CARE Awards 2012

    July 19, 2012

    It already seems to be another really successful year for Ines Hanl and Kimberly Lewis Manning at THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN!
    In February the interior design duo was awarded with 3 Gold Awards from the BC Chapter, and 2 Gold and 3 Silver Awards from the Canadian Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
    ‘I am especially proud of the Canada-wide achievements’ says Principal Ines Hanl. ‘We are up against designers and architects from all over Canada, and the fact that we are able to hold our own against projects in metropolitan areas like Toronto and Vancouver speaks for the quality and ingenuity of our work.’

    Hanl is also shortlisted in the annual ‘Designer of the Year’ competition by Western Living Magazine. ‘It’s already the second time that I receive this type of acknowledgment, within the short period of 2 years’, she smiles.

    This year’s CARE Award competition saw the design studio enter 4 different projects in 8 categories – and all of them made it into the finals.
    ‘While this year’s projects are all on the modern side of design, the actual project briefs couldn’t have been more different from each other.’


    Meanderings, which is a finalist in 4 categories, is the design studio’s first attempt to turn a builder’s spec home into a custom designed house. The clients, a young professional couple from Vancouver, wanted to switch gears from big city living, and move into a small up island community. They were intrigued by the idea of living on a smaller scale, with a focus on great design and high quality workmanship.
    ‘It was a fantastic project’ Hanl enthuses. ‘The clients let us refine the builder’s original house plans before construction started, and we were able to make adjustments to the layout, create a design theme, maximize the view, and focus on sight lines.’
    ‘The theme Meanderings refers to the image of waves and organic grow patterns, evoked by the vicinity of the forest and the ocean. It’s evident both in textures and materials, and in the sculptural design of the cabinetry.’
    ‘The clients were fantastic to work with – they got so inspired by the products we showed them, and we created a palette based on neutral shades, supported by bold graphic, strong colour blocking, and sensual surfaces.’
    It’s a very modern interior, a unique combination of calm, serene and joyfully vibrant.’


    The second residential project is Shawnigan, a kitchen renovation in a lakefront home in Shawnigan Lake.
    ‘This was quite the brain teaser’, beams Hanl – ‘I really thrive on those kinds of challenges’.
    The clients felt very drawn to a Tuscan style, with the lakefront facade featuring large scale arched windows. However, the inspirational pictures from their kitchen renovation ideabook sported Arts and Crafts design.

    ‘And then I came into the picture…’ laughs Hanl. ‘First it was easy – reorganizing the kitchen layout, changing the facade with the location of doors and windows, and continuing the arched window design.’
    ‘Even the perimeter layout of the kitchen was a no-brainer. But then we worked on island designs – and I showed the client how the shape of this island affected the rest of the room. I came up with 7 different versions for the island, and they started to fall in love with my most outrageous design. At one point I had to tell them that I wasn’t be able to give them a traditional Arts and Crafts look anymore, as it wasn’t in keeping with the design language of the island.’

    Instead Hanl opted for a mix of charcoal and teak wood veneer, combined with a dark grey metallic finish and lots of stainless steel accents. The colour scheme was drawn from a iridescent turtoiseshell, black and charcoal glass tile blend, which was chosen because it brought the colours of the bark of the surrounding Arbutus tree inside.’

    ‘I paid further tribute to the client’s style preferences by selecting a floor tile in a stylized Arts and Crafts rose motif, which also picked up on the many curved shapes in the space.’
    ‘The unusual stainless steel post in the island was a necessary evil – I had to get power into the island, and because I wasn’t supposed to disturb the already in place heated floor I had to come through the ceiling. I designed the island with multiple heights to integrate this post in a natural manner.’
    ‘It’s a really sexy space now, with a gorgeous view, a serene flow, clean lines and beautiful details.’


    Behind the Venture project hides the Gunroom Bar for the Naval Education Center in Esquimalt.
    ‘This project was particularly dear to us’ states Hanl. ‘My coworker Kim’s husband was the Commander of the HMCS Vancouver, and all things connected to the base are very personal to Kim. We wanted to create a young interpretation of a marine themed bar, while still maintaining respect towards the long history and tradition of the Navy. I didn’t want to fall into the typical ‘West Coast’ design trap – all things big fir beams, lots of traditional wood paneling, huge slate fireplace etc…’

    Instead, the design duo devised a modern take on tradition – with rift cut oak and quarter-sawn Mahagony paneling, rhythmically divided by charcoal steel supports which support the nautical flavour. A breathtaking, flaming red steel smokestack serves as an eye catching bartop, and provides traffic flow at the same time.
    Marine accent lights, porthole windows, brass accents, coloured bands of navy blue and red, and a gleaming masculine interior for the bar make sure the students approve of their new hang out.
    ‘We cooperated with Ledcor Construction on the make-over of the bar, and I am very grateful for the fabulous and knowledgeable support they provided us with, to make our vision reality!’


    The 4th project nominated for an award in the Best Commercial Interior category is ‘Eye Love You’, which is the competition name for the optometry store Fairfield Optical in the Fairfield Plaza. The store, which hadn’t had a makeover since its inception about 3 decades ago, was in dire need of a facelift.
    Cooperating with Island Custom Cabinetry, the design studio gave the store a modern look appropriate to display the designer frames from Germany and France.
    ‘It was the first time we were working on an optometry store’ says Hanl. ‘This is part of what makes the interior design profession so exciting on the island – we get to explore all those different areas of retail, hospitality, offices.’

    What’s next in store for the designer?

    “We just finished a really exciting custom home in Kelowna. We also worked on a very whimsical Dr Seuss style playroom, and are often asked to design custom furniture like tables and beds. Another current pet project of mine is an Organic West Coast style residence up island, and we have been approached for a number of European and Mexican themed designs.’
    ‘We also get more requests which include architectural design, which is part of what I trained for at University in Germany.’ A custom designed Cape Cod style home is currently in the works in Comox.

    ‘ My past life in theater design, and my artistic inclinations really enable me to work in a wide spectrum of design styles. I traveled a lot throughout Europe, and spent some time in Mexico in the past years. I am also versed in historical architectural styles – for us, THE SKY IS THE LIMIT really is a life philosophy!’

    ‘If I could send out a wish I would really love to show what could be done with Spa environments, pharmacies, dentists and lawyers offices. In my opinion there is a lot of room for improvement in these categories here on the island.’

    ‘What I love right now, is to watch the development of a more unique definition of the ubiquitous West Coast Style’ enthuses Hanl.
    ‘Some of my local design colleagues and myself really try to stretch the interpretation of this style beyond the stereotypical use of dark wood, slate and fir…’

    ‘I am very grateful to all my clients who let me lead them a bit more along new avenues, as this does require a large amount of trust in my skills.’

    A little thing about Ines – in a humorous way…

    February 25, 2012

    Hanl 91094

    I just finished writing up a biography for a casting call for the TV design show ‘LOVE IT OR LIST IT’…
    It gives you a rather humourous insight into what Ines is all about.

    German born Ines Hanl came to Victoria, BC in 2000.
    Growing up in one of the most famous touristic hotspots of Bavaria, lovely and picturesque Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and being kind of an oddball throughout her teenage years made her destined to leave the country and make it big someplace else…

    Her background includes an apprenticeship as seamstress, followed by 6 years of hard and low paid work in costume and set design for various theaters and opera houses throughout Germany.
    After earning a Masters Degree in Interior Architecture from the University of Applied Science in Mainz, which taught her how to draw blueprints, but creatively really put the brakes on her (which was a good thing, by the way), a number of internships with architectural firms followed. Next came learning the ropes as a junior designer in a small design studio, and a stint in a high end furniture store in the Bavarian outback.
    Together with her partner Klaus Kinast, who himself had a colourful career designing theme parks and animated 3dimensional attractions, she was also very hands-on involved in the creation of whimsical and phantasic theme store environments.
    Working in carpentry shops (especially on the beltsander…) and swinging various sizes of paint brushes to achieve decorative paint finishes prepared her brillantly for the unique work environment of construction. She has never worn jeans ever since that time, though.

