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How to Create Space You Can Thrive In
It was a hot summer afternoon and Klaus Schmidt was standing at the foot of a hill with broken slabs of limestone. It started like any other of his research trips. Once he got there however, he knew something wasn't right. “Within a minute of first seeing it, I knew I had two choices,” Schmidt would later say: “go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here.” What Schmidt came to realize was that what was thought to have been a medieval graveyard would turn out to be the oldest buildings in existence.
“Within a minute of first seeing it, I knew I had two choices, go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here.”
Located in southern Turkey, the Göbekli Tepe is a very intricate structure that was made of more than 200 pillars, weighing up to 10 tonnes each! These pillars were fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the local bedrock. During the second phase of usage, floors of polished lime were added. Schmidt believed that this "cathedral on a hill" was a pilgrimage destination attracting worshippers up to 150 km away.
The Göbekli Tepe had multiple iterations through its lifespan and what was clear is that this magnificent structure wasn't demolished between each iteration. It was built upon and refined over time. Much like this temple, we personally find value in finding ways to build upon what came before us. With the current trend to have the newest and hottest thing on the market, this way of thinking has become much less prevalent.
Finding ways to work with what you have and what you find is really where we believe it all starts.
We know that creating a space you can thrive in means something different to everyone. For some, it the space you create for yourself. It's the space that isn't physical. For others, it's the physical space where you spend your time - be it a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or office. We want to share some of our thoughts to help push this way of thinking and bring back this value.
Working with you to
Transform one room at a time.
What does it mean to create a space I can thrive in? Where do I even start in the process? What do I do if I feel so overwhelmed that I don't know where to start? What if I don't have the money to move forward? THESE ARE ALL VALID QUESTIONS and just a few examples of things that may be floating around in your head. What we want to do here is help your perspective when approaching change. We want to help you create space to thrive so you can thrive in the space you create.
Create a project scope
Setting a scope for your project establishes the parameters for the project and the ultimate goal you hope to achieve. It can also be your thesis for what you are looking to accomplish. I tend to use my morning pages as a way to flush out ideas and create a clear project scope for any ideas or projects rattling around in my head. These stream of consciousness type pages can go on for up to five pages sometimes! The key is to get everything out of your head onto paper and then refine from there. Don't worry about the words being clear or concise, just get those ideas on paper! Once I've done this, I will then create my north star or put another way, my one-liner. Examples can be something like this: "Organize my pantry so I am able to find everything faster and waste less".
Once you've established your target or your north star, it is then important to take inventory. At this early stage in the process, we will only be looking at the literal things that exist in the space you are looking to transform. For the physical space, record all the product that currently exists in this space. For the mental perspective, record everything rattling around in your head that takes up that mental space.
Create a plan
The last step before the magic happens is to create a plan of how you hope to enable the transformation. We've found when you focus on the 90% and not worry about the last 10% that the process is much more approachable. We've used this approach with our home renovation project and its made living through a home renovation project manageable. The same thing goes with creating your plan. At this early stage, don't worry too much about getting everything right. The key to success here is dedicating a specific amount of time regularly and consistently as you work through your project. Start with defining a specific time that you can commit to this project. Focus on a 30 minute block of time at a cadence that works for you, be it daily or weekly. Once you've picked that time and added it to your calendar, download our workbook below.
Download the Workbook
In order to better understand your project, we've developed a workbook to help you walk through the process. It asks probing questions and gets you to think a bit deeper about the transformations you hope to explore.
If you've just completed the workbook, you'll have noticed that we spent time working through a values assessment in order to understand what is important to you beyond your project. It is here you developed your personal and home We believe that by understanding this part of you that you are able to design a space you can thrive in much more confidently than if you were to have jumped right into the design process!
Values represent who you are and what if important in your life. The goal of completing a values assessment is to understand the core elements that shape who you are. We find that when you spend time thinking at this level that you are able to create a design that is sustainable.
