Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV

Renovating …it’s a scary process, especially if you’ve never done it before.  There’s a lot on the line…time, money, mess, uncertainty (did I mention time and money?)  If you watch HGTV it goes something like this…

Dating phase: Client, designer and contractor meet and get to know each other.  Concepts are developed.  Everyone is starry eyed and the possibilities seem endless. There’s attraction in the air.

Honeymoon phase:  The design process begins.  Space planning is moving along nicely, materials and fixtures are touched and felt. The concept is starting to become a reality.  The love is tangible.

Reality phase:  Two ugly words rear their ugly heads…Budget and timelines.  “It’s going to cost how much and take how long???”  Hard decisions and compromises are made.  The frustration begins.

Reality phase 2: Construction starts.  Some of it goes smoothly, but some does not (there’s always an unexpected gem hiding in the walls, or under the floor, or in the ceiling.)  More money, more time, more compromises.  Someone might get strangled.

Joy:  The project is complete.  It took some turns along the way, but its good (actually its great), and the bumps & hiccups resulted in alternative creative solutions.  Everyone is proud of a job well done and feeling the love again.

The funny thing is that this process is actually pretty accurate (it’s really the only part of HGTV renos that reflect reality).  Construction projects run the gamut of emotions and they are NEVER perfect.  But there are ways to prepare.  Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.
  2. Determine very clear goals for the end result. For example, is the goal to “lipstick the pig”, or is it to create a customized space, or something in between?  All are valid options, but know what you’re shooting for, and make sure all decision makers are on the same page.
  3. Set realistic expectations for time and budget.  On HGTV you can do just about anything over the weekend and for $500.00.  NOT TRUE! (Unless the extent of your project is building an IKEA dresser.)  Your responses to #’s 1 & 2 will have a direct correlation to #3.

In my next blog posts, I’ll dig deeper into 1-3, offering some insight into understanding scope, setting goals and determining a budget and timelines.

Until then, happy renovation preparation!


tracy dyck photo

Craving Diversity

I have a housing dilemma! My husband and I are planning to move from our quaint little 850 sq.ft. house in St. James to a new home within the next 3-5 years. Being a designer, who works primarily in the residential sector, I am constantly watching real estate listings and looking to see what is out there. We have the basic wish list that anyone starts with when looking for a new home…

  • Itemized spaces (kitchen, dining room, 2 bathrooms, master suite + 3 bedrooms, etc)
  • Area (good neighbourhood, close to amenities & parks)
  • Quality of craftsmanship (architectural details, solid foundation, etc)

When I watch the real estate market I get frustrated by our world of mass production and the repetitive rows of houses built from the same footprint. Older communities are slightly camouflaged by the renovations & changes that have been made over the years by previous homeowners.


My frustration sets in with the lack of diversity and character within the housing market. I want friends & family to drive up to our house saying, ‘of course this is where Travis & Carrie live.” I crave modern clean lines, custom design details, and a unique and intriguing layout of the house that is outside of the box. My husband is more of a vintage man so our ideal house would likely be a revival of a 1950/60s mid-century modern gem.  The last thing I want is to move onto a street where the house next door is the exact same model with a different paint finish (insert gagging sounds here).


So here are our options:

  • Build New within the communities popping up on the outskirts of the city
  • Find an infill lot & build new
  • Find an older home & renovate

Likely we will end up choosing option #3 as we don’t want to live on the outskirts of the city where the neighbourhoods are not developed and are far away from downtown core where we both work. Building on an infill lot is intriguing but difficult to do and often expensive & your options are limited. So option #3 seems like the best fit although in the past couple years I’ve come across 1 maybe 2 houses that would actually fit our list of criteria & would be adaptable to our style.


So I am left questioning, I am the only person in Winnipeg that feels this way?

How many other home buyers are facing the same obstacles?

So if you are like me, I will leave you with a challenge.  Never settle. I challenge home buyers to expect more, not to be OK with a standard model. Be Bold! Be Daring! It is my opinion that it is not OK for us all to live in the same spaces. We are all individuals with different passions, interests & ways of life. Take the time to shop the market or build a custom home. Never take for granted the value of your homes personalization and character and if you don’t know how to achieve your goals give me a call.






Get Me Out of the Office!

Sometimes you just need to grab your laptop, a cozy sweater and a bottle of wine, and get the heck out of dodge!


That’s just what we’ve done. My lovely ladies and I spent a few days last week at a cottage out on Lake Winnipeg, taking time away from the office to…well honestly…get some work done! Some things just don’t seem to accomplished when you’re sitting at your desk downtown where the ‘dings’ of your email and phone are never ending. So we decided to pack our bags and get out into nature for a few days.


Road Trip!


We so often talk about how we can improve our clients’ spaces by integrating more daylight, by bringing that natural environment into their living or working spaces, and by really just connecting them to nature. Honestly, these past few days have been a testament to these intentions. The moment we arrived at our cozy little cottage, and stepped out onto the dock, we were greeted with the most beautiful view of the lake and forest. We took a deep breath of fresh, crisp, November air and all of a sudden, we were one with nature.