    Hanl cites that her strongest influences are the Renaissance, the Bauhaus, and Cirque de Soleil – along with a little bit of Dr Seuss, who was unknown to her until she came to Canada 12 years ago (seriously).

    When Hanl was finally able to land a job in the kitchen and bath industry in a town that was back in those years run by 2 well situated interior designers, she was determined to blow the townfolks’ mind – but not until learning about the local ways of building houses, which was indeed a little bit different than where she is from.

    Anyways, after 4 years of learning the ins and outs of custom cabinetry – foremost taught by a Swiss Master Cabinetmaker (with whom she speaks English, by the way, because she wouldn’t understand his heavy German accent) she decided that she had to go after bigger fish – after all, why would she have spent more than 4 years at university if she couldn’t put it all to good use.
    She started her own studio, THE SKY IS THE LIMIT DESIGN -not realizing that some people would totally misunderstand that name and only think of all that money (their own, that is) flying out the window…

    Little do they know that it is all about creativity, and endless possibilities…

    Since 2005 Hanl has been garnering local, provinicial, national and international awards for all types of renovation projects, new construction and retail space design – all in all about 26 trophies grace her shelves at the moment. Numerous magazines throughout North America have featured her work, and journalists love working with her as she always has colourful stories and thoughtful insights into her work to share.
    Maybe it is just her accent, though…

    Her range of style is broad – no limits there either. She is very apt in bringing the best out in Victorian (the decade, not the location) or Arts and Crafts period houses, and she is familiar with European design styles throughout the ages, but in the past 3 years she has begun to develop a style that is unique to herself.
    Let’s call it sensual contemporary West Coast… unless someone comes up with a better expression.

    Playful, colourful, tactile, sculptural, occassionally very bold, and always full of surprises – yet with calm spatial undernotes that make a home oh so comfortable. Great lighting on top of that, and grounded by a serious philosophic underbody which she is able to explain in a logical manner. Especially men like the fact that she is not just touchy feely about her work…
    Did we mention that Marital couselling is part of her job description? She has proven her abilities to surprise at-odds partners with solutions that are totally different from what both of them expected, yet incorporate what was important to each of them.

    Hanl is all about teamwork. Her clients, no matter how little creative they themselves think they are, are being coaxed into collaboration – and to their own surprise they love it! That, plus the homework Hanl always gives them…
    Hanl loves to empower clients to take charge and express themselves in their home.

    Creating multiple options for space concepts before blending the variations into a final version is followed by looking at (often unusual) products and finishes. Hanl expects cooperation and a can-do and wanna-do attitude from her team, and while she always asks for technical input from the specialists it will be her having the final say when it comes to design – but always in a nice way, unless the trade is an idiot.

    Hanl can’t promise that she is as attractive in real live as the picture above pretends – most likely rather not.
    But if her English turns out to be understandable, and if she doesn’t freeze up in front of a camera (because she is typically more of a behind-the-scences kind of girl) this design goddess would love to get a shot at being on TV.

    BTW – there is more to Hanl’s world than just design – she actually wiggles her goodies to Bellydance Fusion music, expresses her Bohemian Gypsy genes through Flamenco, is known for her outrageous selfmade Fascinators, her 5 (formerly stray) cats who don’t let her sleep at night, her love of gardening, and the fact that she, although a genius with kitchen design, chooses to not really swing a spoon in her own kitchen. Although she makes great cakes, that is.
    And she really doesn’t like Alcohol, as she would get drunk from a single snaps praline.

    Colour Me Happy

    August 16, 2011





    But how…


    One top priority topic for most clients is the choice of room colours – our clients, most of whom are involved in a larger scale project like building or renovating, often raise this issue way ahead of time. Most of the time it is the female member of a client-couple who is popping the

    C-question, which could either mean that amidst the flurry of technical considerations and the often overwhelming task of decision-making about the nuts and bolts of their reno they simply want to start dreaming about the feel and look of their new home environment, or it could also be that females are more emotionally affected by the effects of colour ( or at least they are more conscientious about those effects on their psyche).

    Guys usually get more of a kick out of the before mentioned technical considerations, and gladly leave the decorative stuff to the girls – a fact that comes in handy when having to mediate between partners…


    It never seizes to amaze me that there are actually designers out there who feel comfortable to select room colours for a client without being IN the space. Yes, of course it is super easy for someone who is experienced with colours to make a nice paint selection at their desk on a sheet of white paper. No big deal for a professional, really, and easily earned money…

    But I bet a lot of clients go home and find that they don’t like those choices once they are on the walls.


    How could that be??

    Guess what – rooms themselves have personalities, and just like you yourself are not comfortable wearing colours which don’t suit your personality, so does your room.

    I am not being mystical about this, I am simply speaking from years of observing this phenomenon – it’s fascinating, but for a professional also humbling. When clients go through my selection method with me they might be at first a bit flustered by the length of time I take to figure out the right choice, but while being there with me they develop an eye and a sensibility for the process themselves, and subsequently feel empowered to make their own choice, as it takes the mystery out of picking colours.


    It doesn’t matter if a client is looking for a rather monochromatic look or really enjoys a colourful look – my approach to selecting the right colour, shade and hue will always be the same.


    Lets look at the make-up of a colour first:

     colours 1

    It all starts with the pigment, or HUE – yellow, blue and red. Those are the so-called primary colours, out of which all other colours can be mixed. I am sure you have heard of the colour wheel (as conceived by Sir Isaac Newton), that shows how they are arranged, with the colours that result from mixing one with each other in between – yellow – orange – red- red/blue (purple) – blue – green. The more sophisticated the colour wheel, the more shades you have in between.


    Opposing colours on this colour wheel create a so-called complementary contrast – the most well-known one might be red/green, blue/orange is another one for example.


    At university we were shown an experiment: if you use 2 dia slides, each one being tinted in each others complementary contrasting colour, and you would overlay them on a white wall, they would result in white again, and if you mixed those colours together as paint they would (ideally) result in black – however, in real life experiments that never happens – a murky, muddy, rather dead looking brown is all you will get, but you do get the point… (for gardeners – the same thing happens when all those colourful flowers go back to rich, dark brown compost)

     a fruity colour mix for a kids bath

    A simple homespun test to find the complementary colour is to concentrate your gaze on one particular colour for a few minutes, then look away onto a white surface – your eyes will show its complementary colour to help the nerves in your eye achieve balance again.


    Those opposing colours can bring the best and also the worst out in each other, so it’s important to know about this phenomenon and make good use of it.

    More about this a bit later…


    SATURATION is the next defining factor – how much of that pigment is actually being used to achieve the colour – think pastel shades versus jewel tones…


    And then there is the actual shade or LIGHTNESS – how much white or black pigment has been used to lighten or darken the pigment?


    In university we did a whole lot of interesting hands-on colour experiments, based on colour theories by Bauhaus members like Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, who again developed Johann Wolfgang von Goethes colours theories from 1810 further. It was fascinating training, and helps to develop colour sensitivity, but you don’t have to worry – you really don’t have to go that far to find YOUR very own colours!



