Tag Archives: Phyllis Lui & Aleem Kassam


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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Small space, big style

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Small space, big style

Photography By Provoke Studios

A brand-new build comes with its pros and cons. On the plus side, developers today are creating some really stunning and efficient spaces that make the most of every inch. And with the rising price of real estate these days, that is a good thing. On the con side, new construction homes sometimes get a bad rap as “cookie cutter.” Fortunately, all a space needs to really feel like home is your own personal touch.

TIP ~ In a small space, opt for light colours to enhance the overall sense of space, and keep them consistent throughout to create continuity between rooms


This family of three had a lot to squeeze into this 840-sq.-ft. condo. Our clients, a couple and their newborn baby, required two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sleek living area, dining area and what’s become the most common ask we get as professional designers: function.

Small spaces come with their challenges, but with some strategic techniques and tried-and-true design principles, we definitely make the most out of every inch.

TIP ~ Who doesn’t love a big TV, right? While it might be ideal for binge-watching weekends, this bulky piece of tech poses a challenge from a design perspective, and this is particularly true in small spaces. Try positioning the TV diagonally in a corner, to help minimize its physical footprint and its visual impact.


One benefit of high-rise living is the view. The living room is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open to a 346-sq.-ft. patio and views as far as the eye can see – an instant focal point. To keep attention where it belongs, we positioned the furniture in such a way that allowed the homeowners and their guests to sit, socialize and overlook the city, or watch television – if they can tear their eyes away from that view.


This living room is decidedly contemporary, with neutral walls, simple furnishings and a modern light fixture overhead. Offsetting the coolness of the space, vibrant floral artwork and an antique coffee table bring character while telling the homeowners’ story.


The modern style and neutral colour palette flows into the adjoining dining room. Originally, this unit didn’t allow for a proper dining area. This is common with the popularity of open-concept spaces, where dining often takes place in the kitchen or the living area. The homeowners really wanted a formal dining area, and were open to tucking the table up to the wall when not in use. In place of traditional chairs, we used two chairs and a bench to add function and versatility to the space. To add further interest to the dining area, personal photos were framed and hung gallery-style above the table, to create a feature wall and conversation piece. Overhead, a chandelier suspended from a millwork ceiling defines the dining space. We chose a style that was mainly clear, so that it wouldn’t be visually “heavy” or overwhelming.


The master bedroom was large enough for a king-sized bed, but we had to sacrifice the traditional side tables to make it work. We chose slim-lined, lean and leggy nightstands from West Elm, which were slightly smaller in scale and much airier in their look and feel. The bed came from Mobital and features lift-up storage for hidden function and flexibility. The wallpapered wall is dramatic and strong, balanced with lighter bedding and furniture to give the space light and brightness.


Last but certainly not least, the nursery was a special focus for these new parents. Even though the room itself was smaller in size, we still managed to incorporate all the essentials of a sweet and functional baby’s room, including a crib, dresser/change table, glider and a bookcase. A jungle-themed wall mural from Lulu & Georgia was a fun accent for the room.

Small spaces can pose some design challenges, but with some careful thought and inspiration, even a small home can be big on style and function.


Master Bedroom NIGHTSTANDS, West Elm, Bed, Mobital; Nursery WALLPAPER, Lulu & Georgia

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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Colour in a neutral world

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Colour in a neutral world

Photography by Provoke Studios

There’s a definite art to successfully bringing a burst of colour into a neutral world, especially when it is executed with subtlety and sophistication. One of the most common hurdles designers face is the clients’ sheer fear of colour. Honestly, we’ve heard it all: it’s too bold; it’s too trendy; it’s too… colourful. To all these excuses we say, “You’re not afraid of colour, you’re just afraid of the wrong colour.” With that being said, here are some tried-and-true designer tips for choosing the perfect tone and shade, and how to incorporate it into your interiors to make your neutral rooms pop.

Hue Homework

So, where do you start? Colour has been proven to have psychological effects on people, so before you dive into the pool of paint swatches, ask yourself how some of your top colour choices make you feel, and more importantly, how do you want to feel in your space? The same room can have a completely different ambience in a new hue. For example, cool colours such as blues and greens, tend to invoke feelings of tranquility, reliability and calmness. On the other hand, colours on the warm side of the spectrum tend to act as stimulants. Reds, oranges and yellows are known to elicit feelings of excitement, warmth and playfulness. Consider this when making your colour choices.

Follow Your Bliss

Keep in mind that colour resonates with different people in different ways. The short answer to the colour quandary is this: It’s all about personal preference. If you love it, then it’s right.

Vibrant & Fresh Palette

In this small but sweet urban space, we played with a combination of colours to bring out the homeowners’ sense of youth and modern fun. The home is fresh and bright, and perfectly on-trend with a crisp, off-white backdrop that enhances its sense of spaciousness. High ceilings, large windows and neutral walls play perfectly with the complementary palette of warm greys peppered with pops of coral, blue and green, with a vibrant sunny yellow taking the spotlight.

Sunshine State

Yellow was a great choice for this home and its owners. The colour’s association with sunshine, warmth and joy is exactly what the homeowners wanted to feel when spending time in the space. While yellow is a dominant colour choice, we used it sparingly and in a very understated way, so as not to overdo or overwhelm. As they say, everything in moderation.