So why do we as humans want…no, CRAVE this connection to the outdoors? Well, essentially we’re biologically pre-programmed to seek connections with the outdoors and other forms of life. It’s intuitive. It’s how we started out on this planet and it’s how we were meant to live. Here are a few benefits from connecting with nature…

  1. people are healthier, happier and perhaps even smarter and more creative
  2. children with ADD, asthma, obesity and stress feel positive effects
  3. adults in workplaces connected to nature are more productive, healthy and creative
  4. patients in hospitals that have a view to the outdoors have faster healing times

These few days away, sitting on the edge of the water, surrounded by the beauty of nature, has sure made us a lot more relaxed, focused, creative and seriously productive!

Other than work, we had loads of fun just getting away from our daily grind. Took walks in the woods (I totally thought Tracy was taking us out there to … maybe… streamline the company…). Tried to make a fire…with wet logs…and an old issue of Cottage Life from 2004. It did not go well. Don’t ask Carrie. Or ask where the bottle of paint thinner ended up.

Here are some of the highlights of the 1st Annual S3 Retreat!













Get outdoors people, it’s good for the soul!

Until the next S3 Retreat!


Elaina S3



We’re moving in January 2015!

First off, apologies for being quite silent on the blog lately. No excuses, really. Just ‘stuff’ getting in the way. However, we’re making loads of changes at S3 and are finding more time to make sure you guys are up-to-date with all the great things happening with us.

One of the biggest pieces of news is that we will be moving to a new office in January! S3 Interior Design will ring in the new year at 44 Princess Street in one of Winnipeg’s coolest neighborhoods, the Exchange District.


photo credit:

All of us in the office are so excited to be moving to such a vibrant part of the city, where we will feel more connected to Winnipeg’s hot design community. We can’t wait to meet our new neighbours, attend fabulous events, visit shops at our fingertips and have a some green space around us (well in the summer months at least)!

Check out our rough new digs.

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2014-08-13 15.16.26


Here is our new space (BEFORE)… we’re kicking around some great ideas to make this space all our own, and distinctively S3 sustainable. Stay tuned on here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or even Pinterest to see the process.

And if I have anything to do with it (and I know I do), it’s going to have killer lighting!

What else is happening with us?!

  1. Well, we’ve decided to focus a department on Architectural Lighting Design, headed by yours truly (More on this to come).
  2. All of us in the office are starting to volunteer at organizations that are near & dear to us. See how we’re giving back to the community.
  3. We’re going to be on CJOB this Friday morning (November 21st) at 5.30am. Be sure to tune in to hear us, most likely, make fools of ourselves (but we’re ok with that).
  4. We’ve just finished designing our first ever Airport Kiosk for our favourite local star, Obby Khan and his Green Carrot Juice Co crew. We can’t wait to show you the final design!
  5. We’ve hired a new designer, Heather! She’s young and fun, and keeps us on our toes.

There’s loads more, but I’ll keep you guys updated more often. This is going to be one exciting year at S3.

See you in the Exchange!


Non cropped thumbnail Elaina

Biophilia & the Interior Environment

Biophilia is a human’s deep-seated affinity for nature. It explains why we feel restored after being in a park, invigorated by the seashore, captivated by crackling fires and crashing waves; why our capacity to be creative can be influenced by viewing scenes of nature; why shadows and heights instill fear; and why animal companionship and gardening have healing effects. For decades research scientists and design practitioners have been working to define the aspects of nature that most impact our satisfaction with the built environment.

– International Living Future Institute


Hands down, no question, definitely one of my favourite topics at Greenbuild this past November. After Carrie’s last post on Ron Finley and Guerrilla Gardening, I thought I’d follow up with the subject of Biophilia.

What, may you ask, IS biophilia?

Well, the hypothesis claims that: [biophilia] is the instinctive bond between human beings & other living systems that have been mapped in our brains (essentially the connections human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life). Layman’s terms: Attraction to, and the love of life.

So how is this all related to the design of interior environments? I believe this is how we, as designers, can start to create holistic, healthful and perhaps even healing spaces for people. We can explore how users interact with natural elements to create meaningful experiences. And really, this is what we do as interior environmental designers, we create experiences (within a space).

During this workshop, the speakers talked about Stephen Kellert’s

6 Biophilic Design Elements:

  • Environmental Features
  • Natural Shapes & Forms
  • Natural Patterns & Processes
  • Light & Space
  • Plant-Based Relationships
  • Evolved Human Nature Relationships

Biophilic Environments are not new. Architects have been instinctively designing in this manner for years now. Perhaps this is because we have an intuitive sense to naturally connect with our surroundings.

A few great examples are (click on the photo to learn more about the project):

Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe


Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright


Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon


I strongly believe that when we can start to blur the lines between the built environment and our natural surroundings, we can start to have less of a negative impact on our earth. Why not design and build with ease, rather than force a square peg in a round  hole. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to follow my instincts and keep creating spaces people (& places) can really connect to.

Think about it. What kind of spaces make you feel at your absolute best? I bet you it has something to do with nature or living things…

Peace x


Non cropped thumbnail Elaina