Good design – what could it be…

    January 31, 2010

    Why good design is so much more…

     A detour through a downtown mall today spurred a conversation between Ines and myself about the intrinsic value of objects.

    Ines mused about the fact that most of the items on display, although at first glance interest evoking, are upon further investigation simply flashy and fake, without substance, and only an extremely minute amount of other items, often priced at a comparable monetary value, seem to carry in them an innate value that transcedes the mere cash factor.

    The shopper 

    As an artist good design for me is so much more than combining colours, shapes, textures and objects in a pleasing or -worse- merely fashionable manner.

    Good design must be embedded into a cultural and historical context to have meaning.

    Good design must speak about, and address, true universal values, wishes, desires, fears and objections.

    Good design expresses in three dimensional space nothing less than ageless philosophical concepts, it speaks of what is thoroughly valuable, and connects you to your greater and better self. 

    In my opinion things that are ‘cheap’ were created simply to make a quick buck, and most of the time the actual price of those items is being paid by the exploitation of natural resources and human labour.

    Think of those infamous ‘happy meals’, of the nowadays so quickly thrown- together condos, of jewelry (and not necessarily only the costume ones) and clothing…

    For me this mindset is best expressed by this awful slogan “We won’t be undersold”.

    Good things have their price – if you think you are getting a deal on something, you are most definitely wrong.

    In the same way ‘cheap’ fast food weakens your body and affects your health in a detrimental way, the owner of ‘cheap’ things surrounds him/herself with stuff that doesn’t speak to the soul.

    Be it design, food or tangible objects – truly good products and services draw upon a wealth of value, history, skill, knowledge, empathy, wonder and inspiration, and embody what is beautiful about life.

    Good design, like a good life, is NEVER fun and easy – it is a constant struggle for excellence.

    THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN is a national and international award winning, full service architectural and interior design firm. We service Vancouver, Kelowna and the BC Mainland, Victoria and Vancouver Island, Seattle and the Gulf Islands as well as international clients. Principal Ines Hanl and her team specialize in the creation of artful, bespoke interiors in any style for their discerning clientele.



    January 30, 2010

    If you are interested in glass countertops, make sure to visit


    Thinkglass Countertop

    Thinkglass Countertop

    This Quebec company, led by Glass Artist Michel Mailhot and engineer Bertrand Charest, has revolutionized the glass counter industry for the past few years.


    For our Landsend Project we used their 1 1/2” Pebblo Aqua glass as a kitchen counter on the island.

    Glass counters are most certainly worth considering for your kitchen or bathroom project. They compare pricewise with higher end granite, are pretty much maintenance free, don’t need to be sealed, they don’t stain, are non-porous, take high heat, and can be illuminated for a true WOW factor.

    Their textured undersides hide scratches and mask fingerprints.

    They are fully recycable, and right now reqrd you with 10 points for LEED certification for homes.


    The company has a very informative blog – give it a try!



    Contemporary kitchen design – Landsend Project

    January 30, 2010

    As I just received photos of a contemporary home we recently completed on Vancouver Island, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the kitchen and some of the rational behind the design and the choice of materials.


    Infinity Island

    Infinity Island

    Inspired by the outstanding architectural design approach of Dan Boot of Studio DB3 in Sidney, BC, the kitchen’s layout consists of an L-shaped perimeter, a focal point island that I call the ‘Infinity Island’ and a sculptural eating bar.

     This highly artistic house frames incredible views of the Ocean and Piers Island, and the somewhat unusual materials chosen for the kitchen cabinetry have been pulled from the architectural language of the structure – concrete, glass, raw and stainless steel, copper and ‘wetwood’.

    The perimeter cabinetry has been made from slabs of century old Birch, which has been reclaimed from the Great Lakes. On one end a tall appliance tower holds a stainless steel band of appliances – the Miele Speed oven, the wall oven and the coffeemaker, and on the other end is the Subzero fridge positioned.

    Kitchen from Dining room

    Both tall units are being flanked by very special glass door cabinets – make sure to have a look at the frameless glass corner detail on them! This detail is an element I picked up from Dan’s architectural design as well, and the doors were certainly not easy to create.

    Thanks to the committment of the builder Wilf Gorter, site foreman Walter Vanderkamp, very dedicated metal fabricators and the ingenious cabinet maker John Lavoie the crew managed to make my idea work, including floating glass shelves.

     The perimeter cabinets are topped with black Cambria Quartz, which beautifully reflects the oustanding landscape images flooding in through the huge windows.


    Appliance tower with frameless glass corner endcabinet

    Appliance tower with frameless glass corner endcabinet

    The islands ‘theme’ has been inspired by the Infinity Pool outside, and the design of the stainless steel hood replies to the shape of a steel canopy which Dan designed for the barbecue area on the pool deck.