    Josef Albers - Hommage to the SquareIt is indeed much easier than you might think…


    I would suggest the following: with all those wonderful paint stores out there, be it at your local building supply center, or at one of the independent paint dealers, you have a huge selection of colour swatches (those sample cards with several colours printed on them) available to you.

    Without putting yourself under pressure, take some time, poke around, and simply grab all the different swatches that appeal to you. Have fun with this, take a friend if you like! Don’t limit yourself from the start by fretting about the question if that colour works with your ……(fill in whatever comes to mind).

    You might have one particular colour in mind – in that case I would recommend that you grab a whole variety of that colour in a variety of shades and saturations.

    If you don’t have one particular hue in mind I would very much suggest that you go with the before mentioned approach and take home whatever seems to make your soul sing. Even better – sign out the fan deck and take it home. As mentioned before – rooms have their own sense of colour, and they will help you make a choice if you opt to listen.

    No laughing matter – I have a lot of clients who can vouch for this.


    When I am working on a colour selection in a clients house I bring my own colour fan decks from different manufacturers with thousands of options with me. We spread them out in the room, and start what I call ‘editing’.

    Of course it depends very much what else is going to be in that room – flooring, tiles, cabinetry, countertops, furniture. Those items will sure have their own say in the colour selection, which could make the whole process either easier of more difficult…

     Overview of the millwork with the custom blend mosaic backsplashClose up o the blend, which combines all the different shades of blue and green which we used throughout the home. The bronze and pewter etal finishes paraphrase the metal finishes we used, as well as the warm and cool grey colours we used to keep all that vibrant colour in check.

    But for the novice paint-selector it will be a great experience to see how easy it is to do that first step of colour editing – a lot of the colours on the fan deck will just do nothing for you and the space, and you will be able to put them aside very quickly.

    The reason why I am able to say that the room will decide for itself has to do with the intrinsic quality of natural light in a space. Coming from a medieval small town in Germany, where the local building code only allows for slightly dull, powdery pastels on the exterior of the old houses I can relate to how much culture influences your aesthetic choices – but also how freeing it is to break out of that mold, and be influenced by different cultures and colour ways


    It is so inspiring to recognize how much the quality of light influences colour choices – just think of the typical bright white and intense Lapislazuli blue of Greece, or the soft ochres, blues and yellows of the Provence. Think of the jewel tones of India, and the brisk fresh colours of Scandinavia. If you try to transport those exact colours into your particular environment it will most likely go horribly wrong – you have to adjust that colour to work with the particular light quality, and make visual corrections depending on the landscape. Evergreens, rocks and water in the landscape will have huge impact on what is going on inside.

     The glass/stone mosaic tile on this fireplace reflects the natural hues of the cliff upon the house is built

    Colour is energy, and stimulates the senses, and you want to use this tool well to make you feel good!


    Going back to Operation Fan Deck.

    Once you wiggled it down to the shades that seem – for whatever reason- ‘work’ in your room, you make personal choices – which of those remaining swatches do the most for YOU? Away with the rest…


    And when you are done with that process – which of the remaining colours work well with your furniture, your area rug, the other finishes?

    Is there a particular piece of art that is going to live in this room? Which hue works really well with the painting? Just hold the swatches up behind the frame, and you will see for yourself…


    A deep eggplant creates an elegant and striking backdrop for a vibrant piece of art. Notice the effect of the dark red wall in the media room in the back, and how your eye travels from the painting to that room and back

    Make sure to do this process with another person, as you will/might need a set of hands to hold swatches up in order for you to be able to step back and get a good look.


    By that time you might be down to 2 or 3 different colours – now it’s the time to put some double sided tape on the back of those cards and put them up on a wall. On a swatch card with a graduation of shades it will allow you to determine the intensity of the hue.

    As always, make sure to look at the colours from a distance.


    After that it would be the time for some hands-on home work: you could go and get small sample pots of the final 2 or 3 colours. Grab sheets of poster board and paint them up nicely. Put those larger samples on ALL the walls in your space, and look at how they change depending on their exposure to light. Give yourself 1 or 2 days at least to go through this process. You would want to experience not only the difference between day and night, but also between a sunny and an overcast day.


    Be advised that the window wall is always the darkest of the walls, and the colour will also be influenced by the rather blue reflection on this wall. I had an extreme case where we wanted to paint the space a powdery rose colour – beautiful calm hue, but what a surprise when it turned bright pink on the window wall. We had to put a lot of tan pigment in it to achieve the desired calm effect…

     theneutral wallcolour and the typical wood floor could be a boring combination, would not the glossy light green glass tiles on the 1950's inspired bar add an uebercool contrast

    If you find that your choices seem to be too loud, or in your face – then it’s time to utilize what you learned before about saturation of a colour, and select something that is dulled down a bit, or simply softer in shade.


    And one tidbit of advice – colours are best looked at on a neutral white background. If you have already a colour on the wall that’s to be painted, then this underlying colour will have an impact on the appearance of your new choice! So make sure to keep this in mind, and if you think it’s necessary put a larger sheet of something white underneath!


    See – that wasn’t too hard, was it? Just takes time, and deliberation – and it would take time for a designer to do that, too. There is no real magic in this process – not yet, that is, and not for a single room.

     A beautiful yellow adds some mediterranean warmth to this elegant kitchen

    The magic will be necessary when you are dealing with homes that are supposed to get a lot of colour – 16-20 is actually quite often the case with my clients and I love those kinds of challenges!

    By no means is the house supposed to look like a child’s crayon box – and that is where the artistic part of colour coordination comes into play.

    More of that later – lets just finish your room!


    So – what other surfaces will need colour in your space – of course the ceiling, then most likely trim (the wooden pieces around windows and doors), there could be potentially decorative paneling or wainscoting, crown molding, and of course the doors.


    Martha Stewart colours

    I had some of swatches of the new Martha Stewart Living colour collection in my hands yesterday – very interesting concept. I found that the line would not be working all that well here in my local digs, however, we selected quite a few of those colours for a job about 500 km from here in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. On the back of the paint chips they cleverly show you strips of complementing colours – one for the ceiling, one for the woodwork. Although the colour selection is beautifully executed, as are all of Martha Stewart’s professional endeavours, not all of them were sitting right with me. Some of the ceiling options would have been way to dark in an 8′ high room. However, I do invite you to consider using something else but white on the ceiling.

    But that could be a bit tricky – as mentioned, you need to keep the room height in mind, and how the shade of a colour can affect proportion.



    Crisp white millwork and the soft green and blue shades of the ceiling were inspired by traditional Scandinavian colour schemes

    Oftentimes a ceiling should be like a sky on a day that is not particularly sunny, but also not overcast – just neutral, not asking for any attention at all.

    You can get ceiling colours straight from the can, which is an option if you really don’t want to bother to much with the selection of off-whites.

    Or you look for well-loved off-whites, which are part of any paint manufacturers collection. The staff at your paint store will be able to advise you on this.

    One of the most favourite off-whites ever must be Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White – it is softer than a regular white, and blends beautifully with many colours…

     Off white and cream coloured millwork form the neutral base for a cheerful wall and ceiling treatment

    If I am selecting colours for a whole house I select ALL my wall colours first before selecting a suitable white – reason being that I would prefer to work with the same white throughout the house to keep things a bit more simple.


    But I would encourage you to consider different hues for a ceiling as well. I made really good experiences with very soft blues and blue-greens, which creates a Swedish freshness in a space.

    I have also done very bold tones for confined areas in the entrance, and in dining rooms – small spaces can take strong colour, as can rooms that are mainly used at night.

