Demystifying the role of the Architect in home renovation!

As you know we are in the thick of a home renovation at the moment and it is going really smoothly. You hear horror stories about projects going wrong and I think the reason we are having such a great experience is because we hired an expert! Barbora Vokac Taylor, our architect, designer and friend kindly agreed to answer some questions about what being an architect entails and when and why it is important to involve one.

When you started University you were considering Medicine? What made you decide to switch tracks so drastically and become an architect?

I just kept searching for ways to be creative in what I was doing. I was studying to ultimately go into Biomedical Engineering for prosthetics design and it hit me:  what I wanted to do was design. 

I really enjoyed first year in the Science programme because it was a mix of all of the core sciences and maths but when I had to choose just one as my major, I got stuck. The more I tried to answer that question, the closer I got to realizing that what I really wanted was to work creatively but with purpose and function. That’s how I came around to architecture. My father is an architect, so I had an idea of what the profession entailed. I love what I do. 

 

What exactly does an architect do?

Great question! 

In an abstract sense: What our firm strives to do is to work as our client’s advisor throughout the design and construction process. I recently had a client meeting and our client said “What we want is to work collaboratively to achieve a vision … but we don’t know what our vision is – so we need you to help us with that too.” I thought that was perfect. It’s exactly what we do and it’s what we excel in. We help our clients define a vision based on their needs and desires. We then problem solve to help realize that vision to it’s full potential.  

Formally, Architects are trained professionals who are qualified to design and provide advice – both aesthetic and technical – on built forms. We help define the overall priorities and vision for the space and describe it graphically. We prepare the necessary construction drawings, source key materials, assist in applying for the necessary permits, provide general review during the construction process and work with the general contractor to manage unexpected issues, delays and choices along the way.

 

 When is an architect required?

It depends on the project type and size. I would recommend reaching out to an architect to discuss your specific project and have them advise you. Most architects will meet with you for a free consultation. You may even be able to determine this over the phone. 

In terms of small residential renovations/additions – I advise my clients to get professional help for budgets in excess of $25 000. It’s a big investment – it’s worth it to have someone knowledgeable to advise you. 

 

How much education is required to become an accredited architect and designer, as you are?

To become a licensed architect in Ontario you need to have successfully completed specific educational requirements, several years of supervised experience, and extensive examinations. 

I completed a BSc(Arch) and a Masters in Architecture in five and a half years. I interned for seven years prior to earning my licence and I wrote the ARE (Architect Registration Examination), which, in total, was about thirty five hours long – but not in one sitting! 

 

What type of architecture work do you specialize in?

Most of our projects, in terns of volume,  is single family residential – renovations and new build. We also have extensive experience in hospitality, interiors, multi-unit residential, small scale institutional and large scale institutional. We really work on a wide range of occupancies. We’ve completed or, are currently in the process of completing: a yoga studio, an office interior, a new build single-family home and a couple of residential renovations. We enjoy working on projects where our clients are the end users the most.

 

What do you look for in vendors that you work with on projects, such as contractors?

Referrals go a long way, particularly from peers that share the same standard of quality that we do. We strongly recommend working with contractors that have successful experience in the style that we work in with good references and we prefer to work with ones that we have successful experience with in the past. Construction is highly collaborative and you really want a team that wants to work together, is  experienced, professional, fair and has the motivation to do great work. 

 

One of the most common renovations that people want to do are kitchens, bathrooms and extensions? What tips do you have for people to help them get a handle on the scope of the work they want to do?

Start gathering data. 

1. Start love/loathe files : clip Magazine and newspaper stories and now it’s so easy with Pinterest and Houzz. Just get on there and start hunting around for spaces that appeal to you. If you like someone’s style, start following them – those posts can then lead you to more options and so on. 

2. Be critical about your space – What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What works? What doesn’t? Quite honestly, sometimes we consult with clients and we just move some furniture around, get rid of stuff they don’t use and we’re halfway there. 

