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.






What is a Creative Idea Worth?

I’m going to share something personal with you:

I am always curious. Always.

I’m essentially the adult-version of that toddler that keeps asking: why? WHY? I can’t help it, I’ve always been this curious individual that is constantly seeking to learn more. At the end of the day, if I’ve learned something new, tried something new, taught someone something new, I’m thrilled! So why am I telling you this? (See I’m even being curious for you).

There are a few reasons why I decided to dust of the writing powers today.

  1. I want to tell you about this amazing and inspirational speaker that truly hit home with me recently.
  2. I want to inspire you to dig deep and find that childlike curiosity that’s hiding inside of you.
  3. I want to ignite a conversation about what a creative idea is worth to you.

So here’s how we’re going to roll today. I need you to follow the ‘rules’ of this post. Read the paragraphs in order and watch the videos before moving onto the next paragraph. Actually, listen to this song while reading it. I put it on when I want to feel inspired again. Do it now…I’ll wait. This is not to sound harsh, but rather my attempt to create a theatrical, emotional + inspiring experience while you read my post.

Here we go:

Last November, I attended the IES Annual Conference again. I always meet so many wonderful people there and hear so many inspiring speakers (more on this in another post). One in particular, really tugged at the heart strings. He was our first Keynote Speaker and was essentially the ‘kickoff party’ to our conference. Let me tell you, he got me! He got all of us! His name is Erik Wahl and he’s an artist, author and entrepreneur. To sum up, he’s amazing and kind of a big deal.

Watch this video, you’ll understand why!

Erik Wahl – Graffiti Artist Video

erik wahl

This guy really hit a home run. His sense of playfulness, his courage to break the rules and his determination to never give up on achieving goals are truly what inspired me to re-evaluate what it is I’m doing with Lighting Design here in Winnipeg.

In his presentation, he talks about post-breakfast doodling, and taking meeting notes with Crayola crayons to re-ignite that childlike creative that’s within us all! When we were all young, we really had no worries about being curious, saying what we thought, trying something new…we lacked fear! And as we grew older we found ourselves suppressing this inner-genius of ours. Why? (See. I did it again). Because of Fear. Wahl calls FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real and it’s crippling our creativity and our risk-taking. He goes on to urge us to break outside business as usual. In my opinion, I think the worst thing you can hear from someone is “Well, we’ve always done it that way, so…”. It’s time to start looking at things from different perspectives and start accessing emotion, because that is  when we’ll truly break through our creative vulnerability.

Ok, now watch this video:

UNTHINK Rediscover your Creative Genius Video


“Genius lives when wonder wakes”.

Yes! Yes it does.

Working in a creative field that’s also based in science, I’m often finding myself tugging back and forth between these two realms. I will admit, however, that I am at my most successful when I unleash my creative childlike genius and figure out how to bring it into this world we called ‘reality’.

When I talk about lighting, I often talk about the emotional experience. I can’t say it enough, lighting creates environments, lighting creates experiences! This unleashed creativity is where I learn to translate my breakthrough ideas into projects. If we look at old school lighting, it looks at light in one dimension (ie let’s bring light into a space). If we look at where it’s going now, it’s using light as an emotional experience. This is the space between the rules, my friends! After all, it’s the emotional experiences in life that are the most memorable and pleasurable to us. Allow me to not be afraid to fail by trying this new approach to lighting design. What I may do with these failures is going to define the future of this industry…at least in some small way (bigger if I can help it).

This all brings me to the question at hand…What is a Creative Idea Worth? Let me tell you a quick story. Wahl’s presentation was not only laced with inspirational words, but he entertained us by painting on canvases right in front of us. Painting these amazing drawings of popular figures we all recognize. At the end of it all, he chose someone at random from the audience to take one home. He then proceeded to offer this person $100 in exchange to get his painting back. The audience member graciously declined as they really wanted to keep the painting. So why did this random stranger want to keep a canvas that had an image of John Lennon on it? Would this not be something he could get a poster print of at the corner shop for $10? Probably. It’s about the experience, my friends. Every time this person looks at this painting, he’ll be reminded of the positive, creative and inspiring experience he had with Erik Wahl.


So I ask you this. When it comes to design, whether it be lighting or interior (or any other kind to be honest), what is a creative idea worth to you?

Remember, when we as designers present you with a concept, it’s not something that has been pumped out from the ‘design machine’, it’s tailored to you and to how you’ll be using and feeling the space. We want to create an emotional experience for you that will make you want to ‘keep that painting rather than take the $100 bill”. We want to unleash our childlike creative genius on your project so that you’ll get something you’ll never forget. Think about it next time you’re faced with the question of how much someone’s creative idea worth to you.

Now watch this video and tell me that without imagination, we wouldn’t have some of the best things around us in the world today. Imagine.



That’s my inspirational speech for 2016.

Stay young, stay hungry and stay foolish!


Non cropped thumbnail Elaina

Simplicity, Quality & Margin

I’m at the stage in my life when I’ve started to reflect on where I’ve been and where I hope to go. Some may label this a ‘mid-life crisis’, but I’m not interested in buying a sports car or getting plastic surgery. In fact my interests lie in quite the opposite, owning less and living more organically. I want to have time to make my relationships deeper, my experiences greater, my faith more integral. A new term in my vocabulary has been ‘margin’. I want to make margin in my life to “be”, not just “do”. Can anyone else relate to this? It’s a choice that needs to be made, it doesn’t just happen. Our North American society has programmed us to ‘do more’, ‘make more’, ‘strive more’…..what if ‘less is more’? What if ‘quality replaced quantity’ and ‘being replaced doing?’