    A mysterious powder room with shimmering mushroom coloured walls and ceiling


    A few of my powder rooms end up without natural light – in this case I make a point out of their mysterious ambiance, and a white ceiling would absolutely not work with this. I used a dark charcoal in one instance – it was a 42”x80” room, but with 9′ ceiling, and I needed to bring the ceiling visually down, and in another case I simply used the wall colour on the ceiling as well.



    A powder room without a natural light source has been painted out in a dark teal tone. All walls as well as the ceiling were treated to this dark shade, to make the 'fake' window glow mysteriously

    For another job with stunning all white glass tiles on the wall I considered painting the ceiling a hot orange or lime green – the verdict on that one is still open…


    As for the colour for baseboards and casing – the easiest and most used approach must be an off-white. The advantage is that you don’t run into issues of transitioning from one room to the next.

    Sometimes those pieces are wood anyways, so you just have to make sure that the wall colour complements the wood.

    If you are asking if or if not to paint the wood – that’s a tricky question. Some houses seem to do better with wood than others.

     An intense red display cabinet holds its own against the dark stained alder cabinetry and the wood floors


    But it’s not always about easy and most used…

    A current job found me recommending black for the interior trim colour – picking my clues from the finishes on the floor tile, the cabinetry, countertops and the wall tile in the kitchen. This colour scheme, albeit very neutral, was so strong that we had to continue it into other areas of the house.


    If you are looking to paint paneled walls then of course your options are wide open – you don’t have to stick with off white, or wood. Essentially you have to treat it the same way you select a wall colour, just in this case there is a second wall colour that needs to work with it.

    2 nuances darker or lighter than the chosen wall colour might be an easy option. A complementary contrast colour could also be considered. A neutral other than white – lets say in the warm or cold grey spectrum – could also make a great colour partner.

    This is where snippets from magazines, or the brochures from paint manufacturers come in handy.


    OR – something that I would warmly recommend – you could go on your own quest to create something unique, and look someplace totally different for inspiration.

    How about looking at a photo book on tropical sea life, or butterflies. Shells and flowers, fruit, bark, rocks and pebbles all make for great examples of perfect colour coordination. Nature provides you with great ideas both intense and subdued, but never ever boring.

    Butterfly/Flutterby...seashellsTropical Fish



    Man-made products like graphics, fabric and fiber art, and area rugs are another good source. You might want to check out the works of Master painters and mosaic artists, too.


    My personal colour journey took me from the rather grey pastels from my childhood town and the proverbial yet politically incorrect statement that ‘green and blue is only the shoemakers wife’ (Gruen und Blau ist dem Schuster sein’ Frau – which, I assume now, meant, she got beaten up by her husband on a regular basis – poor woman…anyhow, the essence of this proverb was that one just did NOT combine green and blue), to the paint colours of the Blaue Reiter movement, Kandinsky, Miro, Chagall, through wild brights and stark black and white patterns of a 1980′s design movement called Memphis, the then-outrageous colour combination of red and purple by fashion Grand Seigneur Yves Saint Laurent, to psychedelic candy colours and lots of black.


    Although this is only a set for teddybaers ( which, by the way, Klaus and I created ourselves for a store), it reflects very clearly the muted colours of my medieval hometown, Rothenburg ob der Tauber


    Throughout university I learned to appreciate the calming effects of natural hues, greens and blues, the subtle elegance of neutral and wood tones mixed with bold use of colours so noticeable in Japanese design, the colour blends of India, Russia, Sweden, Bali, and then of course the intricate colour schemes of the architectural beauties of the Victorian era in North America – the Painted Ladies…


    Intense crisp white and royal blue are the epitomy of Greece - at least to me...


    Growing up in the 60′s, in a then-fashionable, but rather depressing beige household, the effects of colour on my psyche still amaze me. Upon coming to Canada, learning that wood can actually be painted – a sacrilege where I am from, as wood is to be left, or stained, brown -was a very liberating experience!

     Sitting against a dark blue background makes everything in the childrens book store pop

    I would always encourage you to explore the effects of colour on your own life and psyche.

    the exuberant colour of India


    I firmly believe that a lot of mental illnesses could be remedied by simply un-cluttering the living environment and selecting healing colours! Even in the work environment, and for sure in hospitals and other health-related environments the mindful use of colour should be mandatory.

    Design for a kids' playroom - who wouldn't want to chill out in this space, no matter what the age is? 

    Choosing multiple colours for a home

    When you apply the above mentioned process room by room you will end up with a whole range of those colour swatches. Lay them out on a flat surface, again on white substrate, and look at them together. They should come together like the colours of a painting, which will result in a visual flow when you travel from room to room. I am positive that you will notice if there is an odd colour out, or if there is something jarring. Having one colour standing out might be the little bit of spice that is not only acceptable, but even required to result in a, uplifting environment. Just make sure that that particular shade is used in a small amount, for example in a powder room, or on a colour-blocked accent wall, not on all the walls of the largest room in the house.

    Again, look at flowers, for example – often they sport the tiniest amount of a very bright colour accent in their center – that’s the effect you try to achieve.


    Cultural influences

    The other day I had a colour consultation with a client, who just returned to North America from living in Indonesia for almost 2 decades.

    Of course I had to attune to the fact that her colour sensitivity was strongly influenced by her long stay in this very different environment.

    Because my clients usually like to take charge of their choices we decided for her family to go out to the paint stores and to bring back colour swatches that appealed to them.

    We then took the 5 different shades of green they had picked for the dining room, and pasted them on the wall, so that the same values were all on the same level.

    It was very obvious, that one particular value was the right approach for the room.

    From then on we took at the hue – the bluest one was edited out, as it made the room temperature too cool.

    The second one was too intense, thus removed from the options.


    Next step was to bring a large painting into the room, that is going to live on one of the main walls. We tucked the 3 remaining swatches behind the frame, and edited out the third one.


    The difference between the 2 remaining colours was the intensity. Obviously the client opted automatically for the brighter of the two – a very understandable reaction given their previous exposure to a different culture.

    We discussed what would happen would she use this shade for her room – first of all her guests would more or less audible gasp upon entering the room, as their colour sensitivity would be more toned down. Secondly I would expect, that the family, after living in our city for a few month, will also adjust more to the local quality of light and colour, and therefore might also experience this colour as being too intense.

    We agreed that the second option would be the right one – it was still a bright colour, brighter than I might have selected for a client without her personal history, but the colour will be in tune with the Asian influenced artwork and furniture, as much as with the Arts and Crafts style of the home.


    As an exciting alternative we ended up choosing a blue colour for the ceiling! We started out looking at the typical off-whites, going to tan and wheat colours, even different shades of green, but nothing seemed to work with the wall colour, or just ‘do it’ for us.

    I always look for colour combinations that ‘sing’ – try that out for yourself! Once you find them, you will know what I mean…

    This happened with the blue – I was simply holding up a swatch against the green, and we instantly knew that was it.

    Coincidence that the very same colour combination was evident in the ladies’ dresses on the painting? Nooo…


    Because we were in the groove and I had some time left we looked at colours for the living room as well as the entrance. We ended up with a stunning chartreuse tone for the entrance (a slightly fine-tuned version of the rather loud yellow-green swatch they had in their wish-list pile of selected paint), and a dark red-blue (not quite purple) for the living room.

