Tag Archives: Kalu Interiors


The custom quandry

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The custom quandry

Photography by Provoke Studios

In an age where big box stores are quickly gaining popularity for the ease and instant gratification they offer, there’s still a massive consumer market for well-made, thoughtfully designed, custom pieces. From our professional experience, many will gladly pay a premium for something that is tailor-made to their needs and their desired dimensions. Consider: clothes, cars, homes and everything that goes inside them, made just so. If there’s a way to customize a product’s features to the end user, you can be sure that designers are trying. And it’s a good thing too, as custom work happens to be one of the most popular design requests we get from our clients.

But custom details don’t have to be all-encompassing or wallet-draining. A few, simple and thoughtful elements can go a long way to the overall look and feel of a home. For example, we incorporated some unique custom millwork details into an otherwise cookie-cutter condo, our client’s primary focus was largely to add much needed storage. The result is a fabulous focal point that truly transformed the home’s overall function and esthetic.

Designer TipWhen selecting the features and finishes for an open-concept space, sit in adjacent areas, such as a connected living room or dining room. Ask yourself, what will you be looking at when you’re trying to relax, or when seated at your dining table? Streamlining the style and colours of the space helps to create a harmonious and well-curated home.

The most wonderful quality of this condo was its exposure. The condo was flooded with wonderful natural light through the wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. We strategically positioned the furniture in a way that allows the homeowner and guests to sit and socialize in front of the television and fireplace – that is, if they can tear their eyes away from that view! We custom-designed a large millwork feature and builtin to house the television, the large linear fireplace, storage and display area, making this the focal point in the room.

We offset the unit’s cool tones with a rich walnut finish, which adds much-needed warmth and character. A walnut hexagon tile nicely frames the TV area adding texture, pattern and detail.

In the dining room, a custom millwork cabinet houses a wine fridge and the client’s extensive collection of scotch. The colour of the cabinet was painted a grey tone to complement the adjacent kitchen cabinets. Overhead, the kitchen chandelier harmonizes with the one in the adjoining living/dining area while adding further architectural interest. This style of fixture was chosen specifically for its “lightness,” not to compete with the sweeping views beyond, neutral in tone with a minimal, sleek profile.

The expansive sliding doors open onto two entertaining-worthy patio spaces where guests can sit and relax in front of the firepit on a crisp Vancouver evening. Planter boxes filled with ornamental grasses line the perimeter of the patio, providing privacy from below without obstructing the views of False Creek and beyond.

Bedrooms are another great place to incorporate some custom storage details. Even though this guest bedroom was smaller in size, we were able to achieve an abundance of storage through a custom millwork built-in unit that encapsulated nightstands flanking either side of the bed. Additionally, bedside lighting was incorporated into the millwork, leaving no detail overlooked. The bedframe, sourced from Style In Form, also features a lift mechanism, offering further storage in an otherwise small space.

Replacing the previous lacklustre ceiling fixture to an unexpected chandelier, we added an even more custom detail to the space, and a wow-feature worthy of any guest.

“As designers, our work is driven by our clients’ needs, wants, preferences and whims. Custom is the best way to deliver that.”

Last but certainly not least, the master bedroom was large enough to comfortably house a king-sized bed and frame. However, to truly achieve a high-end boutique hotel look and feel, we custom- designed a fluted headboard, which we paired with a large-scale geometric wallpaper layered behind. This dramatic wallpaper selection was then balanced with simple lighter tones, such as the streamlined bedding, to keep the space bright and airy. To further expand the visual space in the room and help balance the bold wallpaper, we opted for mirrored nightstands that are neutral and reflective. To complete the space, final touches include custom pillows, including a quirky tiger pillow to contrast the patterns and reflect the fun nature of our client and the space.

As designers, our work is driven by our clients’ needs, wants, preferences and whims. Custom is the best way to deliver that. Tailored furnishings, storage systems and details all play together to transform a project from four walls to a home that offers comfort, function and style. Think outside the box, work with the right professionals to create a custom design that works for how you wish to live. Perhaps what your space needs most, is your personal imprint.

Award-winning designers, Phyllis Lui & Aleem Kassam, are the principal designers for Kalu Interiors. For more than a decade, this Vancouver-based design firm has become known for creating thoughtfully curated interiors that enhance and inspire how you live. The firm provides bespoke design services for clientele throughout Canada. kaluinteriors.com


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Spotlight: Kalu Interiors

Kalu Interiors – Cornered and loving it

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Kalu Interiors – Cornered and loving it

Like true love, when it comes to real estate and you find “the one,” you’ve got to jump on it. This was my experience when my two-bedroom unit in Yaletown’s trendy Donovan Building hit the market. The 10-year-old, 19th floor sub-penthouse packed plenty of promise, with its coveted corner placement, stunning views, and 1,150 sq. ft. of living space to work with. Here’s how I made every inch my own.

Contrary to my typical professional experience of designing on deadline, one of the benefits of being both designer and client in this case, was not having to adhere to a strict timeline. Another big advantage was the opportunity to live in and experience the space, which allowed me to assess its functionality first-hand. With time on my side and a clear view of what worked in the space — and perhaps more importantly, what didn’t — I had a great launching point for my pending project.

Now, before we get into the design side of things, let’s revert to myself in client form. I love dinner parties. Entertaining is important in our household, so this was a key consideration, from concept to completion.


