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Benefits when building with natural materials

 

Farm to Building

Several years ago, I worked in some of Toronto’s most innovative kitchens. Certainly, in my youth I was captivated by the culinary arts and have since wondered how it informed my interest and subsequent career in architecture. The past year has revealed to me an obvious thread: the transformation of materials.

In both cuisine and architecture ingredients are transformed. In both professions there is an understanding about materials used   where they come from, how they can be transformed, and how they must be appreciated. There are parallels between sustainable architecture and sustainable food.

Where materials come from: local or organic?

Farm-to-table is a social movement with which many are all familiar, characterized as serving local food through direct acquisition from the producer, incorporating food traceability. There’s a strong environmental case for food traceability.

Few materials are created equal, and when it comes to food, “food miles” actually make up just a small portion of an ingredient’s carbon footprint – just 11% according to the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF). How the food grows comprises roughly 83% of its carbon footprint. To summarize the DSF’s research, the ideal choice seems to be food that is organically (responsibly) grown, and the benefit of local ingredients is simply a bonus.

The same may be true for building materials; let’s look at wood as an example. Wood is a fantastic material. It is renewable, can be sourced sustainably, and actually sequesters carbon. But not all wood is as environmentally-friendly as you may think. If sustainability is important to you look for wood products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. FSC is an indication that the wood has met stringent harvesting and environmental standards. It prohibits illegal logging, forest degradation, and deforestation in protected areas, and is the only framework supported by NGO’s such as Greenpeace and WWF.

How materials can be transformed: embodied energy

When it comes to buildings, significant amounts of energy are required to process raw materials. Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the material processing required for the production of a building, including mining, processing, manufacturing, and transportation. Every building is made of a complex list of processed ingredients, all of which contribute to its total embodied energy.

A great practical example is to strip back the layers of a typical house and look only at its structure: steel studs versus wood studs. The University of Bath has concluded that the embodied energy and embodied carbon of steel are more than three times that of sawn softwood. Therefore, responsibly-harvested wood studs can be much less demanding in embodied energy levels. When you add up all the structure, insulation, finishes, and itty-bitty components of a house, choosing the right materials goes a long way in reducing your carbon footprint- those materials also need to perform well, be durable, and non-toxic.

How materials must be appreciated: high-performance, healthy, and beautiful

Nutrition is 99% invisible. We don’t need a nutritional breakdown of a Big Mac to know the value of its contents. The same is true in buildings: the products you can’t see usually provide the most value.

Building to high performance standards with natural materials will always satisfy your appetite. In a cold climate (like Toronto) this means using above-Building Code levels of insulation, airtight, high-performance windows, and efficient mechanical systems. Making it look appetizing is simply the dressing on the salad.

This article was contributed by Mike Mazurkiewicz for Sustainable TO

 

 

Revitalize your space: Out with the old, in with the new spring design trends

As the warmer weather approaches and we all prepare to shed the layers and clunky boots, opting for brighter and lighter colours in our wardrobes, I often look for ways to make necessary changes in my home as well, by shedding the dull, then bringing in the lively and new. Spring is often associated with new beginnings and a fresh start after enduring the Canadian winter blahs for so many seemingly endless months. Reinventing your space and wardrobe can assist in resetting your mind to switch things up and achieve a new focus or mindset, which in turn benefits health.

When it comes to my home, it’s not always possible to exchange whole furniture sets to overhaul a space, but there are small additions and alterations that can be made to make it feel as though you are arriving home to a whole new retreat each evening.

The styles of 2018 make it easy to infuse abodes with colour, brightness and lightness, in addition to comfort and chic appeal.

Colours of the season:

Gelato-inspired hues are huge for Spring & Summer 2018.  Complement your space with the tastiest options from your local gelato shop, many of which have pastel and neutral tones.  Often mixing and matching flavours while topping up your cone or dish is the outcome of a visit to the gelato shop, so go all out when it comes to home décor and select a variety of colours to liven your space as well.

Make ultra violet ultra cool.

A post shared by Jonathan Adler (@jonathanadler) on

In addition to pastels and Gelato hues, indigo blue is a hot colour for home décor over the upcoming spring and summer months. Whether indoor overhaul is needed or the objective is to spruce up your outdoor space, this striking blue hue will bring a punch of pizzazz.

The perfect complement to indigo blue is glittering gold. Although gold is often associated with the holiday season, the glittery trend can be found in many accessories for the warmer months’ décor selections. Vases, artwork, mirrors and hanging pendants, are all the perfect accessories to accent a space in this hue.