    After piling all of our choices up on the floor we looked over to the painting – guess what: all those shades were right in there. The colours combined beautifully, and are indeed asking for the introduction of some more shades in the red/orange spectrum – but we left it at that for that day, and the family has now the homework of looking at possible choices for the kitchen and the small office…

    Can you imagine how great an effect it will be when the huge double doors between living room and dining room are open, and your eye wanders from the painting over to the living room, and detects the same purple shades in there?


    The reason why these rather intense colours will work is the neutralizing effect of dark wood and strong textures of all the Asian artifacts.


    Colour Blocking


    On another project, where we ended up with a total of 16 colours throughout the house, the reason for success lies in the balancing effect of the addition of a lot of off-white and grey-brown surfaces to the mix, which makes for a modern, vibrant living space, just right for a family with 3 school aged children.


    While I selected very soft off white laminates for the built-in cabinetry, accented with a greyish-brown wood veneer and quartz counter, the client made it very clear that she loved colours, and she wanted to see some on her walls.

    It started actually when she rather jokingly mentioned that she ‘had threatened’ her husband she wanted to have an orange wall in the dining room.

    Oh – I can do that!


    great room colours

    Thing is – ‘orange’ can be a lot – rust-brown, intense orange like the fruit, or a soft mango-sherbet hue. For her personality it was more a kind of fruit punch that I wanted to achieve. While the main colour for the open plan living-dining-kitchen-home office are is an off-white that matches the cabinetry, the architecture allowed to pull out small defined wall areas, that were great for colour blocking.

    The mango colour will adorn an area of about 10′x5′ above a built-in buffet, and there will be 2 wall sconces mounted on it, plus a painting, so the actual amount of visible colour will be rather small.

    Same goes for the lipstick pink we selected after the client – again jokingly – mentioning, that her husband will be happy that we didn’t select a hot pink for the headboard wall in the master bedroom ( we chose a relaxing ocean-blue hue, and its lighter sibling for the en suite).

    Ha – I had a blast with that one… “Well” I said, “ we COULD do pink at the end wall of the hallway!” I hadn’t thought of it before – that’s why I love clients input!- but this was a perfect space for a strong accent colour. It is only 3.5′x8′, so relatively small, and it will have a piece of art on it, which in itself will tone down the impact of the colour…

    To round things off we added a beautiful lime green for the wall going down towards the garage and basement, and a, greenish blueberry shade for the built-out fireplace wall.

    Doesn’t that just sound yummy – and it actually looks like you would want to eat it up as well!


    To balance this colour scheme off we picked a sand tone for the guest bedroom (you don’t want to aggravate your guests, I would hope), and the overall finishing scheme for the guest bath is on the manly side – olive, charcoal, blue and taupe. It’s a family, after all, and although guys often pretend they don’t care about colour – believe me, it is not true. There needs to be balance, and throwing in some masculine elements will be good for all family members involved…

    bedroom and ensuite colours 001 

    The kids were encouraged to pick their own favourites. Young humans tend to choose brighter, more saturated colours than adults, and although I take the kids’ selection seriously, I will pick a slightly softer hue of their choice. Usually they don’t find out about this – don’t forget, colours applied on a large scale will look different than on a small swatch. If a colour is too intense I would be concerned that they will get to agitated in their room. As it is often the same space in which they play, learn and sleep, the energy level in the room should accommodate all those activities, and not overpower their young brains.

     the kids' colours

    I have been known to use 8 different colours in one children’s room alone – think soft easter egg colours, nothing loud. Indeed, the inspiration for that colour scheme was a decorative easter egg, that happened to be lying around in the kids’ room.

    This colour approach works great, as long as you tone down the hues to be proportionate with the size of the space. In a case like this no single colour stands out alone – they are all the same value, thus blending together as one.


    Other ideas for colour blocking are not so much walls, but small items like accent pieces of furniture, or the insides of cabinets and closets.


    Intense aqua colour gives energy to this office-in-a-closet

    Imagine the jolt of energy you would get when you open your coat closet, or spice cabinet, and a brilliant red or orange or blue smiles at you!


    A bloodred art niche creates a stunning focal point for a sculpture in this contemporary environment

    Display cabinets also benefit from a colour treatment – look at the items you want to display, and chose a colour that brings out the best in your favourite pieces. White china for example will show way better when displayed in front of something other than white – and if you prefer it to be monochromatic, then at least consider an off-white to play off the crispness of the porcelain.

     The soft green back on the open display niches assist cherished knick knacks to show off their best side...

    White on white, and other neutral insights…


    You might not believe it, but the most difficult colour choice in my career was picking a single white colour for a penthouse overlooking Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

    The client had a large contemporary art collection, and was looking for an art gallery type of environment, with the colourful paintings hanging on white walls.

    It took me a full day to select 2 shades of white – one for the public areas like Great room, kitchen and offices, and the second shade for the private suites. The space had huge windows facing in all directions, and the reflection of the ocean as well as the red brick pavers on the exterior deck changed the whites to all sorts of other hues like pink, yellow and blue, which means I had to find a hue that neutralized all those influences.

    On top of that I had to consider the cream and golden tones of the future furniture, which had been picked by a decorator down in Texas, the client’s main home.

    When I sent my swatches to Texas for approval, the client was so unhappy with my choices that she flew the decorator in to make the right choice

    The two of us spent the day at the condo together with a painter who rolled strips of paint on the walls for us in a variety of shades of white.

    Guess what happened…We came back to the exact shade of white I had picked in the first place!


    Never have I felt so ashamed and insecure about my ‘obvious’ inability to pick a white to a client’s satisfaction – the vindication sure felt very very sweet afterwards!


    What you should take from that story you might ask?

    As I said at the very beginning – never ever pick a colour with out being in the actual space. The light in Texas couldn’t be more different from our lush green and blue Wet Coast landscape, the brilliant sun, yet the often grey sky in the winter.

     grey blue carrara marble and white porcelain walltiles, which took on a very light pinkish hue made selecting a wallcolour a very difficult task

    Let’s continue with the white on white look.

    If you know that white on white works with your life, then by all means pursue it. If done well you can create a beautiful calm space which will be very restorative to both spirit and eye. But you want to avoid a stark hospital look under all circumstances.

    Be aware that off-whites are created by adding a tiny amount of coloured pigment into white. When your eye gets finely atuned to off-whites, it will be able to read those shades, and you have to make sure that the different hues work together just like any other colour intensity.

    The strongest difference in my opinion are between pinkish and yellowish whites – they just don’t look right in each others presence. Staying within one spectrum will be the better option.


    Another difficult colour choice I had to make on a project was for a bathroom that sported a combination of Carrara marble for the floor and the counter top and a white glazed subway tile. Carrara marble is a greyish white stone, with a blue undertone, and the porcelain tile turned pink when installed on a larger scale. This was not visible from the sample tile we had picked, so the soft colour nuance came as a surprise when the tiles were being installed.

    The client had requested a white-on-white bathroom, so figuring out the wall colour ended up taking me 5 hours…Did I mention that selecting white is the most difficult task of all??

    What happened was, that whatever off-white worked well with the porcelain tile made the marble look very dirty or overly blue, and when we picked a white that brought out the best in the marble the wall tile turned awfully pink.

    There is nothing else to do than to take the time and look at fan decks from different paint manufacturers until you find the right shade. With all those hundreds of choices out there, there will be eventually the right one in there for your particular scenario. In our case it was a white with a minute amount of grey-green in it.


    The other secret to successful white on white it the layering of textures and patterns. This, and a combination of shiny and matte surfaces, will give your eye and mind food for thought, and your senses the comforting tactile experiences we humans seem to crave to feel balanced.

