Designing your condo: making the most of your situation

Whether you're on your own, living with a partner or several roommates, decorating your condo space on a budget while staying on trend and incorporating your personal style can be challenging. So we teamed up with the ladies of Designtheory (the experts, duhh) for some design tips and inspiration, giving them one floor plan and three scenarios to work with. And then we asked for their advice on what to save on and what's worth splurging on.

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Scenario #1: One person

This layout allows for the most freedom in terms of how to use the space. Storage is always at a premium in any condo, so to be able to turn the Den into a walk-in closet would be a dream! The living area can accommodate a smaller condo-size sofa along with two chairs and a decorative floor pouf or ottoman in the corner. A desk can double as a small dining table in case of guests. But typically, the condo dweller would eat dinner at the kitchen island or by the TV.

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Scenario #2: A couple

This layout allows for two people to have their own space if they need it. The den transforms into a quiet Study leaving the living area to be more of the entertaining spot. A sectional sofa allows for comfortable TV viewing and snuggling for a night in, or can host 5-7 people comfortably for a social event. There’s even room for a small dining table to seat 4 if the occasion arises. The kitchen stools can move to this space giving additional seating for dinner.

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Scenario #3: >2 people

This layout, although tight, can accommodate 3 people who are living together. There is room for 1-2 in the bedroom, 1 in the den-come-bedroom, and 1 on the pull-out sofa in the living area. Being that there aren’t enough closets for everyone, creative solutions using decorative cabinets and shelving can help solve the clothes problem. Selecting cabinets that compliment the design but tuck personal belongings away discreetly can solve both the aesthetic and storage issues.

 Courtesy: Designtheory

Courtesy: Designtheory

Where do you find design inspiration?

We find inspiration everywhere we turn. That being said, we always take advantage of attending interior design trade shows where we can source out the newest and most up-to-date items including materials and finishes, furniture, décor, etc. Another source of inspiration for us comes from reading European interior design magazines to forecast trends that will be heading over to North America in the coming years – Europe is typically 2-3 years ahead of us when it comes to trends. When we are in need of even more inspiration we like to hit the road and travel, where the simplest consignment shop or the most intricate architecture can provide endless inspiration! 

Where can the average person find design inspiration?

We have a few “go to” online sources for design inspiration that are perfect for the average person: 

1- Pinterest is a free photo-sharing site that allows you to make specific boards and collect a limitless amount of images and inspiration. 

2- Houzz is similar to Pinterest, but is design industry specific. You can create Ideabooks, follow North American interior designers, homebuilders, architects, etc., and save photos directly from those professionals’ pages. 

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3- Instagram. We love Instagram and share many inspirational photos as well as project-specific images on a regular basis. There are lots of design related accounts to find and follow!

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All of these sites help you to narrow down your style and see what kind of feel and aesthetic you gravitate towards.

What are your strategies for finding furniture, art pieces etc.?

The budget will always dictate where we source our products. There is no sense showing a client something they can’t afford - it will break their hearts if they fall in love with an item and then can’t afford it, and it’ll reflect poorly on us as they are coming to us for professional advice.

If there is a low to moderate budget, we place most of the budget value into the items which are the biggest investment pieces: large furniture, window coverings, lighting and flooring.  An item like a sofa is less likely to be replaced than say, a framed print or a side chair. So we carefully select these pieces and have more fun with the items that add the personality to the space, like art and throw pillows.

What would you advise young people on a budget to splurge on and save on, specifically when it comes to decorating a condo?

Mixing high and low in the home is one of the best ways to create a sophisticated space. Although balancing this mix can be challenging, it is often the key to a beautiful and finished space: 

Splurges

1- Long Term Seating - When shopping for a sofa, choose a simple, classic shape and a neutral color that will stay in style. If you invest in a well-made piece, you can always reupholster it later on, but a neutral color will work in any room.

2- Curtains - They will hugely impact your space and provide practical benefits as well. Installing high quality, lined curtains that start at the ceiling and touch the floor will elevate your ceiling height and your room's design level. Thick curtains will block light, sound and cold air better, and also create a luxurious, intimate setting.