    From this hood fan canopy the Thinkglass Pebblo Aqua glass runs down the wall, transforms into a 1 1/2” countertop and drops down to become a custom stainless steel prepsink at the end of the island.

    The island carcass sits on a 8” high concrete base, and sports a row of wood drawers, with anther row of etched mirror drawers above it. The combination of those 2 materials allows me to emphasize the horizontal delineation of this island.





    Concrete bar, copper cabinet door, steel I-Beam and Birch Counter

    Concrete bar, copper cabinet door, steel I-Beam and Birch Counter



    The sculptural bar is inspired by Dan’s design for the wood fireplace in the living room.










    I chose to use concrete as the actual carcass of a bar cabinet (thanks for bearing with me, Wilf and Walt!), and behind the copper doors it holds liquor and bar paraphernalia. One corner of that concrete block has been spared out, and has been filled with illuminated stacked glass.

    A solid slab of Birch was used for the bar counter, and it is supported by a piece of leftover I-beam from the barrel roof construction.

     As said before, my choice of design and materials was strongly influenced by Dan’s architecture, his strong sense of proportion, assymmetrie and balance.




    View of Pier Island

    View of Pier Island



    I also wanted to invite the outside in, which is the reason behind the choice of glass counter – it looks just like a frozen piece of ocean, and with its flowing character, it’s watery texture and green hues wonderfully balances the concrete and the wood. The small amount of copper on the bar pays reference to the homes entrance door, and warms up the concrete base.











     You can find this particular project in our portfolio section under ‘Landsend’ in the Residential, Kitchen and Bathroom files.



    THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN is a national and international award winning, full service architectural and interior design firm. We service Vancouver, Kelowna and the BC Mainland, Victoria and Vancouver Island, Seattle and the Gulf Islands as well as international clients. Principal Ines Hanl and her team specialize in the creation of artful, bespoke interiors in any style for their discerning clientele.


    Fortuna – The Painting

    January 18, 2010

    Klaus’ Blogs will delft into the philosophical and historical background of his artistic work.

    His oeuvre is incredibly varied, and spans everything from elegant fine art painting to Folk Art, from socio-political illustrations to designs for Amusement parks and Dark Rides, from theme store design, animated displays for trade shows and store windows to beautiful works of sculpture.

    You will find that his mind is able to make visible the very best, and the very worst, in human nature.





    FortunaWhen Ines, after much self doubt and soul searching, decided to launch THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN I was inspired to create a painting for her new showroom.


    I wanted the image to purvey the concept of accepting the unknown with grace, dignity and courage.

    That concept for me is symbolized best by the figure of FORTUNA.

    This Greco-Roman Goddess of Fate and Fortune (‘Tyche’ in the Greek mythology) approaches individuals with the Gift of Opportunity. Should the person blessed with such an offer reject it nevertheless, punishment results – in general terms – in living in obscurity and perpetually having to deal with the question ‘What if…’.


    My particular interpretation of this classical theme shows FORTUNA in a contemporary version of an ‘Ikona’, those works of art so typical for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. An Icon brings the viewer face to face with a symbol, which represents something of greater significance, and I have admired the graphic purity and unpretentiousness of this style of art for as long as I can remember.


    FORTUNA is shown in 18th century attire, which symbolizes the rise of a new kind of sophisticated, energetic and powerful woman, who is ready and able to take charge of her own destiny (like Ines).

    The bird represents the Gift of Choice itself – it comes at its own will, and if not acted upon quickly it will fly away, never to return again.

    He holds in his beak the key to possible success, and brings with him a medallion, in which HIERONYMUS FISH is engraved, the mascot of THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN (see also the ‘About us’ section for a brief story on Hieronymus).

    The tiles, light and dark, stand for the possibility of failure and success – life can always go either way, and FORTUNA’s sentiment is written as a poetic note to the reader on one of them.


    My special Thanks and Acknowledgment belong to the late English novelist Mary Renault, who speaks to me through her wonderful and impressive books, as well as to the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, whose books I only recently discovered, but who already had a huge intellectual influence on me.



    Fortuna, 2007

    Latex, spray painted on wood

    42”x 80”



    THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN is a national and international award winning, full service architectural and interior design firm. We service Vancouver, Kelowna and the BC Mainland, Victoria and Vancouver Island, Seattle and the Gulf Islands as well as international clients. Principal Ines Hanl and her team specialize in the creation of artful, bespoke interiors in any style for their discerning clientele.