    A layering of textures and a mix of glossy and matte surfaces brings tactile sensuality to an otherwise stark design approach 

    If you want to use white simply as a canvas for other colour effects, you might have to choose which way you want to go.

    A black and white colour scheme can work very successfully, and it allows you to add a few strong punches of accent colour, which will result in a contemporary, perhaps even stark look. This won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but the effect will be stunning!

     A graphic black and white backsplash pattern pulls the black stained island and the white perimeter cabinetry together

    By combining natural textures and shapes with white you create a calm, Zen-like environment. This is a good approach for a quietly uplifting space, and will appeal to many different personalities.


    Successful layering of textures and patterns actually will be a topic in itself at a later point, so make sure to check back in!



    Working with Neutrals


    Aside from the typical while safe ‘Builder’s beige’ there is in fact a whole range of fantastic neutral colours out there, which will make a statement without overpowering a space. There is nothing worse than being un-deliberate. If you want to go neutral, do it well.

    Going through spec homes often makes me wonder if those houses wouldn’t sell much faster if someone would show some guts and paint them an uplifting colour inside out…

    If you are looking for an off white, choose one with a suitable pigment in it, that will make the colour appear in slightly different hues depending on where you are in the house.

    Or try out the shade that is 2 tones darker than what you initially thought.


    The more masculine effect of the slate texture and the strong neutral colour add a very personal edge to the traditional style cabinetry

     An 11' long island in a soft cool grey with a black countertop compliments the warm grey walls

    Have a look outside the window and understand, that a window in itself can take the place of a painting, which means you want to give your view an adequate grounding by choosing a wall colour that frames your vista well. Warm greys ( essentially browns that have a lot of black pigment added to it to dull it down), and mossy and grey greens (yes, I count the soft greens as neutrals, at least around here) for example work wonders here on the West Coast, as they pick up on the colours of the landscape, which consists of rocks, evergreens and Arbutus trees.

     A well proportioned window frames a serene rockscape embellished with lichens and mosses

    Dark chocolates are a sensual feast for the eye and will make you feel wrapped up in a really yummy brownie. Again, keep proportion and room energy in mind – it might be more adequate for a space that is used more in the evening, like a dining room, where you can add some sparkle with chandeliers and metal accents, or for a manly bathroom, or a media room.

     While the subway tile wainscoting and the marble mosaic floor speak a traditional language, the medium chocolate wall introduces a contemporary element

    I would like to vent about something that bothered me in university – the professor who was teaching colour theory had his own ideas about colours, and one peculiar aspect was his strong aversion to the combination of brown with pink. I remember some really derogatory comments of his about this colour combination. Poor fool. Can you think of something more sumptuous and pleasing to the eye than a Black Forest Cake, with its layers of juicy cherries between dark rich chocolate, topped by whipped cream? How can that colour combination be wrong???

    But then again, he was not a sensual personality at the best times, so I guess Black Forest Trifle just didn’t do it for him…


    Dark chocolate wall colour, framed in whip-cream like off white, grounds the colourful ceiling treatment

    Or think about cherry blossoms on an old tree – that brown bark sure looks awful with those blooms, doesn’t it??? Hope you can feel my sarcasm here! Nature is the single most important teacher about colour, nothing could be more artistic than her.


    If you made it to here – thank you!

    I hope I was able to get my point across – there is nothing to fear about colour. After all, it’s just paint, and you can always paint over it again. And choosing colour as a way of self expression is cheaper than paying a therapist.




    Thoughts about a designers work – Part 1

    July 12, 2011

    I am preparing some blogs about current projects, which all have one thing in common – the finished interiors are very unique expressions of the clients. All of them are more on the contemporary side of design, but they all showcase distinctive different flavours. They are sensual, incorporating a mix of different finishes and textures, with clean, often bold lines and some surprise elements.

    My goal is to create spaces that are calm, balanced and organized, tactile, engaging and inspiring. The starting point for this process is typically a well thought-out space concept. This step might already include the creation of a theme, albeit a theme could also be something that develops at a later point in time, f.e. during the selection of finishes. At any given time I pay strong attention to proportion, sight lines and coherence to make sure the end result is a feast for the senses.

    In my books I am the medium with which the client is able to articulate how he/she wants to live, and my clients are typically strongly involved throughout the design process. This asks for clients with a proactive stance, who want to be in control over their life. There will be surprises along the way – there always are, and that’s fantastic!


    First I would like to share some general thoughts about the design process…


    Rather than getting overly stuck with budget numbers very early in the process, my typical thought process starts with the exploration of spatial possibilities. This is by no means a disregard for the client, but strictly a brain exercise. You never know which ideas – or bits and bites of ideas – might be dreamed up that are indeed suitable both for the client and the budget!


    The idea is to come up with space concepts for low, medium and high impact, both on a structural and financial level.

    An intense exploration of spatial options might be compared to doing crossword puzzles, or on a physical level, with stretching exercises like Yoga or Pilates – it keeps a designer’s brain flexible and on edge. And when I develop and work through a number of possibilities instead of settling on the first idea that comes to mind, it also shows a great deal of care and commitment to a client, their home and their investment.

    The clients get the opportunity to consider a variety of options that they themselves would have never been able to imagine, and it allows both the client and the designer to engage in a discussion about the implications and possibilities of those concepts, and how those changes would impact the clients’ life.

    I have found that this thought process often catapults a homeowner and the project into a more personal and inspiring direction, and that is where the truly exciting part of the design and planning starts.


    People who can only think in money might not understand the following remark…

    This initial thought process is very intense work, and monetary remuneration only pays for so much of my efforts. It means, that unless I am one of those TV designers who charge unreasonable fees for them showing their face in public, or unless I charge a lump some per idea, and not by the hour, I will not get paid adequately.

    A large portion of my work is actually a gift of brainpower and creativity from me to you, the client.

    That is, why designers will care about whom they are taking on as a client, as there has to be mutual respect and inspiration – at least I do, and that is why I take the liberty to refuse some people as clients.


    By the way: a great initial test is simply the interpretation of our company name THE SKY IS THE LIMIT. What did you think of first?

    If it was something like ‘ I bet their services are REALLY expensive’ you totally missed the point…


    A home should be the expression of who you are, a reflection of your values and your personality, and it should be a space for inspiration and your safe haven. This is not about what your friends would do, or what they think you should have and portray.

    Also keep in mind when you create contemporary spaces, even cutting edge ones, that you make sure to stay away from an overall ‘trendy’ look. The nature of a trend is that it’s in flux, which means a trendy thing doesn’t last all that long.


    Most of the time more than one person are involved in the process of creating a home, and all of them need to be heard. Designers are relationship mediators as well, just so you know! So don’t worry if you and your relevant other don’t seem to be looking eye to eye on a home improvement project – we are there to help, and if you find the right designer you will be amazed by yourself…


    A lot of our clients seem to be at a crossroads in their lives. Planning a renovation or a new home is the perfect time to do some soul searching, to explore where they are coming from and where they think they would like to go from here, who they are, and who they would like to become. It might be that their children are teenagers or even leaving the home, they might be relocating and/or retiring, or they are embarking on building their dream home. Along with the physical task of editing through possessions to see which ones will make it into the new space, they will also be editing notions, values and habits. Overall this can be an intense, sometimes scary, even life transforming time. Paired with the construction process this can result in a very stressful dynamic, and the designer should act as a coach along the way.


    I am not talking about the simple process of maintenance, like simply replacing your existing kitchen with a newer model, but without making further modifications.