As it was, our new home’s layout wasn’t conducive to how we live. The kitchen was tiny, with an adjacent bedroom that didn’t offer proper privacy. This would require moving walls, but the result was well worth the effort. The new kitchen is twice as large and stocked with all the trimmings, including a butler’s pantry, corner cabinets, a 36-in. fridge, full-sized wall oven, microwave, wine fridge and coffee maker. Essentially, everything you need to throw a good dinner party. Designer advice: Function first!


The condo boasted a good balance of wall space and windows, which facilitated ample natural light throughout. The finishes, on the other hand, were much too dark. We replaced the circa-1990s dark-stained floors and cabinets with white oak millwork, serving to lighten up the interiors. And since it’s an open floorplan, the impact benefits the entire space. Light in this space also comes via mirrors – a trick of the trade, when used correctly. By positioning mirrors opposite windows, you’ll double the view and bounce natural light throughout the room.


Gold is the trending embellishment in this space. I love its warm glow and simple opulence — if there is such a thing. This modern metal became a running theme throughout this space, carrying from the kitchen and dining area, into the bedroom and retreating to the bath. But notice that this trendy addition comes in the form of “soft” accessories. Translation: Relatively inexpensive and easy to replace, when this trend eventually runs its course (which it will). Behind that, you’ll find a space that is neutral with solid staying power.

Yin and Yang: A cool white kitchen backsplash balances the lavish gold touches, and makes the black granite kitchen island pop.

Thank goodness this reno didn’t have a tight deadline or too many other restrictions – yet another benefit of being both the client and the designer!

Award-winning interior Designers PHYLLIS LUI and ALEEM KASSAM are the principal designer duo for Kalu Interiors. For more than a decade, this Vancouver based design firm has become known and for focus on creating thoughtfully curated interiors that enhance and inspire how you live. the firm provides bespoke design services for clientele throughout Canada.


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Palm Springs style, Vancouver views

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Palm Springs style, Vancouver views

• Photography By Provoke Studios

When the sun beckons, saying no to outdoor living is simply not an option. That’s the unwritten rule here in Canada, where our winters are bitter and the summers are never quite long enough. But a well-designed al fresco living and entertaining area will take you from early spring into late fall without a second thought – and if it’s really well done, it’ll carry you through those lingering winter months as well. That was the goal for the designer and owner of this home, Phyllis Lui, who together with her friend and business partner, Aleem Kassam, founded Vancouver-based design firm Kalu Interiors.

This particular project is especially close to Lui’s heart, being her own private residence. She offers a sneak peek of her always-sunny, Palm Springs-inspired abode.

Killer views

“The views are killer,” admits Lui, who’s steadfast mission to embrace nature seems to be worth every effort. Interestingly, her journey to maximize the outdoors began with her home’s interior.

“I was aiming to achieve a cohesive style between indoors and out, which meant echoing similar elements throughout,” Lui notes, pointing out the continuous colour scheme of cream, coral and royal blue, which pairs beautifully with a palette of soft finishes.

Esthetically speaking, the style is cool and contemporary, yet friendly and fun – the sheer essence of West Coast life. The easygoing, open-concept floor plan ushers you past the kitchen and family room, through stacking glass doors that all but disappear to reveal a breathtaking mountain view, best enjoyed from the adjoining main-floor patio.

Outdoor bliss

“The goal was to make this feel like a fun extension of the indoors,” Lui explains. The uninterrupted indoor-outdoor experience is achieved by taking those traditional “interior” elements outside. A rug underfoot, beautiful quality furnishings, accessories and art deliver comfort and style that invite early mornings and long evenings under the stars.

Warm it up

Lui incorporated wood soffits and pavers layered with rugs, to instantly bring a sense of warmth and welcome to this otherwise contemporary exterior. An oversized barbecue provides all-season cooking and entertaining under the covered outdoor dining and lounging area, complete with integrated heaters mounted overhead for year-round use of the space.

Multi-Level Magnificence

The master bedroom features another walkout and, arguably, a dream come true – a luxurious hot tub steps from the bed and with a breathtaking mountain view. Does it get any better than this? Perhaps it does from the vantage point of the upper-level deck, where a firepit area and lounger seating capture mountains, sea and sky.

Is that artificial turf underfoot? You bet it is! This evergreen landscaping option is gaining popularity, and was an ideal choice for this rooftop patio – and equally appreciated by anyone seeking something that looks lush year-round, is low-maintenance, and likely to induce green-envy glances from the neighbours.

Encircling the upper deck is a frameless glass railing, which maintains the clean and modern esthetic that characterizes this home and provides unobstructed views of the water and the mountains on the horizon.

Outdoor living is certainly top of mind in these weeks leading up to summer, but with a decked-out deck like this, Lui is no slave to Mother Nature. A warm, Palm Springs-style with cosy comforts make this al fresco living space a hot spot, regardless of the weather.

SOURCES LOWER DECK: Navy Blue SOFA, COFFEE TABLE & DINING SET, CHAIRS around firepit, Crate & Barrel Gold easy CHAIRS, CB2 Flamingo ART, Leftbank Art RUG, Chilewich PILLOWS, Etsy CHAIRS & COFFEE TABLE beside hot tub, West Elm PLANTERS, Canadian Sunlight HOT TUB, Beachcomber Hot Tubs UPPER DECK: FIREPIT, Dreamcast LOUNGERS, CB2 SIDE TABLES between loungers, Anthropologie UMBRELLA, Ginger Jar

Lydia McNutt is an award-winning writer, editor, journalist pro based in the Greater Toronto Area.


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