When you drive or walk around your neighborhood, chances are you will see a lot of new condo buildings going up or maybe a lot of notice of development for future buildings. There is a lot of pressure out there for municipalities to increase home availability in Canada and to do that, they need to build. And to get the most out of a lot of land, they have to build up. Hello condo buildings.
In my area, it feels like every corner there is a notice of development. These notices talk about 27 story buildings, hundreds of new units, modern designs and business opportunities. But that means a whole lot of concrete and towering concrete.
I will say, just because a building is new it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be designed in an ultra-modern, minimalist style – with concrete floors and ceilings, glass or white walls, stone countertops and lots of hard surfaces – although you will probably see more of this than not in a new building. Plus, any personal outdoor space will be limited and will probably be more of the same materials.
For some, a minimalist modern design gives them peace and is their ideal esthetic. New condo buildings usually speak to people with this style esthetic by default. For others, this design style is cold and sterile and can give this person a sense of depression.
But if you are the latter, or somewhere in between, you don’t have to run away from these new-build opportunities. With a couple of design tweaks, we can make this modern concrete space feel cozy and homey by playing off of your mind’s subconscious senses.
Let’s start with the most obvious – add colour. When a space feels cold (and the actual temperature that’s cool) it is usually because it looks cold. The Mind associates colours like white, blue, purple and black to be cold colours. Temperature-like cold. These colour also reflect a brighter, cooler and cleaner colour of light back to the eye. So, when you have these colours in your space, your Mind reads them as they appear, and your body react to that feeling.
To make a space feel cozy (also associated with warmth), you want to use warmer colour tones on your walls, in finishes and through textiles. Warm colours are your reds, yellows, oranges, green and browns. I know these colours aren’t everyone’s style, especially if you are the inbetweener, but you don’t have to use these colour literally to get the same impact. No, you don’t have to go Crayola Red or sunshine yellow to warm up your space. You can still keep a neutral and even the ever so popular grey colour palate in your home just make sure the undertone of that neutral colour has one of these warm hues in it to warm it up. The options are incredible.
Another colour tip, flood your room with warm temperature lighting. Choose lighting with colour temperatures 3000K/3500K. It’ll omit a yellow hue light which will make the space feel, you guessed it, warm and cozy.
Another way to cozy-up your space is to add wood finishes or wood accents. For one, wood, naturally, is in the warm colour family (your browns). I don’t think I need to go into that again…see above. But secondly, wood is considered a soft material so it will also absorb some environmental noises.
When a room has a lot of hard surfaces (concrete, metal, stone etc) sound vibrations will bounce off these materials and around the room. In most cases, you won’t notice the extra noise, but your Mind will, subconsciously. Noise and chaos aren’t elements of a cozy, warm environment. By adding soft materials to absorb day-to-day noise, you’ll calm the energy in the room.
Adding wood to your space can be as simple as putting up some wood shelves to your walls or wood wall units. If you have able, do a butcherblock countertop on your island instead of stone. And choose wood floors over concrete. Even if you do a blonde wood finish (light, almost white), that little bit of nature will change the feeling of the room. Remember, the smallest touches go a long way.
Like wood, textiles (fabrics) are also a soft material and will have a similar effect with sound absorption. But textiles also have a visual softness that, when added to a space, softens the overall feel.
To your Mind, smooth and soft textures are associated with comfort. So, no surprise that when you use these in your home, you Mind correlates that with being in a comfy environment.
Layering in textiles – rugs, upholstered chairs and couches, throw pillows and blankets, wall art (canvas) and even wallpaper – will soften the feel of the space, creating that cozy feel you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to layer these textiles. Multiple throw pillows on the couch, even using more than one area rug, laying them. That’s your cozy environment developing.
Add Life (even if it is fake)
To cozy up a space add some greenery – flowers, ferns, herbs – yes even fake ones.
There’s a stigma that is imbedded in our minds – nature = life | concrete = death. I’m not sure where this came from, might have something to do with marketing campaigns around war and environmental issues but wherever it came from, it generates a strong emotion in our Mind.
All thing associated with death is uncomfortable where things associated with life is a little more comfortable, psychologically. So, it is no surprise that when surrounded by concrete, most people have a reaction of being uncomfortable. It’s also no surprise that when you add life, or plants, into even a typically uncomfortable environment the mood changes. Plus, don’t forget, the colours found in plants are also those on the warm side of the colour wheel. Coincidence?
I have a feeling that we are going to see a lot of new-build residences in Canada over the next few years. The reality of that, the default design style of these builds will lean towards more modern city – single-family home or condominiums. It simply appeals to a larger group of buyers.
But whether you are buying or renting, just remember, you don’t have to get too hung up on overall design esthetic. With a few small (and relatively inexpensive) changes, you can make any space your own. Plus, lets be real. Ultra-modern spaces are basically a blank canvas for you. Have fun with it and don’t forget about the outside spaces.