Kitsilano Project

    September 6, 2011

    The interior photos are courtesy of Elizabeth FitzZaland from Green City Builders in Vancouver. Many thanks to Sam FitzZaland and Owen Crane from Green City Builders for the exceptional work on this project!

     Sam, Owen and Ines celebrating the 'Almost-there' stage...



    Client and Agenda


    The client, a watercolour artist of Dutch descent, saw photos of our contemporary Landsend Project in a magazine, and asked us to assist her in the renovation of the kitchen, dining area and powder room in her Kitsilano home.

    She was looking for a contemporary design, a calm and uplifting environment with casual seating for 2 people. Due to the radiant heat in the existing floor we tried to avoid more than necessary disruption of the concrete slab in regards to changes to plumbing or electrical work.


    Creating a space concept


    The existing footprint divided the space into a small U-shaped kitchen and a small nook with a bay window.

     Main floor footprint

    We created variations around the theme of an L-shaped perimeter, with an extension of lower cabinetry along the bay window wall, seating for 2, and an island. The shorter leg of the ‘L’ was the perfect location for the tall cabinetry, the window area along the long wall was perfect to be the clean up area, and the remainder of that outside wall was destined to be the right location for the stove and hoodfan, as this made venting the hood one easy task.


    Option 1                              Option 2


    Option 3                         Option 4

    Although this seemed to be a rather straightforward concept it took us a while to settle on the right solution for the informal seating and the island design.

    As is typical for our approach here at THE SKY IS THE LIMIT we played with a number of different approaches ( 6, to be precise), and ended up with a 7th final version.

     Final Footprint

    This final version sports a floating rectangular countertop that shoots out from the bay window, and a corresponding 4′x4′ island, which sits on metal furniture legs on a ‘sea’ of white pebbles submerged in resin.


     Selection of finishes


    Working with artists is always very rewarding. The way they express themselves in their artwork already gives a lot of clues about their preferences in terms of hues, texture and composition.

    Claudia’s atmosperic naturalistic watercolours exude a sense of energetic calm, and seeing them I knew we would be looking at a combination of tone on tone materials and a mix of soft textures.

    The energy of the space itself seemed to ask for light colours, but in the midst of my mix of materials that I brought on site in order to play with them together with the client, both of us felt the need for an energizing element. Playing upon the clients Dutch heritage we found this super-juicy high gloss mango foil, which we decided to integrate into the cabinet fronts amidst the quiet cream faux wood and textured white laminates we selected first.

     glossy foil in mango





    Close up on the Faux Wood laminate


    My approach to space organization and millwork design seems to lend itself for a deliberate mix of finishes and materials – in most of my projects it is always fairly easy to suggest a combination of finishes, which in my opinion helps to achieve a balance both in colour and texture. I admit I am influenced by the Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui when it comes to balancing ‘elements’, and although I am by no means an expert in this ancient art I refer to Feng Shui’s cycles of elements when combining finishes.

    Granted, one could just go for one finish alone ( and –honestly– THAT is easy…), and I will certainly recommend that route should the overall ‘look’ require a more uniform feel. Depending on the size of a space this could however create an overly stark looking environment. This look is often sought out for features in high end contemporary design and architecture publications, but it might not satisfy the need for the nurturing home environment many of us are looking for in reality.


    Where or how do you start with the selection of finishes?


    Well, that ALWAYS differs, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this.

    There will be a starting point somewhere – you might fall in love with a particular product, be that what it may – flooring, backsplash material, a certain type of wood, a funky laminate, an area rug, a piece of art… The list is endless.


    In this case we started with the cabinet fronts, and once we had those it became clear that we were looking at a Cape Cod/ Beach inspired palette with a blend of soft tones like dried grass and sand, white pebbles and clouds, light grey stones and some very soft shades of green.


    I happened to have a beautiful soft grey commercial vinyl in my stack of products, which had an elegant shimmer to it, while also being reminiscent of a well done concrete finish – it just turned out to be the perfect choice for the floor throughout the area, and I didn’t even have to look far. This product is very soft to stand on, which is important if you plan on doing more in your kitchen than making coffee and toast, and super easy to maintain.

    I also had a little darling sample ( I have those – little treasures that I just keep around in case I ever find the right home for them) of small white pebbles submerged in resin with me. It’s a product from an Italian company which ‘buries’ all kinds of stuff in resin – tiny shells and starfish for shower pans for example, or coffeebeans, which would make a beautiful choice for – yeah, how creative – a coffeeshop countertop!


    pebbles in resin tile

      Close up on the pebbles...

    The client loved it as much as I did, so we decided that we could put the island on legs for a more airy furniture feel, and accentuate that space under the island with that product. That idea again led to the decision to use the mango foil on the island, together with a product, which was the original reason for the client choosing me as her designer – a 1” thick textured glass counter from Thinkglass. The client had called me up after having seen a kitchen of mine in a magazine, that featured one of Thinkglass’ spectacular products prominently.

