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Condo Scene: When hiring your own designer makes sense



Window coverings are for more than privacy, says designer Danielle Hannah, who suggests simple, neutral, unlined modern sheers for the majority of the space.

When it comes to designing a condo, the developer usually offers a range of decor choices with alternative upgrades. Of course, that’s just the start of your decision-making. After you’ve chosen bathroom tiles, kitchen counters, moulding and lighting, you still have to choose furnishings and window coverings.

Purchasing a condo is like building a home from the ground up — minus a few complications. While you don’t have to coordinate a contractor, work with an architect or directly manage things like a schedule as you would with a home renovation or construction, you still need to make a lot of choices regarding your living space. This is why hiring your own interior designer can be very helpful and alleviate much of your stress.

Danielle Hannah of 2H Interior Design is an Ottawa designer who has recently been working on two units in the Lansdowne Park development. She offers some of her advice.

Focus: When it comes to buyers who are making a move from a large home to a condo, the key is “to focus on the positive change and not the fact that they are downsizing; if the spaces are well thought out, a smaller space can be very cohesive,” Hannah says. Of course, not every condo buyer is a downsizer. Many are moving up – both to high floors and into larger spaces.

Light: In my last column, I spoke highly of using dimmers to help create a calming, spa-like mood. Hannah is also a proponent of “good and different levels of lighting, as lighting and colour are the two items in the end that have the most impact on mood and change.”

It doesn’t matter how basic your furnishings are as long as the lighting in your space is well designed, she adds. This is good news for condo dwellers moving into their new space with old furniture. Instead of springing for high-priced loveseats or antiques, consider opting for soft lighting by purchasing lamps and dimmers.

Windows: Another absolutely key buy is window coverings. Though these can be expensive, you’ll want them for more than just privacy. Light control, heat control, room softening and atmosphere are other reasons to invest in window coverings, Hannah says.

As for the design of your window coverings, “be consistent and do the same thing everywhere in every room,” she says, suggesting simple, neutral, unlined modern sheers for the majority of the space, with blackout lining in the bedrooms for added privacy and better sleep. She also adds that you might consider wiring in advance for electric blinds to prevent added costs post-construction.

Floors: Go for heated floors in the bathrooms, Hannah says. This can be a delightful touch, especially on cold winter mornings.

I’ve often wondered when in the process condo buyers should bring in a designer. At what point do you move beyond the design choices made by the developer’s office? Hannah explains that this should happen early, when the designer can “help make important decisions up front that will affect the process later.”

The designer knows that he or she may not see you for weeks or months after that, due to the construction schedule, but at least the design choices will be consistent. With Lansdowne, for instance, 2H “worked with other consultants and the builder to ensure the floor plans accommodate needs and requirements specific to the client and that these changes get implemented before going to the next stage of design detailing.”

Bringing in a designer to help with your condo interiors is a great way of simplifying your decision-making and reimagining your living spaces.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 25 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. She can be reached through

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