3. Be open to suggestions but have a single vision. Just because your sister has good taste and she likes something, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best option for you. Design isn’t about making stuff look cool – it’s about planning space so that it enhances your life. Although … if you wanted your sister to come over and cook more often, you could take her pointers on her preferences in the kitchen :)

4. Research. Ask around – who has done renovations in a style that you like? How long did it take? What was the approximate cost/square foot? What was their experience? What lessons could they pass on to you?

 

In any project, unexpected issues come up, such as time delays, extra work requirements. How do you prepare your clients for the unexpected?

You have to plan for the unexpected. We try to prepare our clients for tough decisions that need to be made quickly and advise them to put aside approximately 10% of their construction budget as a contingency fund. We are there to advise our clients, to weigh the pros and cons and help them make informed decisions. Renovations tend to have more surprises, but you always have a choice. For example, on your project, we opened something up and found something we didn’t expect. We had the opportunity to improve it – and it was your choice to do so or not.  Your contingency fund meant that you had some funds available to do this. Or alternatively, you realize that you wish to add something to the project that at first, you didn’t think was important. There’s some money set aside for those late-in-the-process realizations/opportunities. 

 

What are your favourite design stores?

I adore the Conran Shop in London. I think Terence Conran is the bomb. He makes great design feel easy. There is also a very inspiring lifestyle/concept store in Paris called ‘Merci‘ that I quite enjoy visiting. 

In Toronto (and I am strictly speaking in stock – I can’t say that I vouch for service here) but there are loads of great stores now with great, accessible design. 

I like to mix high and low – so I’m not above suggesting IKEA. I think that Quasi Modo and Klaus by Nienkamper have very nice collections as does KioskDesign within Reach is also great for classics. On the more affordable side, I’ve also found some great pieces at EQ3, Crate&Barrel and West Elm recently. In terms of high-end showrooms, B&B Italia, ItalInteriors and PlanB are wonderful options. 

 

What inspires you on a daily basis in your life and work?

I would say people. I like to people watch. That sounded creepy – but it wasn’t meant to! I like to observe how people use and interact with spaces – both designed and everyday. I read a lot – both periodicals and on the web. 

I also make a very strong effort to seek out and study successful spaces, both in the city and abroad. I try to travel at least once a year on a ‘Design Pilgrimage’ – I make it a point to research projects and visit them. I was in Montreal for a week in May and came back totally refreshed and inspired. My husband often travels for work – so my and son and I get a few opportunities as stowaways and go exploring that way. 

 

What makes a project successful?

In a line: clear expectations and good communication. And right them down! (Ok. that was three things in two lines.)

Having clear agreements so that everyone knows their roles in the process is key. My husband has a saying “Good fences make good neighbours” and I have found that to be the case.  

Ask questions and participate. No one expects you to be the expert and we know that you may have probably not done this before – but if you’re not sure, ask. 

 

What makes a great project?

A great client.

 

What make s great client?

A great client has a vision – not necessarily an idea of what the project will look like – but as in a goal and/or aspirations that help define the project. They are honest and timely in their communication. They also respect the the skills and expertise of their team, they are flexible, open-minded and have high expectations for success in the final outcome. 

 

Barbora Vokac Taylor Architect Logo

 

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What I Wore- Summer Simplicity

Simple summer dressing for a trip to Ikea to pick up things for the reno. I love this skirt and the way the belt (which has got to be about ten years old) cinches my waist! This necklace came out of the archives for this look because I thought it would be lovely with my fave Old Navy bucket bag and super comfortable (and inexpensive) sandals from Target. What I Wore- Summer Simplicity #1What I Wore- Summer Simplicity #2

Teeshirt- Everlane

Skirt- H&M (similar)

Belt- H & M (old)

Shoes- Target

Bag- Old Navy

Necklace- Gift fro a friend (OLD)

Sunnies- Karen Walker

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Parkdale Store Spotlight- Cambie Design

Cambie Design is a one year old design service/textile shop in the Parkdale area and I had NO idea it was there. I have only developed a real interest in home decor and design with the current renovation that we are doing. A decor savvy friend had seen designer/owner Camille Byrne’s beautiful blankets all over her Instagram feed and took me to the store recently.