    This island is a truely poetic statement – it looks like it stands in a lake, with the stainless legs almost creating a wavelike effect due to their design.


    The ‘Pebblo’ texture of the glass intensifies the imagery of water, and the reflection of the potlights above give this glass top a glowing, almost ethereal quality.

    Close-up of the Thinkglass countertop 


    We installed LED lights underneath to accentuate the pebble floor, and one can get almost transfixed staring at the optional colourful lightshow.

    And don’t forget to check out the reflection of the glass on the ceiling!



    The illuminated island at night


    Interstyle’s Icestix glass tile blend, which we used as the backsplash, with it’s glossy, matte and iridescent mix plays up on this effect just beautifully – although it is a mosaic made up of simple rectangular tile sticks it creates an effect like waves, with the iridescence introducing and reinforcing a variety of soft colours.

    Interstyle Icestix iridescent tile blend 

    As for the remainder of the cabinetry – once we decided on using the faux wood laminate for the long wall, and a textured white laminate for the tall units, I knew I wanted to ‘hinge’ those 2 areas together with the mango foil – that way the island was not a total stand-alone, but had a companion which tied it in.



    Another sumptious element which contributes nicely to the mix is the Zebrawood veneer ( the real one, not the manmade substitute) on the floating tabletop. I had used this veneer on a previous project, and we happened to have several strips of the product left over, so it was a perfect coincidence thatwe could use the remainder for this project. I learned to love the subtle yet very determined grainlines in this beautiful natural product – it doesn’t look anywhere close as busy as its manmade substitute…



    There is a challenge combining natural and fake wood products, but I for one am very satisfied with this particular outcome!

     Informal seating with clean up in the background

    Another intriguing choice was the product for the interior door. First I questioned the need for a door, but the client felt that when she was practising one of her many instruments that there would be a need to close the door for privacy.

    We decided to enlarge the door substantially heightwise to correspond with existing structural lines in the house, which also made that door more of an architectural statement instead of just a trhough-way.

    Another one of my little treasures is a translucent panel product, that has Magnolia leaves laminated between 2 layers of resin. That product put into a frame of 2” wide stainless steel made for a sensual yet modern alternative to frosted or clear glass. Clear glass might have been a bit of a safety concern, and frosted glass is always more cool in effect, so I appreciated it very much to have such a narrative product available to me. It was such a subtle, welcome addition to the whole product scheme.




    Magnolia leaves in resin 


     Peek-a-Boo into the kitchen - Magnolia leaves in resin translucent door panel

    A more tricky question was the selection of handles – as soon as you introduce several finishes on cabinetry one has to consider that they will need different hardware as well. The problem with that is that those different handles need to work together stylistically- details like the same type of metal finish or the shapes of corners and edges need to be looked at closely.

    Due to it’s contemporary flavor and the stainless steel accents throughout I wanted to find a collection in stainless steel, and believe it or not – there is not all that much out there right now.

    In addition to that I needed to find a recessed handle for the island ( I didn;t have a countertop overhang on the glass…), that was easy to grab – a lot of those recessed handles have either too small an opening, or are too harsh on the edges and therefore not nice to the touch. Or – if you have long fingernails – you end up scraping either the doors, or breaking your nails or damaging the lacquer all the time…


    Anyway – we did find a line from a European manufacturer, that not only gave me the selection I needed, but also featured a handle just along our theme – one with a wave design! We used that one for the long perimeter wall cabinetry, and I managed to find a long handlebar for the tall appliances including the fridge, as well as a useful recessed pull for the island – yeay! Happy me…

      Conteporary curved handle


    For the powder room we obviously had the vinyl floor as a guidance, and then – along the way – both the client and I really liked a companion of the mango foil – in a light seagreen, which was thematically corresponding, and perfect for its water-themed location. We combined it with a light birch laminate for the tall cabinetry hiding washer and dryer, topped it with a delightful white cement based product with green glass in it ( the product line is called Icestone), and added mother-of-pearl finished glass tile mosaic for the backsplash. 

    sage icestone


    Close up of Icestone counter and Mother of Pearl glass backsplash

    You see – we were totally consistent with our beach theme! But it’s subtle and elegant, quite urbane if you wish.

     Green foil vanity with wavy 2-piece knobs



    The client was very delighted and commented on the fact that she has never experienced a contemporary environment that was at the same time so calm, tactile and visually rewarding.


    overall view



    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!

    Homes and Cottages features “Oliver Street”

    April 28, 2010

    Homes and Cottages created a beautiful 7 page Feature story about our multiple awards winning Oliver Street Project!

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    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.

    NKBA Canadian Design Competition 2010

    February 15, 2010

    Grand Hoodfan Treatment

    Grand Hoodfan Treatment


    We made second place with our Oliver Project in the Medium Kitchen Category of the NKBA Canadian Design Competition 2010!


    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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