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REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW

Interview with Principal Interior Designer Gillian Lazanik, Founder and Owner of Affecting Spaces Design Studio from Toronto

The external appearance of a house, landscaping, and its location are very important. But even though we live inside the house, we sometimes ignore the importance of interior design. It is enough to look at the pages of decoration magazines to see the effect of a professional touch. I talked with Interior Designer Gillian Lazanik to understand the process of interior designing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

REAL ESTATE - INTERVIEW

by Meryem Aksoy

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Many of us think that if we go to a store and buy the furniture and accessories we want, we can decorate our living room like photos we see in catalogs. Yes, this is possible for some of us who have this vision and ability, but the majority often need professional support. Interior Designer Gillian Lazanik has been developing interior design projects in different countries for more than 15 years. She communicates with her clients, understands their wishes and designs the project to satisfy them. She selects, applies, and installs the most suitable materials in all kinds of subjects from lighting to doors, furniture to wall colors. As a designer, Gillian Lazanik takes full responsibility and creates a new living space for her clients. I talked with Interior Designer Gillian Lazanik, Founder and Owner of Affecting Spaces Design Studio, to better understand the interior design process and to learn more about the Affecting Spaces Design Studio and its services.

Gillian Lazanik

Gillian, before talking about architecture, I would like to learn more about you. Could you tell us about yourself?

Gillian Lazanik

I’m an artist, entrepreneur and Principal Interior Designer at Affecting Spaces. For over 15 years, our projects have taken me away from my family and Design studio in Toronto, Canada to London, Moscow and beyond. I fundamentally believe that everyone is entitled to good design because it is an essential tool for improving one’s life. My experience is gained by years of operating a number of different types of businesses. I’ve owned a restaurant, published a children’s book and created a design tool to bring great design to everyone, even if they aren’t working with designers. As an industry professional, I’ve shared my knowledge by offering Interior Design advice and industry secrets in content that has been featured on Forbes, House and Home, The Huffington Post, and Houzz.

How did your interest in architecture has begun? What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?

The thing that inspired me to pursue a career in design is that it is ever-changing and that there are always new challenges to embark on. Not only does a career in design guarantee an opportunity to work on something new everyday, it also creates a magical work environment where we watch conceptual designs or a mere sketch of something come to life as a built environment.

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Could you tell us about your educational background and your journey to Affecting Spaces Design Studio?

I actually studied Interior Design in school, after studying sociology and business. But over the years, I’ve worked for other designers and architects and have learned that whether I’m designing an interior, an exterior, or landscape, my duty as a designer is to figure out how to make all the parts come together and work. I rely on a team of people on a daily basis to make projects happen, and the more willing I’ve been to work with others and appreciate their craft, the more beautiful the projects turn out. Affecting Spaces just happened by virtue of having people approach me while I was working at other firms, asking me if I could design spaces for them. Eventually, I left the world of working for others, and ventured out on my own.

Could you tell us about Affecting Spaces Design Studio and your team?

Affecting Spaces is a small, skilled team of interior designers, architects and project managers, based out of Toronto, who create innovative, thoughtful and exclusive designs. Every project is uniquely approached with a focus on aesthetics, functionality, and cost. Because my background is in interior design, there’s a heavy emphasis on creating spaces that cater to how the individual and their family use their space. We love focusing on the specific needs of our clients. When designing a space, it’s not just important that space looks beautiful, it’s not just important that it functions well, it also needs to be a reflection of who the user is.

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

What type of projects does Affecting Spaces Design Studio specialize in?

We primarily specialize in residential design. We work on everything from new builds to powder room designs. Every project should have a designer on it to some degree, even if it’s a front porch. - We do take on a few commercial projects every year.

What kind of services do you offer your customers?

We are a full-service design firm. - That means, we support our clients from inception (conceptual design) all the way through to the end of the build. We design in 3-D so that our clients can see every inch of their space in a 3-D model. This makes it easy for them to approve the designs and sleep at night, knowing what they’ll be getting. We go for permit. We prepare very detailed construction drawings. We tender projects so that our clients get competitive pricing from contractors. We specify every single thing that goes into the space, so that our client know exactly what they’re getting. And finally, we advice both our clients, and our contractors during construction so that the process is as smooth as possible.

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

How could you define the architectural approach of Affecting Spaces Design Studio team?

We certainly have a design aesthetic that is more modern and minimal. But because we work so closely with our clients, each one of our projects winds up being completely unique due to our client’s input. The greatest thing about residential design is that we get to collaborate with individuals who are very passionate about their personal space, and they really drive the design to suit them personally. People are like snowflakes. No two are the same, and nor should two interiors be the same.

