Musings of a client – Thoughts about a designer’s work

    July 17, 2011

    Today I have the great pleasure to be lazy - a wonderful client wrote a blog for me! How  fantastic is that….

    Actually, Karen wrote the letter as a feedback to my very current previous entry about our work philosophy, and she graciously gave me permission to use it on the website.

    So without further a-do, here it is:

     I checked out your latest blog entries this evening & really enjoyed reading your thoughts.  There is a sensitivity for client “needs and wants” that comes through the writing and that is one of the many things I appreciate about both you & Kimberly.

     I can’t speak for other clients (and I ’m sure we are all entertainingly unique!) but from my perspective… I consider myself well experienced, educated and an expert in my professional field.  When I started the process of wanting to reconfigure a previously owned home to make it our home, it was very intimidating and sometimes I felt like I was back at my first day of Kindergarten, it was all so new and I had so much to learn!  In short, I felt dumb and uncomfortable.  The hundreds of books & magazines I had read did not prepare me for the reality of all the decisions involved in the process.  However, over the weeks my perspective slowly transformed and I appreciated the opportunity to exercise the creative side of my brain which is often overridden by the logical accounting side in my work world.  For example, this week I am selecting drapery for the master bedroom and I am excited rather than intimidated, keeping in mind that even small progress on the house (like curtains) is part of the realization of a personal dream.

     Even in the midst of my dumbness and hesitant decision-making, Kimberly went above and beyond and did a lot of handholding during our renovation and I will always be deeply grateful for the care and time you both gave on our project.  I think that the most important things I learned from you and Kimberly are as follows:

    1.       When you think you are losing it, be sure to hold onto your sense of humour and your professionalism.

    2.       Work with trades people who treat your home as if it were their own and anything less than excellent is not acceptable.

    3.       No matter how much you plan and prepare, renovations can be a Pandora’s box with many layers of wrapping around the box…stay calm and adjust your course as needed.

    4.       A creative designer is imperative to realize any vision you have for your home.  Most of us have the desire but the reality is that we do not have the creativity or skills.  I would encourage any of my friends to work a designer into their big or small redesign budgets.

     I sincerely appreciate not just your design skills but also your warm personalities, tactful and direct, technical and artistic, sensitive and strong, professional and patient…

     In your blog you mentioned a test as to what a client thinks “The Sky Is The Limit” means.  My initial interpretation from viewing your web site many months ago was that Ines must be very passionate as well as confident in her design work since she is offering her clients the sky.  And I think your on-line portfolio reflects your business name beautifully. 



     P.S. – I really loved the “Royal View” floral design fireplace – it is gorgeous.


    I can’t thank you enough for this wonderful feedback, Karen!

     Both on Kim’s and my behalf, yours truly was a one-of-a-kind project, and we are very grateful that you entrusted us with helping you with your home.

    Karen’s long distance  project was a very unique challenge for us on various levels, and I am sure I have plenty of material to write about at a later point, when we also have some visuals for explanation…

    It’s also great feedback because it finally gives me a  spot to send my trusted and cherished collegue Kimberly Lewis Manning a huge and long overdue THANK YOU for all her hard and dedicated work, her great warm personality, her sense of humour, her patience, and her ability to keep me sane …

    We sure have a great team dynamic, and I am glad and honoured to have her in my life!

    Multisensory Room

    September 5, 2010

    Tree of Life, Bubble Tower and Somatron Recliner w/ Fibre optics

    On August 31, 2010 the newly designed Music Therapy Multi-Sensory Studio for children with critical illnesses and life-threatening conditions was unveiled.

    The Multi-Sensory Studio promotes pain relief while engaging the children in a creative journey promoting self-expression, guided imagery, relaxation and meditation. The Studio is designed for children with fragile medical conditions, but more specifically it coalesces a theme to fully engage critically ill children in a truly magical experience.
    The new Studio has been made possible by a $ 30.000,- grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities.

    So far an excert from the press relief from the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

    But let me descibe in my own words how this room came into existence…

    Sometime in Mid July I received an e-mail from Dr. Johanne Brodeur. She had visited Tall Tales Books, the bookstore we helped create in the summer of 2009. She loved the playfulness and the positive vibes of that store, and asked me if she could come and talk to me about a room she wanted to create in her Music Therapy Department at the Conservatory.
    We met one morning over coffee – Dr. Brodeur is a beautiful, elegant and highly spirited French lady, overflowing with positive energy and enthusiasm. When she started to speak passionately about her work, and described lovingly the children who come to see her, I had a very hard time to keep myself from crying.
    It was all about children who are pretty much invisible in our society – severely handicapped, mentally and/or physically challenged, having suffered amputations or organ transplants, and a lot of them bound to die at a very young age. Not only have the children to deal with so much pain and limitation, but just imagine the stress and the anxiety such conditions put on the whole family!

    Dr Brodeur had just received a grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities, and her idea was to transform a dingy little practise room in the Conservatory into a magical space, that would help those kids to relax for a little while and give their parents a well deserved and much needed time of reprieve.

    Here are some impressions of that practise studio in its original state- a rather dull looking, grey room, without natural light, sporting a low ceiling and being overall quite a depressing space…

    Before - Multisensory Room

    Before - Multisensory Room - TV Wall

    I had fairly little time to make it all happen, as one of the stipulations from Ronald McDonal House was that the room had to be set up within 6 weeks.
    Coming up with an appropriate design was easy, but getting all the trades in in time was a different story. Also, albeit it sounds like a lot of money, the necessary equipment had of course a non-negotiable pricetag attached to it, so there was not all that much left over for the actual work. And I didn’t want to sacrifice equipment…
    So I sent out an e-mail to all the trades I have worked with over the last years, explained the situation and asked them to tell me if they would be able and willing to donate a day or two out of their lifes and assist me with making it all happen. It was a fantastic experience – the e-mails poured back in, promising lots of assistance!