I think design plays a part in achieving these goals. Our built environment directly impacts how we function and how we feel. Over the past 2 weeks I had the opportunity to travel to Europe, specifically Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. While in Rotterdam I stayed in an apartment-style hotel. It was a lovely, bright and modern suite; about 500 sf in size. For my husband and I, it offered all the amenities we needed; a kitchen-dining area, a closet for laundry & utilities, a living room, a corner for the bed with a substantial closet and even a split bathroom (sink and shower in one room and toilet & second sink in the other.) I began to think about what it would be like to live in a space this size on a permanent basis (maybe once the kids move out).

Urban Residence Rotterdam - LR - Resized

Urban Residence Rotterdam - Bedroom - Resized

What would a space of this size and efficiency mean to our daily lives?

Would it allow us to work less and travel more? A smaller space would mean a smaller mortgage, lower monthly utilities, less maintenance costs and reduced taxes.

Would it allow us to free up time in the evenings and weekends? A smaller foot print would mean less to clean. Putting away “stuff” would be minimal since room for extra “stuff” simply wouldn’t exist. And wouldn’t less ‘stuff ‘offer more room to breathe instead suffocating under the weight of it all? A direct result might be the purchasing of fewer, quality items rather than mounds of disposable crap.

Urban Residence Rotterdam - Kitchen - Resized

Would it encourage us to be more social? A tiny living space could get claustrophobic after a while, so going out with friends and experiencing the world around us would be necessary. Sharing common resources and space might even be a thought. What if numerous ‘tiny space dwellers’ owned a common green space and shared the duties of maintaining it? One lawn mower, one weed-wacker and one snow shovel….take turns….a fraction of the work and cost.  Maybe the children of these families would spend endless hours playing with each other and neighbours would help each other with childcare? Maybe the grandma living next door could avoid the nursing home for a few more years because there would be people around her to help her out. Maybe we’d find community!

Community image

Mid-life crisis? I hope not. I’d like to think of it as a mid-life passion. It’s a way of life that scares me and intrigues me all at the same time. It’s a culture shift that Winnipeg is slowly being introduced to and one in which our willingness to redesign the physical environment will be paramount.




Interior Designer vs Interior Decorator… do you know the difference?

Just the other day Heather and I were onsite measuring for an office renovation when one of the staff approached us and asked who we were. When we told them her we were Interior Designers her immediate response was “oh wonderful, are you going to make our office look pretty?”

This is possibly one of the worst things that you could say to an Interior Designer, and the most common misconception of our profession…that all we do is decorate! So many people think that Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are one in the same, but this is just not the case.

So what’s the difference??

Interior Decorators are ‘stylists’. Their expertise is in selecting and arranging colour palettes, finishes, paint, furnishings and accessories. Although they are talented in creating beautiful spaces, they are not required to have formal education, as their focus is primarily on aesthetics.

Interior Designers are highly skilled professionals with anywhere between 4-6 years of post-secondary education. They are experienced in understanding human scale, acoustics, lighting, life safety, building code, accessibility, sustainable design, technical construction, and so many other elements that make a space function before it looks ‘pretty’. They are trained to create interior environments that are not only aesthetically beautiful, but are experiential and improve the overall well-being of the user.

A Professional Interior Designer must also pass a qualifying exam called the NCIDQ which certifies that they are competent in the interior design principles that enable them to protect public health, safety and welfare.


For more information on the difference between Interior Design and Interior Decorating as well as the Interior Design Profession please visit the National Council for Interior Design Qualification website.

If you are looking for a qualified, professional interior designer for your next commercial project, give me a call!


Janine Signature Photo

See or Be ‘Scene’

Lately there has been a lot of discussion in our office about current trends in aesthetics, their functionality, and originality.

I’m sure we can all think of several examples – white on white, exposed ceilings, rustic wood detail and polished concrete floors, minimally furnished with metal chairs or benches. The minimalist look is big right now, and while we are all fans of simplifying things, I have been asking myself if the design aesthetic meets the intended use.


Design, much like Fashion, passes through trends over time. There has always been a build up of ornamentation (eg. the Victorian era)


…followed by a reactionary response of minimalism (eg. Modernism) followed by a softening and search for handmade details and craftsmanship (eg. Art Nouveau and Prairie Style)


…and so the cycle continues.

Now while all of the ladies in the S3 office LOVE purging clutter and enjoying a fresh, neat and tidy space, there has to be a line between minimalist and LIVEable. We can’t all expect our spaces to look like a catalog forever, right?




Since we spend most of our time thinking about how humans interact with spaces and the functionality and comfort that is required, I wonder how non-design-obsessed people feel about minimal, spare spaces. Do they feel warm and inviting? Do you want to linger and relax? How many times a day do you have to wipe a white counter or mop a white floor? Furthermore, how does the industrial look of bare lightbulbs and exposed ceiling ducting affect one’s experience with lighting and acoustics? I find myself wanting for a burst of colour, interesting texture or a bank of soft seating.

In this Social Media age we are living in, we are over-saturated with staged, filtered, and often superficial representations aimed to evoke envy and the “drool-worthy” response. While these can be super fun to look at, I wonder how these spaces actually perform for the inhabitants.

I am a believer that Design can convey a lot about identity. When I walk into a space I’d like to see an originality which makes me curious about the home, business, and the people who spend their time there. It’s an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd, tell your story and get people excited about your space! I guess what I’m saying is I like a space with character… and plants. Lots of plants!



What do you think??