    Martin Zemp Artist-Cabinetmaker

    January 18, 2010

    Martin Zemp, Artist Cabinetmaker

     Martin in action

    I came in contact with Martin Zemp from Zee Design in Comox, BC in 2001, when I started working for a small Kitchen and Bath Showroom in Victoria.

    Martin is originally from the village of Sissach in Switzerland, and came to Canada in 1990 to study English. Back in Switzerland he had grown up in his Father’s cabinetmaking workshop, and -if there is such a thing- was born with a cabinet making gene.


    After officially immigrating to Canada in 1992 he worked for various cabinet and countertop producing companies, before going out on his own and launching Zee Design.

    (Little sidenote here: my personal impression is that essentially none of Martin’s employers were up to his work standards, so he had no other choice than to take that step!)

    For the first year my contacts with him were solely over the phone – he was an acquaintance of my then-boss, and every once in a while he would build the odd small custom cabinet or accessory for us.

    I remember quite vividly my first phone conversation with him – I was supposed to tell him from my boss that we needed several lengths of a particular custom crown for a project, and Martin questioned the way we intended to attach that crown to the cabinet.

    Of course, what he really wanted to tell me in his typical ‘Martin way’ was that none of us down in that fancy showroom in the big city of Victoria had given any thought to what we were asking from him, and that it was actually a rather stupid request…Oh course he already had a solution in mind, but I was quite intimidated by this first encounter!

    Hutch in Faceframe construction, Comox residence


    Needless to say – this was also the early beginning of my life here in Canada, I had to speak English with him (although the German version of Swiss, and German itself look pretty much the same on paper, once the sounds come out of a Swiss throat I can hardly understand them…), I was still challenged with my English speaking abilities , and here I was trying to discuss intricate cabinetmaking details with him over the phone…

     Island for THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN Showroom

    As you might guess we overcame that stage eventually (this phase took about 2 years, though…), but what I want to point out is that I consider Martin my most influential teacher in regards to all things cabinetry and millwork production.

    He is certainly the main reason why I feel very competent when designing custom cabinetry nowadays, and when he gets me to design his newest kitchen project I know that I can take out all the design stops, as he will be able (sometimes muttering a lot of curses under his breath, though) to make them come to life.

    The two of us have a bit of a weird long distance work relationship – up to this day most of our collaboration happens over the phone, resulting in hour-long conversations about cabinetry details, but because of his incredible sensibility, his sharp eye and attention to detail this way of working together has proven to be very successful.

     3 colour island with rounded door and decorative posts

    I deeply respect his incredible skill, his willingness to endeavour into new one-of-a-kind designs, his sharp eye, his imaginative solutions, his acute sense of proportion, his elegant style, and the attention to detail and love for his trade!

    Without him I would certainly not be the accomplished custom cabinet designer that I think I am today…

    Thank you, Martin, for your most positive influence on my life!

    Working with you is always exciting and a huge pleasure and privilege for me!

    Zee Design – The Workshop

     The shop, with goat

    I am a big fan of any sort of workshop and manufacturing plant.

    Part of my university education was a mandatory 3 months stint in a cabinet makers workshop. It was a bit boring for me, though – of course those professional tradesmen were afraid that I (a woman…bless their hearts, but gender equality takes hold rather slowly in those parts of life, especially in a small Bavarian town) could sever some part of my body during that time, so I wasn’t really allowed to touch anything really important, especially not the huge machines.

    I helped sanding, assisted in the spray booth, and was sometimes allowed to help with cabinet assembly and lamination.

    When Klaus and I started creating phantasy store settings things got a bit more interesting – we did a lot of the work ourselves, and worked hand in hand with cabinet makers to create our merchandisers and display props, and I became a very good acquaintance of the large beltsander…

    So going into any cabinetmakers shop is quite a wonderful experience for me, and I always try to encourage my coworkers and especially my clients to go and have a look themselves. The amount of machinery and the intricacy of tools will astound you, and there is an inherent beauty in a well run shop.

    Martin’s shop is especially picturesque – in true Canadian West Coast style it’s located somewhere in the woods of Comox,BC on Vancouver Island.

    To get into his shop you have to make your way through a group of Highland Cows, you are being chased by geese and dogs, and his goats will search your purse for edibles (when they are not busy jumping onto his worktable, or your car, that is).

    The shop is very beautiful (in a workshop kind-of way), spacious, organized (of course), with the newest project propped up somewhere, plans mounted to the walls, equipped with exquisite (often German and old Swiss) machinery.

    My only problem with Martin is that he is always superbusy creating something, so in case you are interested in working with him you have to make sure that you get in line well ahead of time.

     the shop, without goat

    You should realize that good things take their due time, and are worth waiting for!