Accents and Accessories

Geometrics are still big this season and can be found in artwork, wallpaper, rugs and on statement pieces.  Feathers, fringe and tufted cushions are also very much on the hot list. This season homeowners can find these accents on everything from duvets to throw pillows, adding texture and an original appeal.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bf8proVhmMh/?tagged=featherdecor

Flooring

Often shimmer is reserved for artwork, fabrics and wall-coverings, but this year, that subtle shimmer is making its way into various flooring materials, including carpets! Grey and pale blue flooring matched with the said shimmer and complemented by soft shimmering wall paper and art work, is a trend of the upcoming months. The trend opens up any space, and the suggested hues bring a serene atmosphere to the home.

Be inspired by the trends of the season and have fun revitalizing your space. I know I will!

 

Woman of the Week: Linda Hung

Linda Hung is a theme park enthusiast. While speaking on the phone with Women’s Post, she talked excitedly about Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The experience, she said, was made unique by the magical landscapes and the transitions from island to island.

And Hung knows what she is talking about. As Senior Director of Theme Parks for FORREC, it is her job to ensure theme parks and resorts are designed in a way that cultivates the best possible guest experience — and the most fun.

FORREC is an international entertainment design agency based in Toronto, responsible for designing some of the world’s most attended and admired theme parks. This includes Canada’s Wonderland, Universal Studios in Florida, and several LEGOLAND properties, among many others.

Hung was always fascinated with design and architecture. “It was the idea of being able to create something with your imagination and then believing you can transform that image into a real place,” she said. “I day dreamed a great deal when I was young. I had an interest in art, design, and drawing, coupled with technical skills in math. I fell into landscape architecture.”

After graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor degree in Landscape Architecture, Hung moved to Asia. Employment in Canada was scarce, and in Hong Kong she was able to get a job as a Junior Architect and Intermediate Landscape Architect, while learning more about her family history.

While she loved her work, she loved theme parks and resorts more. Ever since she was young, she visited these attractions as much as possible. When a position opened up at FORREC for a master planner, Hung jumped at the opportunity. That was 19 years ago.

“I often think of how lucky I am and stay engaged and inspired in one place all these years. I’m constantly learning from my peers and clients. Projects are so diverse, I’m never bored.”

Now, she serves as Senior Director of Theme Parks, a role that incorporates her knowledge in design and architecture with business and finance. “I’m not just trying to sell them a theme park. I understand what they need to make their project and development viable, efficient, and compelling to guests. Plus, I love the whole industry, bringing entertainment to projects. We have a unique skill set with FORREC to marry it with our projects to make it stand out.”

With so many options around the world, the theme park industry is highly competitive. Each project needs to be looked at through different lenses and must cater to the client, location, brand, culture, and story. With so many entertainment offerings out there, Hung needs to constantly think about what is going to make their parks unique. How will they capture the free time of their guests?

According to Hung, the key to a successful resort is integration, ensuring guests are entertained and occupied from when they get up in the morning to when they return to their rooms at night. At a theme park, great rides and attractions are absolutely necessary, but Hung says it is about more than that. “The park in itself is also a destination. We look for things that create a whole story or environment so that once you walk in you are entering a different world. You are escaping your world and walking into a fantasy.”

FORREC also helps design smaller, local projects such as a playground at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. The playground included elements of waterplay, handwork, and food, set around a chimney, which acts as a central gathering space. Hung says that working internationally is a thrill, but it is even more rewarding to work in your own backyard.

Hung also helped create Splashworks at Ontario Place, an experience she enjoyed greatly.

“I remember working on that project and bringing the master plan home and my kids were inspired by it and said we have our ideas, and this is what we would love to see in a splash park. And I implemented some of their thoughts. Years later they recognized some of those things in the waterpark. Those are the little moments that make it really special. Creating things in your mind and having it built into a physical place. You can experience it in design.”

Hung has an entrepreneurial spirit, and encourages creativity and adventure within business. “I would encourage a curious mind. If you have a new concept, whether it;s landscape architecture or entrepreneur. You shouldn’t stop there. Always think what could make it better. For women, being sensitive is a good thing. It’s what makes us keen observers, that’s what enables us to explore.”

When Hung isn’t working, she spends a lot of time volunteering. She does work with World Vision, Toronto City Mission, The Scott Mission, and Sketch Toronto.

