off point for the room. I started with a unit that would fit the room and then created the most stunning built-in unit you can imagine to surround it. To create this unit we used Metrie’s French Curves Collection. This collection leans towards formal and ornate, but you can take them in so many contemporary directions.

This room needed seating that would work for this family of four; a good place to snuggle up to watch a movie, or separate nooks for reading and relaxing. I chose this giant oversized sectional from Structube. A great thing about their furniture is that it is super family friendly and the prices are incredibly affordable.

I was also able to add a side chair and a modern rocking chair, which I have been wanting to add into one of my designs forever; I am a bit obsessed with this modern rocker. Since this company is so budget-conscious, I was also able to add the gorgeous glass coffee table and raw wood side tables – all within my clients’ budget. Being a family room, I knew it was important to include some family photos. While I might not traditionally lean towards family photos for the walls, I love incorporating non-traditional and meaningful photos to a family’s space, especially when they are artistically taken. These photos were some of the most cherished memories from this family and all we did was upload them to Posterjack and with a few clicks of the mouse we chose the frame style and size as well as changing the photos to black and white.

To make this room multi-functional we also wanted to ensure you could swivel the TV so it could be viewed from all angles of the room. We chose this amazing TV mount arm from Wayfair Canada which allows you to adjust the TV so you can watch it from any seat in the room.

For this room, pot lights were not in the budget but lighting was a necessity. The room still desperately needed light so we chose lighting from Wayfair’s home improvement category. We paired together two affordable ceiling lights to give the impression of one large track lighting system.

Finally, what room is complete without proper sound? I am obsessed with my Sonos system so I naturally want all my clients to get it. The Sonos Playbar connects to my TV – which makes everything I watch sound better – and the stereo pair of Sonos Ones (with Amazon Alexa built-in) take movie nights to the next level with surround sound. And when the TV is off, I can use all three speakers to enjoy my favourite music, radio stations, podcasts and more.

With all the key components in place, I went on a shopping spree at HomeSense to give this room the finishing touches it needed to bring it to life. I grabbed a multitude of throw cushions, side table accessories, pots and bowls, which gave it the elevated look I was aiming for.

The result is a living room all member of the family can enjoy in the way they want to – watching TV, reading, relaxing or having conversations. This room works for the entire family, which is exactly what they wanted. And I was delighted to create for them.

Jo Alcorn is a design specialist and founder of Whitewash & Co..

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