Wednesday, October 27, 2010

a day full of treats...

This year was our first time attending...

We were excited! We started our day off by participating in one of the Industry Only seminars - NKBA Understanding the Guidelines for Kitchen and Bathroom Design. It was terrific. The speaker, Al Pattison, was thorough and fun. It was a great review for us kitchen designers.

After attending the seminar, we took a break for a tasty treat near by at Giovane...

Re-fuelled, we had lots of time before the general public was being let in to take in all of the product treats...

By mid-afternoon, it was time for a brain treat with a talk by Karim Rashid about the world of design being shaped by new social behaviours/languages/materials/technologies/needs/desires...

His talk was interesting and thought provoking. It sounds like he lives in a beautiful and frustrating world, and I'd be scared to work for him. Even so, I really enjoyed listening to him. We watched his talk with Lori Steeves and Liana Sipelis.

I also attended Sarah Richardson's talk in the evening. It was fun and was very interesting to hear a bit about her journey so far as a designer. The advice she had to give was pretty much at odds to what we'd learned from Kimberley Seldon's Business of Design seminar series. That particular aspect of her talk definitely provided some food for thought.

All in all it was a fantastic experience. The new Convention Centre is a terrific venue. The number and quality of booths was pitch-perfect. The seminars and talks offered covered a range of topics. We will absolutely plan to attend again next year.

Did you go this year? What was your favourite booth or product?

For more on the products/companies pictured above...

There were even more special visual treats that caught our eyes in the form of various textures...

The visuals were absolutely fantastic overall and the vast majority of booths had a great deal of captivating sights.

Special nods to...

And keep your eyes peeled for Mint Interiors (also pictured above) - opening soon in Vancouver...

Hope to see you there next year for many more delicious treats at IDSwest 2011!

Take care,
Lisa (for the Dome Design Team)

+ just to add that my favorite feature was a full-scale modular home by Preform Construction.  I have started saving up for one already!

....and I would just like to leave you with this inspiring quote by Karim Rashid:
"New, not for the sake of new, but in order to evolve"

Get inspired!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

vancouver is special...

There is a huge mix of architectural styles employed in residential structures in Vancouver. Obviously we have our share of “West Coast”, but there are so many others visible along our streets and often very much mixed together. Sometime we’ll post a photo array of the styles we see repeated most often.

For now, we’re focusing on the Vancouver Special. And, more specifically, on the second annual Vancouver Special Tour put on by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation (VHF).

A quick primer (to save you the trip to Wikipedia):

Vancouver Special is a term used to refer to houses built in a particular architectural style in the period from roughly 1965 to 1985 in Vancouver, British Columbia and its suburbs. They are characterised by their "box-like" structure, low-pitched roofs, balconies across the front of the house, and brick or stone finishes on the ground-floor level of the facade with stucco elsewhere. Vancouver Specials have similar floor plans with the main living quarters on the upper floor and secondary bedrooms on the bottom, making them ideal for secondary suites. These homes were favoured by new Canadians, often from Hong Kong and Italy, for their spaciousness and were often a first house purchase.

They are designed to work with Vancouver’s density and smaller-than-average lot sizes. The basic design is a series of squares, shifted around to provide multiple configurations within the same envelope. Nowadays people are continually modifying these basic floor plans and boxy exteriors in an effort to add a stroke of individuality to the module.

The tour this year included four houses. All were originally built between 1968 and 1973 in East Vancouver and all have since been renovated to some extent.

I attended this year’s Vancouver Special Self-Guided Tour with local interior decorator Lori Steeves. She made the astute observation that it seems – because of the very flexible interior plan – the largest struggle with Vancouver Specials is to create interest on the exterior. Last year, the Vancouver Heritage Foundation featured a particularly successful West-Coasty-style-reno’d Special on the post cards advertising the Tour.

Follow this link to see that:

Two of the houses on the tour this year made strides towards distinguishing their exteriors from other Specials. We did the tour in reverse order, so those were saved for last.