I was amazed by this tiny, bright and well curated shop filled with blankets, candles, vases and more.

Stacks of blankets filled an entire wall and it was frankly overwhelming. All the blankets are made in Peru of 100% pure alpaca and the colours and patterns were lovely. The blankets were $100 each and my friend bought two for her living room. I decided to wait until I finalize my colour scheme but I will certainly be picking up a couple in the next few months!

Cambie Designs #1

Cambie Designs #2
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Cambie Design      1535A Queen Street West  (416) 516 7132

Website/Instagram/Twitter/Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renovations Week 2- Snags and New Walls

Monday- my bathroom was demolished. Not long soaks in a big tub for a while. Le sigh. We are now a one bathroom household #firstworldproblems. A temporary wall was erected on the third floor so that we can still watch TV up there during the bathroom reno. This is a blessed surprise as we were anticipating being annexed in our bedroom for the next two months watching Netflix on a 13″ screen. It also appears that the millwork (built-in bookshelves, closets and cabinet fronts) are going to be over budget and late.

Tuesday- First real snag in the process. I am told by the contractor that there is an issue with the plumbing positioning and insulation in the third floor bathroom. I call Barbora in a panic and she assures me that she will come by and confer with him and that I should relax. I hear dollars draining from my bank account and I think that relaxing may be a thing of the past as long as this reno is going on.

Wednesday- Ordered all the bathroom fixtures today! Eek! In not so awesome news, when the outside wall was taken down to the bricks there was holes (7 of them) in between the bricks so tuck pointing is needed…. more $$$. I already committed more money to the bathroom insulation…. ugh,

Thursday- Went to Ikea to pick up the sink and faucet for the main floor powder room only to find out that the sink is still available but the $10 brackets to wall mount it have been discontinued. WTF? Ikea- Swedish for “Out of Stock”. Back to the drawing board…

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What I Wore- Flowy Floral

My mum bought me this floral Forever21 kimono for my birthday back in May but it felt too summery to wear until now for some reason.  I love it with these retro sunglasses! I think this outfit would have been better with some cutoffs, but there is always next time! I am on the fence about these sandals. Are they cool or old lady?

(FYI- When it is insanely hot, the short-haired girl’s version of a pony tail is a ton of bobby pins stuck all over her head! I think it looks cute and it sure kept me from looking so sweaty!)

What I Wore- Floaty Floral  #1

What I Wore- Floaty Floral #2

Kimono- Forever21 (similar)

Tank- George via Walmart

Jeans- Old Navy

Shoes- Jeffery Campbell

Sunnies- Forever21

 

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Never be unprepared again! Introducing Mytagalongs!

Have you ever been out for the evening and your bra strap keeps slipping down? Lost the backing off your earring? Something green between your teeth? Yes? Me too. That is why I was thrilled to try out a few products from Mytagalongs, a company dedicated to helping women be organized and prepared for every and any occasion.

I was sent the following products and I must say, I am impressed!

Mytagalongs #1

Armband- Receiving this was a bit of serendipity. I have been trying to walk 10,000 steps a day with my Jawbone UP 24 and on days when I want to go for a long walk without a bag, I have been looking for something to hold my phone, key and some cash. I now have one! It is made of neoprene so it is super comfortable on hot and sticky days.

Fashion Emergency Kit- This little Pop Art themed box is about the size of a tin of mints and it contains items that could easily save your evening. Extra earring backings, a tiny sewing kit, shoe cushions, fashion tape and a bra clip. I have already used the sewing kit and the fashion tape.

The Handywoman’s Kit tool card- This card is the size of a credit card and not much thicker. The card contains a tiny knife, scissors, toothpick, pen and tweezers. I have already used the scissors several times.

As you can see (in a real, unedited shot of the contents of my bag), these products are now staples in my life!

Mytagalongs #2Mytagalongs #3Mytagalongs #4

Check out Mytagalongs for yourself!

** These products were provided to me for review purposes by1milk2sugars PR . All opinions are my own.

What I Wore- Prairie Safari

The weather was beautiful (but hot) when we were in Winnipeg last weekend so it was all about shorts and tank tops with my ever faithful collection off kimonos. I haven’t worn this elephant one much as of yet, but I loved it with these two necklaces. It has a safari vibe that I like!