Subtle & Strategic Placement

To create a sense of continuity throughout the home, we used the same sunny shade of yellow in every room, albeit in small doses. It instantly draws attention, and lends a wonderfully warm hint of sunshine to the otherwise cool and contemporary backdrop. The cosy living room enjoys some yellow sofa cushions and some subtle, strategically placed, sunny accessories tucked away on the bookshelf. As you move through the kitchen, a yellow tea kettle perched on the countertop is just enough to catch the eye. In the bedroom, we echoed the same shade with some pillows and a playful pillowcase. A modest sitting area is inviting and instantly alluring, though you may not immediately know why… (Hint: it’s definitely the yellow!) We even carried our colour theme into the great outdoors, onto the balcony barbecue area, where a couple of yellow cushions invite sunny thoughts, even on cloudy days.

“Reds, oranges and yellows are known to elicit feelings of excitement, warmth and playfulness.”

Mission Accomplished

Our clients absolutely love their bright, sunny interiors, which brighten up their days in British Columbia’s often-grey climate. The look is fresh and urban, yet fun – a true reflection of their personalities.

It’s easy to introduce colour into a neutral space, despite common fears. In fact, it’s essential if you want to create a space that has that little extra oomph that you can’t quite put your finger on. Try some colours on for size before you commit. Buy small paint jars of your top contenders, and test them out on a wall. Spend some time with each hue to see how you really feel about it. Remember, colour is subjective, and you make the rules.

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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Bathroom walls designed to wow!

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Bathroom walls designed to wow!

A feature wall adds a stylish statement in bathrooms of every size. Here are three examples to show you how.

People often underestimate the esthetic impact walls can have on a space, and all too often they underutilize or completely ignore this valuable square footage. Do you want your walls to impact or detract? From a designer’s perspective, we love high-impact bathroom walls. These typically small spaces don’t leave much room for accessories, so a fabulous feature wall does just the trick.

How does one achieve walls that wow? Here are some tricks of the trade.

All Eyes On Me

Which wall should be the main focus of your bathroom? In most cases, the easy answer is the vanity wall. This is where the main function of the room takes place, so it becomes a natural focal point.

By maintaining a neutral penny-round floor tile for texture, the wall stands out with a stunning, slate-patterned, large-format vertical porcelain tile.

In this powder room, we placed the feature wall at the vanity area. By maintaining a neutral, penny-round floor tile for texture, the wall stands out with a stunning, slate-patterned, large-format vertical porcelain tile. We then pulled the darkest colour from the tile into the vanity to complement the tile itself. The remaining walls, floor and countertop are finished in a neutral white, allowing the focal area to really stand out.

Designer Tip: We are fans of polished tiles on walls for their reflective quality, easy maintenance, and larger formats that reduce the number of separations and grout lines for an uninterrupted sightline as your eye moves through the room.

Bathing Beauty

The bathing area is another common focal point in the bathroom, so much so, that the room is named after it! Since the eye is immediately drawn to the bathtub and shower, it makes sense to make this a featured area.

Upon entering this master ensuite, you’re immediately greeted by the massive shower and freestanding tub; turn your head slightly, and glorious nature becomes your next focal point with a view of the mountains and ocean. So, our storyline became shower, tub, view, which formed the narrative.

The feature wall called for something earthy and bold, and in this case, cost-effective. We opted for large-format 24-by-48-inch porcelain tiles in a natural onyx pattern and colour, creating the appearance of natural stone slab walls. We carried the wall tile from shower to tub to window, creating a cohesive theme. This strategy also created the illusion of a larger space, with no definitive beginning or end to the shower and tub area.

Tile Talk

Tile is the most common material of choice for bathrooms, thanks to its practicality – it’s waterproof, easy to clean and durable. Tile also has awesome artistic merit. Think of your walls as a blank canvas, and a great place to introduce pattern, texture, colour and materials.

Porcelain tiles have evolved thanks to technology, and are now offered in colours and patterns evocative of natural stone. Marble, slate, you name it – these fabulous fakes make it tough to tell the difference from their authentic counterparts. And when it comes to price, these look-a-likes are the cost-effective option. Gone are the days of natural (also expensive and very heavy) marble and granite gracing our walls.

Thoughtful Details

You’ve likely heard the saying, “the devil is in the details,” and nowhere is this more true than in the world of interior design and decor.

In this bathroom, the tub and shower are the main focus. The eye is led effortlessly along the horizontal porcelain tile, which mimics the look of vein-cut marble. By gracing the walls and ceiling, the tile separates the bathing area from the rest of the space, while visually connecting the tub and shower.

The shower itself is a stunner, outfitted with “his and her” areas, which include double slide bar, hand-held showerheads and an overhead rainhead shower on each side. The tub area features an asymmetrical tub with a freestanding tub filler and hand-held spray for easy cleaning. Gold fixtures amp up the space’s general undertones of subtle luxury.

As you assess the bathroom you’re working in, step back and take it all in. What do you see? What are your bathroom’s best features? What would you like to highlight, or hide? It’s all possible with the right products and this sage advice – great bathrooms are designed with equal parts fashion and function. There is no compromise.



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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