3- Statement Lighting - Whether you prefer a cool modern pendant or a grand chandelier, an eye-catching light fixture can be enjoyed from many angles, and it becomes a natural focal point that really makes a statement, even when the rest of the furnishings are kept simple – especially in open concept condo suites.

 Saves

1- Throw pillows - They do not necessarily need to be made of the finest fabrics to freshen up your space or tie a colour scheme together. Stick with inexpensive pillows that can be swapped out seasonally or as your taste changes.

2- Interesting and unique side chairs - These can be found at affordable prices without skimping on style and quality. They don't need to be particularly durable, and they're the easiest items to be switched out.

3- There are countless artists on the web just waiting to be found! - Supporting local artists and having their prints or canvasses framed can add that final touch of sophistication to any room.

What are the hottest trends in furniture right now, and where can you find something similar for less?

Some of this year’s hottest trends for furniture and décor can be summarized into a few styles:

1- Boho Chic meets the Global Nomad - With the world being at our fingertips these days, travelling to Morocco means clicking a link, not booking a lengthy flight. Although there is nothing quite like the original, it’s nice to know that the coveted pieces that were once reserved for the well-to-do can now be accessible by all. Nothing beats an original Moroccan Beni Ourain rug, but it can be swapped out for an affordable one from Wayfair.

2- Vintage Glamour - Art Deco is super hot right now and will continue to influence modern design for years to come. There is something so sumptuous about an elegantly shaped armchair. If done well, it can merge the gap between a masculine and feminine aesthetic becoming a piece of art in its own right. Here is an example of a classic Art Deco-styled chair and a modern take on the same style. Wouldn’t this also be fabulous in a soft velvet fabric… maybe in a jewel tone such as emerald green, deep burgundy or a classic navy?

3- Statement Walls - Now, we aren’t talking about painting out one of your living room walls a feature colour - that trend has come and gone. We are talking about a fabulous mural! Murals are also a thing of the past but have made a huge resurgence in the last year. If you aren’t comfortable with a whole wall in a main room being done up, a powder room, small bathroom, or a laundry room are the perfect spaces to add a punch of personality. They are small enough to hold there own and take on a personality that doesn’t necessarily have to match the rest of the décor. How stunning is this little powder room that’s enveloped in real pieced-together peacock feathers? You can achieve the same result by substituting for this mural from Pixers. The beauty of murals is that they can customize the size of the print and pattern to fit your space. And, they often can come in a self-adhesive form so if you change your mind in a year, you can easily take it off and start again!

What are the hottest trends in art pieces and other accessories, and where can you find something similar for less?

1- Gallery walls - These are an amazing way to infuse color and pattern into space. They let us display our collections in groups so that we can get more pieces on the walls. They're also an excellent way to take up empty space on a large wall and most importantly, they are one of the best ways to show who we are and what we love in our spaces. A great way to create a gallery wall is by using inexpensive frames from IKEA – we do it all the time for our own homes and for our clients homes by mixing black and white frames, different sizes, etc. 

2- Mixed metals - Mixing metals in home décor accessories is super on-trend and is the perfect way to add visual interest and depth to a space, and it’s an effortless way to make the pieces in your home look like they’ve been collected over the years. A great place to find lots of well-priced accessories of all different style is at Homesense. 

This may come across a little Toronto-centric, but since you guys are based in Toronto, what are your favourite places to shop at in the city?

1- EQ3 is a Canadian company that designs, produces and sells affordable, modern furniture for every room in your home. They specialize in modern design for everyday life with simple, clean and functional design and allow you to customize with fabric or leather, finishes and legs for a style all your own.

2- Structube is a Canadian company that offers its clients a wide assortment of modern furniture and accessories at the lowest possible price points. They carry a mix of full size furniture as well as a large assortment of condo-sized furniture. 

3- Elte MKT is a contemporary furniture store that caters to the urban homeowner. It carries a large selection of in-stock area carpets, furniture, and lighting are all showcased in its warehouse style showroom with a great display of fun throw pillows and cheeky home accessories.

Find the ladies of Designtheory at designtheory.ca or follow them @designtheory.ca

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.