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5 tips to transform your drab living room

Simple steps in decor choices can easily transform you living space for the better. No matter the size of space you are working with, the placement and design of products can help a large space feel cozy and a smaller space feel large. There are various design templates to work with, modern, mid-century, bohemian, glam, or traditional, but no matter your personal preference there are some basic key elements of design you shouldn’t ignore. Never fear — Women’s Post is here to help! If you desire that clean chic look, especially for your living room, follow these five rules.

Pick a focal point

Think of what you want the centrepiece of your living room to be. The most standard and best possible choice is to have a simple coffee table that can attract attention, but at the same time balance the elements of the room. A good coffee table can completely change the ambiance of a space. It should compliment the surrounding furniture, or even radically stand out. Keep it clean, simple, and minimal with just enough room for a beautiful plant, some books, or a hot cup of coffee.

It’s all about the little things

The more cluttered a room is, the smaller it will feel. A clean, organized space with just a few decorative accents is very trendy right now.  These accents are not just for decoration, but are a necessary part in creating comfortable conversation pieces. These pieces are meant to showcase your personality, so be creative! It may be a rustic brass ornament, a token from a trip, or something unusual and glamorous. Just try not to overdo it.

Fluff it up

Accent pillows are a living room’s best friend. You can change the look of your living room in a matter of seconds by refreshing the look of the cushions on your couch. If you have a basic white sofa, try to add a pop of colour to brighten the room. Darker upholstery may require similarly toned pillows or warm coloured accents.

Don’t forget your walls

When putting a living room together, think of the bare space you are working with. Depending on your style you can choose to add colour to your walls. The walls surround your living room will help to bring the space together. Bright walls can work for a colourful room, or beige/tan walls can help achieve a cozy feeling. For a more open space in a smaller room, consider keeping one white wall. Don’t overdo it with paintings. Chose one or two that you really love and place them strategically on walls that look a bit more empty. Spread them out in comparison to your lamps and curtains.

Consider lighting

The lighting in your living room can change the entire mood. Will it be warm, bight, or somewhere in between? It’s not just about the lighting, but the design of the lighting you choose to have. Floor-lamps or antique chandelier? There are many choices, and each one can help transform your living space into the room of your dreams.

4 ways to create your own gourmet kitchen

One of the most important rooms in your house is more than likely your kitchen. You cook there, sometimes you eat there. It becomes a hub of conversation, where friends and family can be creative. One of the things that many people look at when buying a new home is often the kitchen —  it it big enough, bright enough, and does it have state of the art appliances? Many foodies and aspiring chefs (and even amateur ones) love working in a good kitchen. Here are a few tips on how to create your own gourmet kitchen, or at least feel like you’re working with one.

Get Organized

No matter the size of your kitchen, it is essential it be clutter free. This creates the feeling of a grand working place. You should have select storage areas for specialty items and an organizer for everything from your cooking utensils to your excess plastic bags. Keep you kitchen streamlined and know where everything is kept for easy access. In terms of design, keep it minimal and tidy with easy to clean surfaces.

Bright Colours

Thanks to many optical illusions, a room painted in white or even cool bright colours often tend to appear larger. The reflective surfaces of the lighter paint helps a room feel bigger with wider walls. Try to find reflective surfaces that will lighten the room. For instance, white moulding or trim adds depth to a wall and using quality paint provides a bit of shine or gloss helping the flow of light. Avoid darker or muddy colours at all cost. If you want to add a pop of colour to your white space, use colourful appliances.

Invest In The Proper Tools

If you want to work in a high performance kitchen, it might be time to invest in some high performance tools. Try using professionally made pots and pans and especially appliances with a brand you can trust. These products will be worth the investment because they are durable and should last for an extended period of time, making you feel at ease in having a product you can depend on. At the same time, monitor the performance quality of any new appliances you consider investing in and see which one works best for your space.

Gourmet Products

Put the salt and pepper down if that’s your basic seasoning. It’s time to invest in some gourmet spices (and I use the word gourmet as just an upgrade from salt and pepper). Open your mind and your spice rack to different flavours and aromas. Get new spice blends, oils, vinegars and open yourself to trying new flavours. From Peruvian pink salt to pineapple curry, discover new and interesting products.

Let us know how it goes! Post a description of your kitchen in the comments below!

How choosing the right contractor makes a world of difference

Whether you are contemplating an addition or embarking on a large-scale renovation, deciding on the right contractor to handle your home renovation can be an extremely daunting task. There are so many aspects to consider, from reasonable pricing to the speed of construction. How do you even begin to make such a fundamentally important decision?