    What I am talking about requires self reflection, and I would always encourage clients to take their time with this. Sometimes we start on a project, clients disappear for one or two years, often just because ‘life happens’ and more important and pressing things have to be dealt with, then they come back and we continue with the process. Quite often their values have shifted during that time, and all of us are glad we didn’t go to far on the project the first time.

    This is not your typical ‘Honey, lets fix up the house’ type of approach. It’s more like shedding your skin and showing your true colours.


    I obviously deviated again into the psychological aspects of my job… later, later


    I have heard comments from fellow designers, who take the approach that they are the specialists, and that their clients should not even dare to question the designer’s concept, as they are questioning the designer’s authority by doing so. After all, they (the designers) are being paid for knowing best, and for telling the client what to do with their space…


    I could suggest that those designers might either be too lazy to come up with some alternative ideas, because there are always other options, and/or that they don’t feel secure enough in their own position to be able to discuss with their clients why they, the designer, make certain suggestions.

    In that case the root of the problem is often based in too little experience or education on the designers part. Young designers, or people who got into the field from the sidelines without professional education seem to be often prone to that type of behaviour.

    They have no training to analyze their own ideas, and present them to the client in a logical manner.

    Alternatively it could also be simply arrogance…

    In all of the above mentioned cases you, the client, might want to rethink why you are working with this person to begin with.


    If I think back at my time at university – we were 30 students in our semester, and there were 9 grade levels overall at any given time in the interior architecture segment, with just the same amount of students in each level, and this was just one of many universities in one little country… So at the end of each semester the professor would be discussing 30 very interesting and – believe me- VERY different ideas regarding the semester project, and we all had to be able to explain our projects. This was not about judging a wrong or right design approach – the individual solutions were simply expressions of different personalities and mindsets.

    As a homeowner you have the very same liberties – you should be allowed to share your ideas and thoughts with the designer, and the designer will try to make all those ideas come together i a coherent plan, and there is no wrong or right as long as the outcome works for you.

    It is – after all – YOUR home.


    Yes, clients are normally laymen in the field of design (I am talking about space planning and developing a room program here, I am not talking about decorating – a lot of clients are indeed very knowledgeable about staging, soft furnishings and have a great deal of style and taste as well as a good sense for colour), but they are the specialists when it comes to their own life. The design process is a collaboration of equal partners. In an ideal world this process will continue to be teamwork all along the many steps of the project.

    Construction is teamwork, starting with the clients and the designer, and continuing with the various trades, suppliers and skilled labourers who come in to make an idea on paper become reality. The true challenge is to gather all those members for your team – but that is where a designer should be able to assist you as well.


    My clients are very much encouraged to question my designs – the way I develop my concepts is both intuitive as well as very analytical, and I will be able to explain and justify any decision or idea that I present. If I am not, I haven’t done my homework.

    When I dig deep enough I find that even behind the most outrageous and intuitive idea hides in fact a very logical explanation – it might just take me some time to figure myself out…


    I have often surprised myself with the very different spatial treatments one can take within a given space, while still maintaining the essential necessities like functionality and practicality, a good flow between areas, and a pleasant dynamic.

    The very best part of the process – and often the most annoying and challenging one as well – is when we start picking those options of mine apart to create the final version.

    Oh, this is where I totally agree with the before mentioned ‘other’ designers – it can be SO unnerving when clients start wanting to get their own 5 cents of wisdom in, thus start to be ‘difficult’.

    Why can’t they just see it my way, and simply agree to one of my designs? Life would be so much easier, and I know I gave them the right concept to begin with…


    Yeah, right!


    In such a situation it can go 2 ways – either the client comes around and starts getting my point. Or they don’t, and I am the one doing the mental work to figure ‘them’ out….. This is where it often becomes very interesting, because no matter what, changes will happen at this point!


    In any event, it takes about one week to ‘get’ a new idea, and I am very conscientious about this one week process. It is a timespan that ALWAYS comes up, in every project, and often several times throughout a project.

    The human brain is sort of lazy, if you want to call it that – it needs time to digest and process. If you want to rephrase this in a more positive way, you would say that an idea, once planted in the brain, can not be ‘un-made’, and that it takes about one week for this idea to germinate and for the brain to do something creative with that seedling.

    In my professional life this means that I do encourage clients to be mindful of this ‘lazy-factor’ and to take their own sweet time. It can be sometimes tricky, as clients are eager to get going, but a lot of money a well as their future life is impacted by those planning decisions, and I for one can not see why someone would want to make rush decisions without exploring all the options.


    In the blogs that will follow I will look a little bit deeper into the development of space concepts. This will have to happen on real life examples, rather than theoretically…



    2010 CARE Awards Vancouver Island

    October 11, 2010

    CARE 2010

    Gorter Construction along with architectural designer Dan Boot and interior designer Ines Hanl are proud to have their project DB3 selected as the recipient of 6 Gold CARE Awards in the 2010 Vancouver Island CHBA competition, including the very prestigious ‘Project of the Year’. In addition we were also honoured with the ‘People’s Choice Award’ for the same project.

    Interested readers will find photos of this project in the Portfolio under Residential/ LandsEnd.


    DB3 also received another 2 Silver Care Awards.

    Wilf Gorter and THE SKY IS THE LIMIT were also awarded with another Gold as well as a Silver CARE Award for their traditional style bathroom renovation on Seaview.



    To round up this years extremely successful winning streak, THE SKY IS THE LIMIT took home another 2 Silver CARE Awards – one for their new company website, which was designed by Star Global in Victoria, and one for the design of the elegant showroom of JIVKO Stone and Tile.

    JIVKO - reception

    Wilf, Kim, Klaus and Ines had a very good time at the beautiful event at the Crystal Ballroom at the Empress Hotel.
    We definitely owned the podium that night – it was borderline embarrassing!

    Thank you to everybody who helped us in achieving these awards – Big THANK YOU’s to the clients, the trades, the suppliers, and all the numerous people behind the scenes, without whom this work wouldn’t have been accomblished, and who assist and inspire us!


    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 small 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.

    How to choose a designer

    July 1, 2010


    What type of designer do you need?

    The job designation ‘Designer’ is not defined by law, and all sorts of people with all kinds of professional backgrounds (and even without any solid training) can and do call themselves ‘Designer’.
    There is an effort by a number of various professional boards to come up with a way to regulate this , but in BC this might still be a number of years away from being implemented.
    Personally I don’t care very much for those regulations – no matter what, if you want to be a successful designer you better prepare yourself for constant learning and updating in all areas of your field, otherwise you won’t be competitive.
    I find that the results typically speak for themselves, that’s the nice thing with jobs that result in ‘physical evidence’ (ie a finished interior).

    I think it’s easier to break this large and rather undefined profession up into a number of groups of areas of expertise.

    Home Stager

    helps you arrange your existing furniture and home accessories
    to make the most out of your space
    gives some advise on colour schemes
    when hired to prepare a home for selling they can bring in furniture from their own resources


    In general a decorator puts the finishing touches on a space

    colour concepts
    furniture layout
    some ( basic) lighting
    tile plans, flooring patterns
    soft furnishings, window treatments and upholstery
    art and accessory schedule


    Creates a unity of form, proportion, light and texture

    Space concepts reflective of clients agenda – both commercial and residential
    Complete working drawings from conceptual sketch, through elevations to production details
    Full lighting and electrical concepts
    Can act as agent for the homeowner with regards to the municipality and the construction crew

    Interior Architect

    Please note that this term is NOT used in Canada, however, such a profession exists in Europe.
    An Interior Architect bridges both the Architectural and the Interior Design field.
    They assist homeowners, builders and architects to bring the architectural language of a building inside.
    They are also trained to create a new architectural matrix within an existing space, which would be imporant when it comes to the redevelopment of old structures, and commercial design on a grander scale.
    They are also trained to conceptualize the architectural design of additions and single family homes.