What I Wore- Prairie Safari #1

Prairie Safari #2

Kimono- F21

Shorts- DKNY

Tank- Victoria’s Secret

Necklace- Biko/Stella & Dot

Shoes- DV by Dolce Vita

We took these photos at The Forks in Winnipeg. Behind me is the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which opens in September and from what I hear, it is incredible.

 

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Big Boy Room Reveal + GIVEAWAY

It has taken me a quite to get Wee Man’s “Big Boy Room” to where I want it and I am still not quite there. We will be painting the room later in the summer and I have a decal that will be added to his artwork wall after that. My little guy has been super comfortable in this room from day one and he was really instrumental in picking out lots of the items! We really wanted the room to have a urban kid vibe (as laid out in this inspiration post),and we decided to get several fun sets of bedding including an amazing rocket print set from Atelier edele (c/o)!

Big Boy Room #1Bookshelf- Ikea/ Prints/Frames- Ikea/Small Frames- Ikea/Superhero Alarm Clock- Target

(He chose these city prints and the super hero clock!)

Big Boy Room #2Gro Clock available from Amazon

Big Boy Room #3Chair- Ikea (similar)/Side Table- Ikea/ Lamp & Shade- Target/Pillow- Dwell/ Racoon Basket- Three Sprouts/Stuffed Elephant- Pottery Barn Kids

Big Boy Room #4Shelves/Baskets- Ikea/ Number Baskets- Ikea/ Darth Vader Nightlight- Pottery Barn (this Superman one is adorable)

Atelier edele Rocket Ship Bedding #1Atelier edele rocket ship bedding #2Atelier edele rocket ship bedding #3

Loving this Rocket ship bedding from Atelier edele? They have generously offered one of my readers a set of their junior bedding!  I love the whimsical designs and the fact that they are made of organic cotton respecting the international Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS)!

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below! (US and Canada only)

 

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Renovations Week 1- Demo and Disintegration

This week we started on some renovations on our house. We are redoing all three bathrooms, converting the third floor into a master suite and doing work throughout the main floor. Needless to say, while not a crazy structural renovation, it is a big undertaking. We enlisted my close friend Barbora Vokac Taylor as our designer and architect and after months of blueprints and conversations and a little hand holding from her, it has begun! I have decided to share this experience with all of you; the good, the bad and the dusty!

Monday of this week marked the first day of demo. By 5pM, the floors of the entire house were covered with particle board to protect the wood and EVERY baseboard and molding was gone from the first floor. Also, our powder room, located under the stairs was GONE- Toilet, sink and tile just… out. The toilet will be reinstalled later in the process so it is sitting in the back yard. Klassy.

We are staying in the house for at least part of the time that they are working so we are basically living in our bedroom and Wee Man’s room right now and have retained one working bathroom. It is kind of like returning to our apartment days, but with a busy three-year old and one pissed off cat. This is going to be a long summer.

Here are some photos:

Renos- Living room chaos

Living Room- looks like Home Depot in there!

Renos- stripped bathroom

Yup- this was a bathroom and will be again…. eventually

Renos- disintegrated tV

We had an old tv sitting in our family room for six years. This is what happened when we removed it. It LITERALLY disintegrated.

Stay tuned for more and I will have better picture next time. I couldn’t find my camera!

What I Wore- Got the Blues

This blue dress was on sale at J Crew when I was in there recently. The price was right (under $60) and the colour was so beautiful and the material thick and flattering but not too hot for a sunny day on the prairies. My parents and I were in Manitoba this past week for a Celebration of Life for my grandparents (my grandmother passed away in March at the age of 97!) It was a beautiful, perfect, peaceful day and we got to see so many family members. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to two people who are so special to me.

 What I Wore- Got the Blues #1 DSCF1555 What I Wore- Got the Blues #3

Dress- J Crew

Kimono- F21 (similar)

Shoes- Material Girl (this years version are cute)

Sunnies- Karen Walker

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