Well, let me introduce you to the new generation of home renovators — contractors whose main objective is to guide you through the entire process from inception to completion. This new breed of contractors is taking customer service to a whole new level, ensuring the client is happy and receives a phenomenally positive home renovation experience.

The secret to picking the perfect redesign firm lies in just how well they plan on taking care of you and your needs. Customer service must be a top priority, and you need someone who will not only understand your vision, but will also make it their mission to see that your dreams become reality!

Fraser Homes Inc. is a custom design rebuild firm that specializes in residential home renovations. Located in Toronto, the business is run by two brothers — Rod and Mark Fraser — who form a dream team with backgrounds in design, construction, marketing, and business. They balance each other out completely. Mark is the designer and “lofty dreamer” while Rod has the construction and marketing experience.

The brothers opened their doors in 2009 and then officially incorporated in 2012. Their first official job was a single bathroom, which quickly escalated into an incredibly successful enterprise. The clients were so enthralled with their stylish new bathroom that they hired Fraser Homes to redesign their entire home from top to bottom.

What makes Fraser Homes unique is their emphasis on customer service, something the Fraser brothers say is lacking in the construction industry.

Their website has a special client login that allows customers to follow the progress of their renovations. Using this login, which can also be accessed using the company’s app, clients can request changes, communicate directly with their project manager, and choose products, among other things. According to the Fraser brothers, the purpose of this customer-centric focus is to ensure there are no surprises at the end of the construction period and that the client is, ultimately, happy with their work.

“We go a long way to keep client informed and updated on our production schedule and what’s happening,” Mark said. “Communication is the heart and soul of construction – letting clients know where you are and planning the job well and making sure clients are involved.”

“We don’t believe in a $70,000 charge for upgrades they don’t remember. At the end of whatever project, they were able to say we were kept informed and there were no surprises,” he said.

Photo provided by Fraser Homes.
Photo provided by Fraser Homes.

Client reviews, both on the Fraser Homes’ website and independent review outlets, showered the company with praise, saying the brothers were professional, communicative, and friendly. Nearly everyone described their experience as a success, and after speaking with them myself, I understand why. The brothers are deeply passionate about their work and when discussing design and renovation trends — a “mixture between the minimalist-modern … as well as semi-industrial” — their enthusiasm is contagious.

The brothers also like to push the limits of design and help their clients to think, not just outside the box, but way beyond it.

“You have to be the one taking your clients to the next level,” said Mark. “I tell people you have two types of rooms: you can have the one pictured in a magazine or you can have the one people take pictures of FOR the magazine.”

Fraser Homes has also been experimenting with green and sustainable building. They try to use eco-friendly products in their current construction process, but they are also putting together a few proposals for property developments that will be completely sustainable.

If you are planning a home renovation and are looking for personalized and professional experience, look no further than Fraser Homes. Please click here to visit the Fraser Homes website or contact them directly at 416-477-1186 or info@fhinc.ca

Transit: It’s all about politics

“Let them do their work,” pleaded Toronto Mayor John Tory early Tuesday morning when City Council first sat down to discuss budgets and transit.

And thankfully, most of those councillors listened.

At Wednesday’s meeting, city council voted to approve the transit network plan as proposed by staff — including the controversial single-stop express subway in Scarborough.

A few amendments were tacked on to the motion, including a promise to study alignments and associated costs of the corridor. Staff will also be looking at a Sheppard subway extension and the extension of the Bloor-Danforth line from Kipling Station to Sherway Gardens.

But even with these unexpected add-ons, the approval of the transit network plan is a win for both the mayor and the golden horseshoe area.

“Following this vote we must now put an end to years of inaction and delay and move ahead with a comprehensive plan to serve our city’s needs.” Mayor Tory said in a statement

And there’s the rub. Despite the positive results of the city council meeting, progress was nearly delayed because a handful of councillors were pretending to be transit experts in their attempt to garner media attention.

In every municipal government, there are elected officials — who often have a variety of skills, including some experience in management, customer service, and politics— and then there are city staff, who are hired based on their particular expertise.

This week’s city council transit kerfuffle is indicative of a lifelong politicians working the issue for media attention to gain recognition for the next election. A handful of councillors ignored recommendations provided by Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat (who has a Master’s in Environment and Planning), City Manager Peter Wallace (who served as the provincial Deputy Minister of Finance and Secretary to the Treasury Board), and Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford (with over 15 years of Transit operations), among others.