    And it helps to have a slightly unusual project – I think Martin really enjoys a good challenge…

    Update August 31, 2015

    It is with an immense sad heart that I have to say my premature final good-bye to this very special specimen of a human being. I would like to share a letter to Martin from a client and friend, which sums up my own experiences with this generous and dedicated artist.

    As per email from Jackie Wilson, Queen Charlotte, Haida Gwaii:

    Letter to Martin

          I can still hear your big laughter, and your even bigger snoring. The part of you that will stay with me the most is your caring heart. I never told you that some
    days when I came home from work it wasn’t the newest and beautiful handiwork that impressed me as much as the way you treated my pets. Watching you walk around
    cuddling the dogs or letting the cat claim you on the couch really meant more than the stuff.
    Your friends were important to you, you were fiercely loyal to them.
    You went out of your way to try and make my dream become a reality. To the point of sleeping on
    the floor during the first ferry trip to try and save me money. Seriously, I don’t know anyone else who would do that but you.
    A few other things that only you would do……. asking me to remeasure (3 times no less) and it had to be with your tape measure that you sent up because mine apparently
    wasn’t good enough.  Only to find that you had mis-measured when you initially did it.
    Sending me the Richelieu catalog to highlight what I wanted installed inside the kitchen cabinets – only to have a good percentage shot down because “you didn’t like it”
    You referred to me as “the boss” but I’m pretty sure we all know who the real boss was on this job.
    I find it oddly comforting to see your name plastered all over the shipping labels on the Island Top crate still in my driveway. I wish I had texted you more the day it arrived.
    That was the last time I heard from you.
    My wish for you is to some way, some how, be able to see in yourself all the good things we see in you.
    My wish for the people that know you is to find a way to get beyond the intense sadness and remember a truly remarkable person with a lot less pain.
    When the time is right, I want to continue on with what you started. I think you would expect that. My hope is that you are able to check in on us now and again to see how we are doing.
    Just promise that you won’t haunt us when we mess up because that would just be weird.
    You made a very big impression on me Mr. Zemp and I am not the type of person who impresses easily. Saying that I am going to miss you is a ridiculous understatement.
    Lots of love,

    THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN is a national and international award winning, full service architectural and interior design firm. We service Vancouver, Kelowna and the BC Mainland, Victoria and Vancouver Island, Seattle and the Gulf Islands as well as international clients. Principal Ines Hanl and her team specialize in the creation of artful, bespoke interiors in any style for their discerning clientele.

    Appliances and Kitchen Planning

    January 4, 2010

    I wrote the following article in 2007 for the website of the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association).

    Its content is important to designers who are fairly new to the process of cabinetry planning, Viking rangetop with island stye hoodbut it is also helpful information for the home owner who wants to embark on a kitchen renovation.

    No matter if you work as a designer for a bigger cabinetry supplier or design custom cabinetry, technical knowledge is essential for a successful, long lasting career in the cabinetry field.

    Nowadays I work about 99% of the time with custom cabinet makers, which allows me the full flexibility of a customized design, and- contrary to popular notion- custom cabinetry is not necessarily much more expensive than working with a large supplier.

    On a personal level I also prefer to support the small businesses in my community, I appreciate the individual level of craftmanship and attention to detail executed by the cabinet makers, and I enjoy nurturing the relationship between client and cabinetmaker. Not only do we bring clients to previous jobsites, so that they can get a feel for the work of a particular cabinet maker, they are also always invited to go and see the cabinet makers workshop to experience the skill, effort, machinery and knowledge that is required to create the pieces which are going to be an integral part of the client’s life.

    I plan on writing more about different appliance brands, my experiences with them, and customer feedback over time, so make sure to check back in!
    I will also introduce the cabinetmakers and their shops to you in the near future…


    Heritage Style Home Renovation

    January 4, 2010

    Welcome to our first blog!

    The general idea for the blogs of THE SKY IS THE LIMIT will be to showcase current projects that are in the making, Before and After’s, discussions about new products on the market, and we might also look into technical issues of renovations in general, lighting, appliances, effects of colour and space on the human psyche…

    We are open to suggestions, so feel free to write us a note about a subject of interest!

    For today’s introduction I will present a renovation which lately has earned us several prestigious Renovation and Design Awards, and which is being featured in a number of magazines in 2010.

    It’s a single family home, built most likely in the 1920′s, 3 houses away from the ocean, in a very nice residential neighbourhood.

    This was the view from the main entrance – to the left was a space for dining, then the kitchen, and at the end of the long hall was a small home office hogging the nicest view of the garden.

    To your right would be the living room, stairs, a small hallway towards the guest bath and guest bedroom, and a closet to the right of the back door.


    web site by: starglobal