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How to create a welcoming space

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How to create a welcoming space

photo: Mike Chajecki

Have you noticed how some spaces seem so welcoming? What is it about them that invites people to linger? And what is it that keeps them coming back? As a designer, my job is to ask these questions, and in my experience, the answer is different for every client.

Regardless of what “home” means, there are likely some common denominators: Warm, cosy, comfortable, relaxing… you get the picture. There’s no magic pill to achieving a sense of warmth in the home, but there are strategic ways to contribute to this effortlessly deliberate, totally unmistakable look and feel. Here’s how to turn up the heat, to help any space feel more inviting.

Designer Andrea Colman offers her expert advice on how to make your space warm and welcoming

Physical warmth

This is the type of heat you can feel, experienced through physical touch. It’s what entices you to run your hand across the velvet sofa cushions and drape yourself in plush blankets with the rug beneath your bare feet. Window treatments, rugs, pillows, throws and your furniture upholstery go a long way toward achieving that overall sense of warmth and comfort.

Textiles are often left as an afterthought when designing a room, but I prefer to incorporate them in the greater design plan, as they are an impactful element not to be forgotten. Curtains, rugs, pillows and blankets, and the upholstery you choose for seats, chairs and your sofa all play an important role in the ambience. Layer different textures to add depth to the design. If warmth is important to you, textiles could be something that’s worth splurging on.

For obvious reasons, the fireplace is a natural focal point in any room, whether appealing to an audience with its crackling flames or as a display space for art and accessories. Allow your fireplace to be the centre of attention, and if you don’t have one, get one. Depending on your budget and the desired look and feel, you have many options available to you: Wood-burning, gas, electric and Dimplex even offers a water vapor fireplace that is safe, versatile, vent-free and more affordable than its wood or gas counterparts.

Perceived warmth

This is the type of warmth that you experience visually. When you enter a room, you immediately get a sense of its “temperature” based on what you can see. Is it soft and organic? Crisp and contemporary? Maybe it’s antique and storied. When choosing your home’s overall aesthetic, be mindful of how different styles impact your emotions. Regardless of the style you choose, visual warmth can be achieved by layering different patterns, textures, materials and finishes. Remember – variety brings interest and keeps the eye engaged.

Also consider “lighting temperature.” Light bulbs come in a variety of tints that can set the tone for the space, ranging from cool bluish-white to warm-yellow that mimics candlelight, and neutral daylight options. Consider what you’ll be doing in the room, and what type of lighting will best accommodate those actions. After all, function must come first. Will you be dining and relaxing? Reading and doing paperwork? Watching movies? Warm light is commonly used in residential applications like living areas, bedrooms, kitchens and dining rooms. On the other hand, cool light is ideal for workspaces such as an office, hobby or laundry room. Ensure a consistent light temperature in the room, and put your lights on dimmers to keep it versatile.

Emotional warmth

This is the warmth that is felt within; the kind that tugs at your heartstrings. A thoughtful medley of art, accessories and the small details can collectively tell the story of your past, your travels and your passions. In short, this is the personality of your home.

Warm up the mood of your space by putting yourself on display. Here’s your chance to unpack those mementos from the past and integrate them into your present. Collections, books, photographs and art all help tell your story and turn an empty room into a reflection of its inhabitant.

“Home” means something different to everyone, and while these tips are a good general guideline, they will be interpreted and realized differently by everyone. there’s no right or wrong way to turn a house into a home. If it feels right to you, that’s the most important thing.

Andrea Colman is Principal of Fine Finishes Design Inc. With almost two decades of reno and design experience, her full service firm serves clientele throughout the GTA. finefinishes.ca

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By Design - Custom Storage Solutions

By design – custom storage solutions

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By design – custom storage solutions

As an interior designer I ask lots of questions, and I always look at how to best use a space from a functional perspective. How much stuff needs to be stored? Does it have to be readily accessible? Does the space have any barriers? Storage, almost always, factors into a design. After all, everyone has stuff. The secret to a really great space, is finding where to put it all.

Cabinetry

Cabinets are great option if you’ve got particular storage needs, and unique room configurations or restrictions. A custom built-in allows you to maximize the storage system to fit the room – meaning no wasted space. Compact suites, large family homes and busy lives will all benefit from a well-planned custom storage area. It’s little wonder that custom cabinetry is one of the more popular requests.

Assessment

Step one is knowing that not all storage systems are created equal, and not every room has the same functional requirements. Closets and pantries are often overflowing. So, in these areas I prioritize function and organization. In kitchens and family rooms, storage must be balanced with style.