    Thank you so very much, guys!!
    A lot of these people that helped me are quite discrete about their contribution. I am not, though, and so I would like to mention their names here and hope they understand that I am eternally grateful for their commitment! This room wouldn’t exist without you!!
    Many thanks to Rik Tacoma, Water Vanderkamp, Daniel Nadeau, Bert Neijmeijer, Warren Miller, Marshall Travis, Jack van Domselaar, Douglas Grant, Chris Stansfield and Klaus Kinast. Klaus’ contribution goes well beyond the physical help – he is a big source of my inspiration, being my harshest critic and greatest admirer in one person….
    And then of course I should also thank Kim and Angelique – while I spent hours ‘playing’ with Fibreoptics at the Conservatory those 2 ladies made sure that all our other clients were looked after appropriately!

    Fibre optics

    I made a quick sketch for Dr Brodeur to show her what I thought could be done. As you can see it was a very colourful sketch. When working on the realization I came to the conclusion that I needed to tone down the coloursceme, as the various light effects were already bringing in a lot of colour, and I wanted to avoid visual overkill in a rather small room. We ended up keeping the space in a series of soft blues and greens, with some accents in silver grey tones, and of course the natural tone of the not-so-natural tree bark.
    The weekend after I had produced the drawing I happened to watch the movie Avatar, and obviously there was a connection between my vision for the space, and that movie. The theme of the Tree of Life and its connectivity to every living entity was a powerful concept. This made it very easy to relate the design to Dr Brodeur, who, although she had seen the movie before, had not mentioned it to me…

    Concept for Multisensory Therapy Room

    Dr Brodeur was very enthusiastic about my ideas, and so we started implementing it all.
    While Johanne worked on the equipment order, I started on the renovation part together with ‘my’ guys.
    Side note: Funny little thing that happened over and over – I had told everybody that it was a small space
    (only 9′x11′) – first comment everybody would make who would see it: Oh, this IS a small space!

    I should also mention that a lot of the suppliers where we got our products from assisted us with either giving us the items for a huge discount, or even sponsoring us!
    Again, a huge Thank you to Richelieu, McLaren Lighting, PJ White, EECOL Electric and Weavercraft.

    What was wonderful to see was how enthusiasticly all those grown men ( and all the people watching us during the renovation) reacted to the space. Never mind, that it was meant to be a room for children – this space appeals to the child within you, no matter how old you are.
    The typical reaction which we get once a person sits in the recliner? Within 5 minutes the eyes start glazing over! What a wonderful compliment…
    Obviously this concept works for everybody – and I would love to see this concept incorporated in spas, hotels, care facilities or just large offices. Everybody seems to be able to benefit from a little quiet magic.

    Detail - Tree of Life

    One of the crucial elements in the space are the Tree of Life, in combination with strands of Fibre Optics.
    The Fibre Optics provide a sense of energy and creativity.

    detail Fibre Optics

    They offer scope for a tremendous tactile experience, as the children can play with them and wrap them around themselves, while sitting in the Somatron Vibro-accoustic adjustable Recliner.
    This special recliner can adjust into various positions – all the way to the same position used by NASA astronouts during take off at zero gravity. When a person is reclined in this position, their pain is alleviated as the pressure on their bodies shift. Somatrons’ recliners vibrate while driven by music, and the movements can be felt throughout the body. Music is a very powerful tool for connecting mind and body. At the same time speakers are embedded in the headrest, and each musical note played comprises several speeds of vibrations at the same time.

    Somatron Recliner

    Connected to the recliner is a Large Screen TV which is being used to play Cd’s or DVD’s specifically developed to induce relaxation, meditation or guided imagery.
    A weighted blanket can be wrapped around the person in the recliner, which provides comfort, security and a sense of calm. The blanket creates pressure points that act as inhibitors to diffuse sensory impulses and result in a soothing effect.

    TV and Laser Star Projector

    The flooring was chosen to resemble glittering sand and water - it is like sitting at the edge of a lake, overlooking the water and watching the night sky. The Laser Star Projector presents an amazing display of the night sky, using green laser and holographic technology. The projector fills the ceiling and walls with an incredible spectable of milky way formations and twinkling and shooting stars.

    The bubble tower, which was incorporated into a comfortable bench, comes to life with airbubbles and an interchanging display of colours. Touching it, children can feel the movement and listen to the sounds of playful bubbles.

    Bubble Tower - light effect 2

    Bubble Tower

    bubble Tower - light effect<

    A pair of Giant Salt crystal lamps generate healthy negative ions that cleanse the air while adding a stable warm glow in the distance.

    Adding slightly distorting mirrors on the walls blurrs the lines of the small room, while adding three-dimensionality to the tree and to the bubble tower – all of a sudden the room is transformed into an orchard filled with trees and colourful lights!
    The abstract fern leaves were installed to controll the extend of reflection, in order to present a sense of calm.

    An amazing fact – the Music Therapy Department assists more then 1500 clients a week. Sessions may take place in the studios of the Conservatory, but also in such facilities as hospitals, group homes, long term care and independant living facilities, hospice, geriatric care facilities, nursing omes, rehab centres and schools.
    Dr Johanne Brodeur and her team provide an outstanding service to the community, and I am sure I can speak for all ‘my’ crew and myself that it was a pleasure being of assistance to her work!


    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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