There are certain city councilors who have been pushing their own transit agendas, ignoring the sound advice from staff. Councilor’s like Josh Matlow have gone as far as recommending council revert to the original transit plan proposed before former Mayor Rob Ford was elected  — citing high costs and new polls that indicate residents want an LRT instead.

Matlow (whose extremely thin resume has school board trustee, and co-director of an environmental non-profit) put forward a motion to return to the 24-stop LRT plan, saying that someone needs to think about the taxpayers and how best to invest funds.

Other councillors used the opportunity to try and promote projects for their voters, like the Sheppard subway extension. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti even suggested diverting funds from the Finch LRT — which is already in its procurement stage — to fund the Scarborough subway.

The problem? Consistently changing plans costs tax payers a fortune and would have resulted in a two-year delay, leading up to another election in which a new council may have different ideas.  Essentially, Toronto would be forced to start from scratch. “It would be problematic to pull apart this optimized network,” Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat reminded council.

At the end of the day, the experts were able to argue their case and explain the high-costs and the severe consequences of changing the transit plan yet again.  If there is one thing that should be taken away from Wednesday’s exchange, it’s that there are a few councillors focused on only one thing: re-election. Councillors are pretending to be more knowledgeable than the experts because it makes them look good to their constituents.

City staff work year after year trying to hold together a broad transit plan they understand that Toronto needs to start building now or else it will take another 50 years before residents see any relief on the Yonge Line.

The experts did their job — now it’s time for council to just sit back and listen.

The unfortunate shame of Liberty Village

The towering condos loom ominously over the brick factories, converted warehouses, and swarms of young professionals who have descended upon the area known as Liberty Village. It’s a muggy Saturday afternoon and the sidewalks are busy; 20-and 30-somethings scurry about with grocery bags in hand, coffee cups in clenched fists, and sweat dripping painfully into their eyes.

No one seems to notice how absurd the area has become.

What could have been a showcase neighbourhood for the city, a place to proudly demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, forward-thinking design, and a beautiful juxtaposition between old and new, has instead become a laughing stock, courtesy of an over-built, under-designed cash grab for developers. We are left with a wall of condos, each one more spectacular in their hideousness than the next, the lack of beauty the only real cohesion between them.

Why does this happen? Why is there no governing body to ensure neighbourhoods have at least some semblance of uniformity and complimentary appeal? Liberty Village looks like a dumping ground for the reject designs no one else wanted — like each condo was built as quickly and cheaply as possible with a malicious lack of thoughtfulness.

It really is such a shame. So, what then, would I, an unqualified citizen with a ranting opinion have done differently? What alternative, un-apocalyptic state would I have preferred for Liberty Village?

I’m glad you asked.

Firstly, I would want a municipal committee in place to oversee special projects. These projects would include new neighbourhoods that are being built where a rich selection of heritage buildings exist. The mix of new and old can be a beautiful thing – if approached with patience, empathy, and vision.

Secondly, each project within the neighbourhood should not be viewed in a silo, at least from a design and function perspective. Part of the committee’s duty would be to develop an overall vision for the area to guide all new developments, land plots, and the type of mix required between retail, residential, and commercial. Forward-thinking designers, city planners, and architects would be amongst those involved to ensure that a beautiful vision is also a realistic one. Look to other cities who take a more advanced process towards urban design (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tokyo, to name a few).

Lastly, with guidelines in place, the process for developer selection would be a scrutinized approach to ensure they fit – both from a functional and a cultural perspective.

Of course there are other factors that come into play – the economics of it, the push back from private landowners and developers who feel their liberties were being trampled on, my lawyer friends who’d tell me I’m crazy, etc. But you know what? If it’s crazy to prefer a city that values good design, understands the benefits of thoughtful neighbourhoods, and would rather be proud than ashamed of new areas, then so be it.

The world of tomorrow, today

A former professional life brought me to New York City every couple of weeks. Routinely flying into LaGaurdia Airport in Queens, (no, this article is not about the horrendous state of the terminal Air Canada is located in) I was afforded a wonderful view of the New York World’s Fair location as we approached the runway. The skeleton globe, the monolithic structures, and the tree-lined paths remain an iconic reminder of a time when the world would gather with pilgrimage fashion to be awe-struck by the grand possibilities of the future.