The tour did have its good points. The four examples used were effective in illustrating how flexible the floor plan of a Special can be with each house’s interior having been modified into different configurations. They showed how the spaces can be converted to serve different functions with one divided into two suites, one split into residential-plus-business spaces, one being used as a transitional home run by a local charitable foundation, and the last housing a single family with minimalist tastes. So, overall, the selection of these particular properties to be included on the tour was handled well.

Unfortunately, the positives end there.

I think the biggest problem with this Tour lay in the branding: I am not sure what was being sold, exactly. This was billed as a heritage tour. But the volunteers seemed to be trying to sell us on the changes that had been made – like they were advocating for the work done to redesign the properties. We saw too many examples of shoddy workmanship and poor planning to buy that tonic.

In the end we left feeling under whelmed and a tad confused. There was a limited amount of information provided on aspects of the homes that most intrigued us as designers. Without an un-touched example (via a house on the tour or just a floor plan included with the brochure) to refer to, it was left to our imaginations to interpret the actual changes made to these houses. And with the near-constant inundation of tid-bit information from the volunteers it was difficult to focus on one’s own reasons for attending the Tour in the first place.

I’m just glad we did the tour in reverse. Had we started at the first house and moved forward, I know I would have been expecting a lot more from the subsequent specimens. Not all renovations are made equal, and I have no idea why the VHF would want to pretend they were. I understand that the people who opened their homes to us volunteered their properties, and we should respect that and feel grateful for the opportunity. But doesn’t that very act of volunteering mean you are opening your house up for scrutiny?

I’m not suggesting that the VHF should have been running an in depth analysis on the homes to debate the validity of the changes made. In fact, this is the opposite approach I think should have been taken. The “Isn’t it fantastic?!!” attitude turned this from a study of made-over post-mid-century architecture into one big real estate pitch. I submit that this pretense established by the volunteers – that all the changes were positive ones – skewed the “heritage” angle almost beyond recognition.

Would I do it again? Definitely. But then, I’m an optimist. I’ll go in next year with a much greater level of skepticism and with a conservative hope that we will be pleasantly surprised. One thing to keep in mind is that this tour is young. Honestly, given time and some guidance, it could be a huge success. For this year’s effort, however, I have to give the Vancouver Heritage Foundation a 6 out of 10.

In writing this review I had debated with myself about whether to take the approach of critiquing the actual renovations themselves. But with the scarcity of cold hard facts provided about the renovations combined with the fact that there was no photography allowed on the properties, it seemed a natural fit to discuss the presentation instead.

Better luck next year…

Did you attend the Tour this year? Last year? What were your thoughts?

If you didn’t go, what would make you want to?

If you don’t live in or visit Vancouver regularly, do you have a version of this where you are? How is that handled?

I think these kinds of tours are a terrific idea in principle, and I LOVE seeing inside spaces I otherwise would never gain access to. Here’s hoping for a pleasant surprise next year…

‘Til next time,

Lisa (for the Dome Design Team)

Monday, October 18, 2010

hell freezes over...

Still waiting on finding time to post my review of the Vancouver Specials Tour, and now also a review (with photos) from IDSwest. In the meantime, check out this great news:


Life as we know it is about to change...

Take care,
Lisa (for the Dome Design Team)

Monday, October 4, 2010

making lemonade...

All week last week I was saying that I'd planned on posting a review of the Vancouver Special Homes Tour I attended on Saturday, September 25. So far, that post is a complete lemon. I want to be able to take the time to really give it some thought. And I haven't had time yet. Being busy with your business is great - no complaints here - but it means we haven't had as much time for Twitter, blogging, and working on our forthcoming website.

Even so, I did happen across a tweet from @SterlingSurface that caught my eye: A Facebook album detailing the process of creating custom fit Corian plinths. Definitely worth checking out...

Enjoy! And stay tuned for the Vancouver Specials review asap.

Lisa (for the Dome Design Team)