Find Your North Star
Finding your North Star is great way to guide your decision-making. Developing areas of focus ensures that you stay on track through the design process. It helps to reveal themes and areas of focus that emerge through your assessment that can carry through the design process. These themes will impact the way in which you interact with these spaces and will guide you as you develop them in a way that aligns with your core values. They will be done in a way to help you thrive.
Once you've established Your North Star, it's time to gather the technical details of the space you are working with. You will want to make sure to capture the dimensions, the floor plan and the functionality requirements. Additionally, you will want to start to think about the needs of this space as well as the 'must-haves' so you can start to think about the systems that need to be established to ensure it fits its needs.
Decode Your Style
Once you've recorded the details of the space you are working with, you will now want to start to think about your style and the style you would like to use in this space. This includes the design style and colours for your space. As we work through this part, we tend to go to reference photos to start dissecting the style. For each image you flag, create a short description of what resonates in each of the photos.
Define Your Skillset
As you jump into any project, it is important to understand what you are capable of doing, what you would like to learn and what you would like to outsource. To determine the skill-sets needed for your project, we will first start with breaking down your skills. We’ve created a legend you can use to reference either of the three skill levels.
Something to Consider
-Living Through a Renovation -
One of the biggest factors that impacts your approach to your project is whether or not you are living through the renovation. If you are living through your room transformation, there are a few things to be aware of throughout the process.
- Setting Expectations -
First off, focus on setting your expectations and frame of mind. When it comes to the time it takes, the transformations ALWAYS take longer when you are living through them. They impact the order of operations as well as your quality of life. It's important to remember the short term pain for the long term gain.
- Getting to 90% -
Focus on the 90%. We generally recommend looking at what it will take to get to the 90% versus the stress when looking at what it would take to get to the 100% mark. That last 10% is always the hardest, especially when you are living in it. It’s also important at this stage to think about the information you’ve revealed above when you think about what you need to thrive through this process.
- Outsource when you can -
Don’t be scared to outsource. Sometimes this may mean moving out while you tackle your project or outsourcing some of the stuff you were hoping to do. It is key to honour the values and factors that contribute to your well being.
Develop a Punch Card
This is your to-do list for the project. We tend to break our to-do lists or our 'punch card' into categories to keep ourselves organized. Going into detail for each category will be important to ensure you don't miss anything through the process. If you are unsure of all the things that go into each of the categories, we are happy to work with you to make sure nothing is missed!
Looking closer your Punch Card
When we approach our punch cards, we will tend to create nested tasks inside each of the categories. This keeps us organized and blocks out tasks as needed.
- Design -
Don’t be scared to put a bit more effort in at this stage and create a few iterations of the space you are working on. Consider working with physical collages with the materials you are considering. Many big box stores have samples you can take or purchase at a low cost so you can bring them into your space to see if they work in your given scenario. Another aspect of the design process is SYSTEMS DESIGN. Streamlining and removing friction from your space is one way to improve how your space functions.
- Scheduling -
We sometimes call this the critical path. For us, this is the best case scenario plan. We always build in a buffer as things always take longer than expected. If you are working by yourself, you have full control. If you are contracting out, be ruthless with your subcontractors. Ask the hard questions and hold them accountable to their timelines. Find out more about how they work and approach the projects they work on and ensure their style of work aligns with what you are looking for.
- Permitting -
If you have chosen to work with a contractor, turn to them to educate yourself but don’t solely rely on them. Most permit offices are more than happy to talk to you about your project and educate you on your responsibilities as a home or business owner. Spend the time to educate yourself to ensure you are in the driving seat for your project!
- Prep the Space -
Start with removing the items from the space you are working in and take inventory. This is a great time to take a hard look at what needs to stay and what can go. When we approach these types of projects, we tend to create three piles. The first are the must-haves, the second is the nice-to-haves and the third is has-to-go. Be ruthless here. Each item should serve a purpose in your life. Once everything is removed, you will then need to prep the space to protect anything you don’t want to get damaged during the demo phase if your project requires demo.