What are the storage objectives? Should the cabinetry blend in or stand out? Is the aim to conceal items or to display them? Knowing the expectations will help to narrow down the vast array of choices.

Style

A range of standard colours and finishes, as well as custom options, are available from every brand or cabinet maker. The choices can be overwhelming, but we remind our clients that cabinets are a big-ticket item. Often we advise them against following trends, but to look for an overall, timeless look that will offer longevity, as well as visual appeal. Current trends can be added with moveable back panels and unique hardware, if so desired.

Function

The best storage system must make the most of every inch. Wall space is often overlooked and under-used. Think extra-high, floor-to-ceiling cabinets, and custom corner cabinets that are tucked out of the way. Versatility is the beauty of custom cabinetry. The benefits often out-way the costs for the clients. Make use of valuable storage real estate. Items can be discreetly hidden, or a room can be enhanced with built-ins and lighting accents.

Technology

Technology has worked its way into every aspect of our lives, including storage areas. Custom shelving is being outfitted with lights, as well as a docking stations that help to eliminate unsightly cord clutter. Don’t forget to add in hidden charging stations for all life’s wireless items.

The secret to a successful design is providing clients with what they want – and need. By asking the right questions and getting to know the homeowner’s requirements, you’ll be able to create a tailored space that looks as good as it works. With the right custom storage system in place, they’ll wonder how they ever got along without it.

ANDREA COLMAN is Principal of Fine Finishes Design Inc..

With almost two decades of reno & design experience her full service firm, service clientele throughout GTA, Ontario. The growing boutique design firm is known for creating stylish, harmonious, livable environments.


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Spotlight: Hardwood Flooring

What’s best for hardwood floors – solid or engineered?

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What’s best for hardwood floors – solid or engineered?

Stylish, hard-wearing flooring options are everywhere these days, and for some people, it can be hard for many to decide which product is best suited. Solid wood has long been the preferred option, and it still is among the purists. But for those who consider practicality and price equally, engineered wood floors have carved out a notch in the interiors industry – and it’s a deep one. Modern engineered wood makes up the majority of wood flooring products on the market, and gives its solid wood counterparts a run for their money. Here’s how these different hardwoods stack up.

With solid hardwood, what you see is what you get – a single, solid piece of wood, through and through. This also means that solid hardwood floors are susceptible to expansion and contraction due to changing temperatures and humidity levels, and can cause floors to shift and buckle, if not installed properly. Engineered wood is made with a plywood base, glued and topped by a thin veneer of hardwood, giving you the look of solid hardwood at a fraction of the price. Engineered wood can also be installed over different surfaces, such as existing wood. Cost aside, there are some other big differences to consider.

When it comes to finishes, both solid hardwood and engineered wood floors can be pre-finished, or finished on site. However, one benefit to solid hardwood over engineered wood is that it can be sanded and refinished numerous times, whereas engineered wood can only be sanded twice, before the veneer wears through. Keep this in mind. Most of us will refinish a floor only once or twice in our occupancy of a particular home, so this isn’t typically a deal-breaker.

In terms of durability, the battle between hardwood and engineered wood is a draw. When making your decision, consider how you intend to wear – and tear – your floors. Because engineered wood only consists of a thin top layer, it’s easier to chip or scratch than hardwood. When it comes to water, engineered wood wins, withstanding exposure to moderate moisture better than hardwood. This means in hallways and living rooms, solid wood works. In a kitchen, powder room or bathroom, engineered wood is more practical.

I seem to be singing the praises of engineered wood floors thus far, but remember that not all are created equal – “created” being the operative word. Engineered floors are manufactured, and quality can vary. If you’re considering engineered wood, ensure you’re sourcing a quality product from a trusted manufacturer.

One of my go-to choices for quality, colour and style options is Canadian brand Fuzion Flooring. I love working with this brand for their engineered woods, and many of my clients today have opted for this alternative, thanks to its price, practicality and beauty. Engineered wood now comes in a range of types, such as oak, maple, birch, cherry, as well as more exotic options. All wood products, solid and engineered, have their pros and cons. Make an informed decision and work with a professional to ensure you’re selecting the best product for your home and lifestyle.

Andrea Colman is Principal of Fine Finishes Design Inc.

With almost two decades of reno and design experience, her firm services clientele throughout the GTA. The growing boutique design firm is known for creating stylish, harmonious, livable environments.


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