During its heyday, the fair held a sense of wonder and aspiration for its visitors. In 1889, the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris, in 1893 the world was introduced to the Ferris Wheel in Chicago, and in 1939, broadcast television was inaugurated in New York. Expo ’67 held in Montreal left the city with iconic architecture and, for a time, a Major League Baseball team named after it. Themes such as “The World of Tomorrow”, “Dawn of a New Day”, and “Peace Through Understanding” captivated the world with the promise of unimaginable spectacle. But today, with the proliferation of the Internet, there is less need for the Expo. Our present inundation of information about new technologies, new designs, theories, advances, and plans for the future are readily available in an endless stream of images, articles, tweets, websites, and data.

Today our pilgrimage has been reduced to a drooling stare into an LCD screen. And so, I wonder whether there is still value for cities to host the World’s Fair?

Held every five years, the World’s Fair (or World’s Expo as it’s also known) is a six-month long showcase of trade, innovation, and products from around the world. The Expo was held in Milan last year and the next one will be hosted by Dubai in 2020. Lately, and most likely in part because of the success of the Pan-Am Games, there have been rumblings about Toronto bidding on the 2025 World Expo. It is a chance to once again showcase our city on the world stage while continuing to push our mandate as a place rich in innovation, financial stability, and livability.

But still, is it worth the cost? Toronto Mayor John Tory, while not opposed to the idea, has intelligently taken a cautious approach; there are many unanswered questions related to cost and effort – questions that must be ironed out before any sort of decision is made.

Now, cost and effort aside, the other question that must considered revolves around theme. What grand proposition will be used to inspire the world to once again care about the World’s Fair? How are we going to put our stamp on an event that’s become largely irrelevant? How can we harken back to a time when the world of tomorrow was not so easily available through a few clicks? And most importantly, how do we balance the need for commercial capital without an overly branded marketing experience for the companies that foot the bill?

Here are a few areas of inspiration that may help:

  • Apple and Tesla Product Launch Format: the ability to keep new product designs and details under wraps from the media, while driving excitement and anticipation, is the fuel that powers both company’s marketing-driven sales. If the Expo could showcase things that were truly ground-breaking with a hotly-anticipated reveal, it would certainly help drive buzz.
  • Influencer Participation: gathering the best of the best in all fields to not just showcase their ideas, products, and plans, but to buy-in to the World’s Fair concept will help spread the word by association. If the most influential people in their fields participate, the rest will follow.
  • Integrated Projects: gather experts and leaders from a variety of industries to create conceptual works that fit into their unique visions of the future. Don’t worry about feasibility, worry only about inspiring people’s imaginations.
  • What Happens After: when the Expo is complete, what will be left? What types of architecture will remain permanently that future generations will look at with awe and wonder. Let’s build something that lasts.

Regardless of whether or not we bid on the Expo, the process of discussion should provide a valuable template for how we aim to push Toronto into the future as it relates to innovation. The notion of the world of tomorrow is still very much alive today.

An office in your home

By Leslie Whatmough

If you work in an office environment, the term home office may suggest a lifetime of homework, but a well designed home office can be a liberating space that is both functional and inspiring.

To keep a healthy balance in life it is important to find time to work, love, laugh, and create. Having a space in the home that inspires you to unleash your creative side is as important as any other functional space.

So throw out your old ideas about a home office and reinvent it as a studio, a place to paint, sew, write or build things that make your heart sing.

Choosing a space that is large enough to accommodate both the creative and practical functions of the room is the primary concern. Treat this studio as a blank canvas whose primary function is to inspire, so paint the walls in colours that set the mood and hang posters of role models or write phrases to encourage action.

It is important to think of this studio as having two distinct functions so if possible do not try to use one surface for two purposes. A desk that functions as the place to write cheques may become buried in the associated paperwork and the effort required to clear it off may deter you from using the space for its creative function. Find separate solutions for each function in the room and ignore that voice from childhood that insists that the space be cleaned up every night. If necessary ensure that this space is not visible to the rest of the home. A work in progress will allow you the freedom to commit small chunks of time without wasting that time on repetitive set-up and will allow more time for creativity.

Organization is the key to a successful home office/ studio. Commit only the minimum of space necessary to those reality tasks and keep the larger room for the creative endeavors. Bill paying and menu planning can be organized into an accordion file and requires only a counter big enough to hold a laptop or keyboard. A traditional monitor can be wall mounted for space saving if necessary. For the creative centre, comfortable furniture should be a priority as creativity often requires us to slow down and give inspiration the opportunity to surface.

A home studio is not an indulgence, it is a necessity. Taking time to allow your souls expression is the secret to a long and happy life.