- Demolition -
For us, this is a really fun part of the process as it is the point of no return. Make sure to consider what utilities run through this space and take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Consider all the health hazards that may exist as well and protect yourself as necessary. As you work through the demolition, you will also need to create a plan for waste management and consider the costs associated with disposal.
- Construction -
Once you’ve got to the base, it's now time to turn to your design to see if any rough construction is holding up electrical and plumbing work. Find out from your Electrician and Plumber what they require to complete their rough-in. Tackle those first so you can get your electrical and plumbing rough-ins completed.
- Electrical & Plumbing -
Once you have the bones, it's time to let the subcontractors do their work. Please refer to your local building code and permitting office for specific details to find out what you can and can’t do yourself as well as the steps that are needed to be taken for your project. Don’t hesitate to also lean on your subcontractors through the process to stay informed.
- Build & Finish -
This is where we love to live. Having the freedom to build is so gratifying as you can visually see the fruits of your labour. At this stage, things really start to move quick. For us, we tend to focus on getting to the 90% as it is so much easier to get to the 90% than it is to complete the last 10%. Remember that a slowdown may occur in this last 10% but at the end, it is so worth it!
- Painting -
Don’t skimp here. We’ve found that the premium is worth it 100%. You can usually coat in one pass and the paint goes on so much better. From coverage to overall aesthetics, you pay for what you get. It hides imperfections, it looks great and it saves time.
- Staging -
You’ve done it! Construction is completed. You can now start to bring things into your space. For us, this is a very critical phase in establishing new habits. Before bringing anything into the space, we highly recommend checking out Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up or The Minimalist to learn more about the items that surround you.
Debrief and Iterate
There is one last thing we want to present at this stage. ITERATION. Being open to adaptation and modification to your system and plan is something to remember. This isn’t a one and done process. We tend to think of this stage as the growth stage as things always evolve. For us, we found that being open to change and evolution has enabled some of our best design choices in our own home and this could happen for you too!
At this point, if you've felt empowered and been able to create a plan for your project, congratulations! It's not easy as there are many elements to consider and work into your plan. Now the fun begins.
Still have questions?
Below we've broken down some of the key questions to ask about your project to get you started.
What do I do if after going through this package that I'm still feeling overwhelmed?
I'm not sure how to find contractors I can trust. Where do I look?
Referrals are always a good way to get a subcontractor you can trust. It isn't foolproof but it is a good starting point. Additionally, asking the right questions will help you as well. If you are unsure of the right questions to ask, we are happy to help.
I have many ideas about what I like but I am not sure what I need to do to bring things together. Where do I start?
Having ideas is one of the hardest parts. The fact that you have many ideas sets you apart from many. To bring these ideas, we would love to help you with your vision!
I know the types of things I want for my space but I don't know where to look. Where should I start looking?
Sourcing product is one of the harder parts of the process as you have to balance cost vs reward in bringing your vision to life. If you spend more on one piece, that could mean compromising on another so finding that balance is always the challenge. Regarding specific places to look, we would love to help guide you through this process.
I'm concerned my budget isn't big enough for my project. Do I have any options?
Absolutely! There are many techniques you can use to make a project work within your given budget. We recommend a consultation with one of our designers to see what your options are based on your available budget.
I'm about to start my project but I am feeling overwhelmed. What should I do?
If you are feeling overwhelmed before starting your project, we definitely recommend talking with one of our designers to ensure you are ready to start your project!
I'm half way through my project and am burnt out. What should I do?
Don't worry! We are here to help. If you are halfway through a project and feeling overwhelmed, schedule a call with one of our designers so we can help make sure you can bring your project over the finish line!
I'm in over my head with my project. Where can I turn for help?
Asking for help is never a bad thing! Reach out to one of our designers and we would be happy to work with you.
We are here to help!
We know sometimes that transformational change can seem overwhelming. If you would prefer to go through this process with a helping hand, we would love to hear from you! Whether to have someone to walk through the steps with or complete systems design, we are here for you!
Download the Workbook
We are excited to help you through your journey. If you have any questions at any point, please contact us and we would be happy to work with you on your project.