    (My own background is 2-fold. I had an education and 6 years of practise in the field of costume and set design, and then I went through a 4 year university program to become what is called an ‘Interior Architect’ in Germany.)


    There are designers who specialise in kitchen and bath design, some do mainly design for offices, some focus on commercial interiors….

    This whole design field is incredibly varied, so I understand that it must be very confusing for a client to find out what they really need.

    It is a bit tiresome to constantly have to justify ones qualifications – there are tons of people with excellent decorating taste out there, who are very good at selecting colours and finishes for their home.
    This does not make them a designer,though, as intriguing a term that might be.

    Being a designer is not what is being portrayed on TV – although our results are very tangible and certainly ( if it’s a job done well) highly gratifying, it’s certainly not a FUN profession. It’s highly stressful and demanding, and requires a physically and mentally stable personality.
    The results might be fun, though!

    I ‘roll’ around in the dust on jobsites, get my hands and clothes dirty, discuss tiny but important details with the trades on site and make workshop visits.
    I am often a marriage councellor and mediator, I have to do bylaw research and talk to city officials for hours, keep budgets in mind, keep an eye on all kinds of product developments, differenciate between trends and really cool new materials that are going to be around for a long time and be a bit of a psychologist by analyzing clients current (and potential future) lifestyles.
    Math is a huge factor in my field (all you girls who go to design college, forget the ‘I will never use math in my life’ idea!!! I keep on hearing this comment from teachers at design colleges – very funny!), and a measuring tape is my best friend and constant accomplice.
    I often sit on my drafting board (I am old fashioned and truly believe in the magic that happens between my brain and my hand on a piece of paper) until midnight, and – if you are self employed- you do invoicing or proposals on Sunday afternoons.
    The cool ideas happen in between breakfast and the drive to the first jobsite at 7.30 in the morning.
    Or at 2 o’clock in the morning…

    But that’s just a note on the side…

    Back to the question – how do you find someone who can be that magic match for you and your project?

    First of all – don’t go by the amount of awards the designer might have collected.
    (I am saying that despite my obvious success in that field.)
    Although awards are (potentially) a sign for the ability to create very successful and visually appealing projects it does not speak to a personality match between the client and the designer.
    If all you are looking at is the number of awards you are certainly NOT the right client for me.

    Check out the designers projects first – a website is nowadays a basic requirement for any design business, and you should be able to see a good cross section of fairly current projects.
    This gives you an idea about the range of work a design company offers, and also a sense of the kind of styles the designer can assist in creating.

    Having said that brings up another issue – the difference between a decorating designer and an artistic designer.
    Having seen enough designer websites I had to come to the conclusion that some designers recreate their own personal style in minor variations – so a client can choose between the one designer who does modest contemporary, or the one that offers a traditional style compared to another one who is more inclined to create a country feel.
    Simply put it’s like prefering one brand of cereal over the other.

    Artistic designers (and I count myself into that category) have in my opinion a more ecclectic approach to design, don’t go by what’s trendy (an amusing note – even the designers that I would consider as being more on the trendy decorating side nowadays state in interviews that they are not using trendy products…), are more daring in their approach to colours and finishes and are overall more out-of-the-box with their designs, most of the time being able to create a number of different looks.

    (I have to say that it took me a number of years to realize this – it was an issue of Architectural Digest featuring artists homes and studios, that made me realise that the rather ecclectic and daring mix of colours and furniture was what my own home looked like. Before this I had always wondered why the often featured grand and stylish private homes of Designers hadn’t appealed to me at all.
    Ever since that illuminating experience I study my collegues work more from this angle, and find that once I know more about their own interests and backgrounds that I can understand and appreciate their results much better. )

    So, if you identify yourself with a look one particular designer creates, then by all means interview this person.
    Chances might be high that your personalities jive – so go ahead, check some previous references, make sure you like their approach to your project and that you understand their fee structure.

    If you want someone to assist you with developing your own style then it might be more difficult.
    You should then look at a range of design companies (and don’t limit yourself to the local ones- with nowadays technology like skype and cheap flights it might be worth while to hire someone from out of town – this depends of course on the budget parameters), set up times for interviews, and ask for their range of services and request some references.

    (Sidenote – we offer a free-of-charge intial 1 hour meeting in our office, where we discuss our scope of services, we go over our portfolio and discuss the general procedure.
    The other approach I started to take a few months back, and which proved quite well accepted, is a flat fee for a 1 ½ hour pick-my-brain session on site, which gets me to see the space first hand and discuss the project. This is also very useful for clients who need me more as a one-time sounding board for their product selection and ideas.)

    Perhaps you can even visit one or two previous clients and tour their projects – once I establish what it is a cient is looking for I will certainly see if I can arrange something like this.

    The range of services is necessary to know – a lot of renovations require blueprints submitted to the municipality for approval, in which case you need someone who not only comes up with a good idea and footprint, but with the full set of permit drawings, additional notes from a structural engineer, the inclusion of a land surveyor, electrical layout etc.

    If you like a design company’s work but can’t see something in their portfolio that reflects your special needs or requirements – talk to them about it!
    I might have knowledge os certain topics, but haven’t had a chance to incorporate this knowledge in a current project.
    Sometimes it takes 2 years to get a project with photos ‘online’ – so I might have something in the works that would be helpful for you to see, but how would I know if you don’t tell me about it…
    Or I just don’t stress certain aspects as much as might be expected (like the whole green building topic – it’s a big marketing tool at the moment, and we at THE SKY IS THE LIMIT don’t work this tool very much. This doesn’t mean that we are not knowledgable about it, or that we don’t incorporate earth friendly materials in our designs – on the contrary, it’s so common place for us to do so, that we don’t make a point out of it)

    And even if I have not much experience in a particular area – the design field is all about constant learning and education.
    Once you talk to a designer about your concerns, they might have a chance to communicate with you and find a solution that satisfies your needs.

    And design is also all about connections – after many years in the business a designer should have assembled a network of professionals whom he/she can ask for advice.
    The construction industry is total teamwork, and not an area for primadonnas.

    What does a designer expect from you, the client?

    Open honesty.
    I need to find out who you are, what your lifestyle is all about, what is hiding in your closets, what kind of a budget you intend to spend and where you want to go with this project.
    There is a high chance that the client might not know the answers to many of those questions – no problem, that’s part of the process.
    I tend to share experiences from results of finished jobs and compare them to a clients current lifestyle.

    Although basic needs are very much the same no matter who the client is, there is a difference in approach when designing a space for a client with a young family (which means 8 or 10 years down the road we are dealing with teenagers) versus the retired empty nesters, who want to create their second or third residence.
    This is not about judging a clients motifs – if one of your main goals is to really impress your neighbours, tell me about it, and we make their heads spin (while still achieving the really important goals)!

    How am supposed to come up with the best solution for you if I am missing information?
    If the basic trust isn’t there, then you rather go and find a designer that makes you feel more comfortable. Or – as in our case at THE SKY IS THE LIMIT – perhaps another designer in the same office can take over and be your main accomplice? That way you still get the benefit of the design company’s philosophy, artistry and knowlegde.

    Of course I have to read between the lines very often, and also rely on a good deal of intuition, but in any case I (and all the trades involved) prefer open communication between the client, myself and a contractor.
    Any other scenario doesn’t make for a good and creative work environment.

    Good luck!


    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.

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