What are the advantages of being an award-winning design studio? Could you tell us about awards that Affecting Spaces Design Studio won?

To be honest, we don’t submit our projects to win awards. Our focus is genuinely on providing great designs for individuals no matter what the scope of their project is.

Besides your awards, a lot of your projects have been featured in notable publications. What do you feel when you see your works in magazine pages?

It feels great to have our work featured in notable publications, but again, it’s less about this type of attention. It means so much more to us to have so many of our clients leave amazing reviews about us. If we can turn something like a renovation into a positive experience for others (clients, contractors, engineers, etc), then we know that we’ve done our jobs well. Construction is a very difficult business to be in. There are so many moving parts, and there are so many people involved in a project. If the project runs smoothly, and the client is happy in the end with their home, then we’ve accomplished something spectacular.

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

What is the importance of communication between the architect and the client in the process of developing an architectural project? How do you manage this process?

At the beginning, we always start with a questionnaire asking very pointed questions about how our clients use their current space. We also send many photos for them to comment on. We want to know what they like, what they don’t like and what currently isn’t working for them. Once we have enough information from them, we model their space in 3-D so that they fully understand what their new space will look like. If anything about the design has to change, it’s easier to define exactly what that will be when looking at a 3-D model. It’s impossible to present design from a 2-D plan. Inevitably, what the designer is envisioning within their mind will be different from what the client imagines. It’s important to get everyone on the same page right from the very beginning. We don’t do conceptual design in phases. We show everything right down to the baseboards at that first design presentation.

What are the main steps of interior design projects?

First, we start with Conceptual Design.

We provide a comprehensive design presentation showing our clients every view of what their future space will look like. We present finishes, fixtures and furniture through means of a 3D model that they can see in real time and make changes to as we go.

Next, We do building code analysis and create construction drawings to include structural and other disciplines as required for a permit application. We submit to the city, and ensure that our clients get their permits in a timely manner.

Then, we provide our clients with detailed interior plans, elevations, sections and custom millwork drawings, including lighting, electrical plans and finishes plans, along with a complete spec book indicating all chosen finishes, fixtures, appliances, trims, doors, windows, etc.

We distribute a complete drawing set to multiple reputable contractors for competitive pricing so that they can make an informed decision about which contractor to move forward with.

And finally, we have regular site meetings throughout the construction process to address site conditions, and ensure conformity with the design documents. We're there for our clients throughout the entire process from beginning to end.

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

What are the most important factors that affect project cost?

There are so many factors that can affect the cost of a project: Site conditions, chosen finishes, what’s currently happening with the market, and so on. Today, there are so many affordable, beautiful products out there ranging from washroom vanities to lighting to tiles that will fall within budget. There are more beautiful products accessible to us today than ever before. But, with a construction boom happening within our city, we are seeing the price of construction continues to rise despite the accessibility of affordable products.

What should your clients decide before contacting you? What is your first question in your first meeting with a new client?

Clients can reach out to us at any time. We have a lot of people contact us who have no idea as to what’s involved with a renovation. That’s ok. Part of our responsibility is to educate our potential clients about the process. We will share whatever information we have and try to help people feel comfortable about working with a designer. One of the first things someone can do before deciding to renovate is to determine how much money they honestly want to spend on the renovation.

You have lots of completed and in-progress projects. Which one is your favorite?

Admittedly, it’s very difficult to choose a favourite project. Each project is my favourite when it’s in the design phase. It’s always very exciting starting something new and working through challenges.

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

Affecting Spaces Design Studio

In your opinion, what is the relation between Low Budget - Short Project Time - High Quality? Is it possible to combine all in one project?

Tough question. - I suppose it’s relative. But to put it bluntly, it’s better not to expect all three when going into a construction project.

What is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects?

The best advice I received was from Paul Raff when I was working at Paul Raff Studio. He gave me a job that I believed was outside of my capabilities at the time. I was a young interior designer, and he gave me a design challenge pertaining to the exterior of a building. He told me ‘ You’re a designer. Figure it out.’ And I have taken that with me ever since. Every now and then someone on my team will say ‘It’s not possible.’ I then tell them, ‘You're a designer, figure it out!’.

How can our readers follow Affecting Spaces Design Studio?

We are always posting new projects on our website and on Houzz. I also write a weekly blog about design and construction for renobible.com

What is coming up next for you?

We have just launched a new website called renobible.com - which is an online interior design shop where people can shop for designs and the corresponding construction specs. It’s a project that we embarked on in order to bring great designs to the general public. We know how stressful renovations can be, and we wanted to help make the process easier for everyone. We’re on a mission to make interior design affordable.

Thank you Gillian for your time.

For more information, please click here to visit the website of Affecting Spaces Design Studio