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Homeowner Advice Archives - Novell Design Build



Elevate Your Kitchen Cabinets – Advice Featured on Redfin

  • By London Camaclang

We were recently featured by Redfin with some advice for elevating your kitchen cabinets. As the largest feature in most kitchens, cabinetry is always one of our top considerations!

Here was our top tip for homeowners:

“To upgrade your kitchen cabinets, consider requesting all visible end panels match the finish on your door fronts – these are called gable ends. Often millworkers will have a standard flat profile for end panels. The additional cost is worth the added visual interest it brings to the space.”

Novell Design Studio

Our Kitsilano Residence is a great example of these gable end panels in a modern, eclectic home. For this family, the kitchen, dining and gardens were key gathering spaces in their home. We’ve designed these spaces with this in mind, and added details to keep them visually tethered. With gable end panels, and with storage wrapping around the corners of the kitchen, these cabinets maximized space while creating a soft transition between rooms.

Novell Design Build Kitsilano Residence Kitchen and Dining
Kitsilano Residence – Kitchen and Dining Room with Custom Cabinetry

Read the full list of tips on Redfin here:



Vancouver’s Making HOME Project as seen through a Design Build lens

  • By novelladmin

Why Design Build firms are necessary for Vancouver’s gentle densification efforts.

In a bid to help fill the “missing middle” housing gap, the City of Vancouver has announced a new housing initiative, the Making HOME program or, Home Options for Middle-income Earners. This initiative seeks to provide an opportunity for middle-income earners to own a home in Vancouver’s single-detached neighbourhoods. The benefits of this initiative and its challenges are adjacent to those faced by Design Build firms in Vancouver already.

The Making HOME program proposes housing opportunities for middle-income earners and expands the vision for gentle densification beyond the single-family unit.
The Making HOME program proposes housing opportunities for middle-income earners and expands the vision for gentle densification beyond the single-family unit.

This proposal seeks to enable current Vancouver homeowners to create up to four sellable market homes on a single residential lot, as long as up to two additional dwellings are permanently set aside as affordable rental units. The Making HOME program, if endorsed by Council, would surpass all current zoning provisions in Vancouver’s single-family areas for buildable floor space. It is a pilot project to address social, economic and environmental equity, with a new approach to gentle densification.

To make the vision come true, Vancouver is going to need Design Build firms, such as Novell, with experience in both new build construction and major renovations. In order to navigate the complexities of this level of redevelopment, experts in multiple fields will be necessary, including:

  • Designers who can creatively envision a thoughtful and beautiful approach,
  • Architectural Technicians who can understand the building requirements
  • Project coordinators who can navigate the City, and organize trades,
  • and Builders who can direct a renovation and new build simultaneously.

Design Build firms offer the breadth of service necessary to deliver this type of project from start to finish.

Building for the Future with Design Build

1. Starting with INTENT: How are Design Build firms already making affordability and multi-generational living a priority?

As a professional Design Build firm, we’ve seen the effects of the housing market on building demands first hand. Almost all of our projects are custom designed with gentle densification in mind. Multi-generational concerns and housing affordability often informs our project goals.

  • Efforts to create gentle densification in Vancouver has been occurring for years. For instance, laneway houses have expanded our options for density and functionality, and multi-generational planning has been on the rise for years.

The Making HOME project is an extension of these efforts.

  • With the average price of a detached home in East Vancouver being $1.4 million, housing options are becoming increasingly limited in Vancouver. When companies listen to homeowners, the result is homes that are ready to support multiple generations in the years to come.
  • The “missing middle”, referred to in the HOME announcement, are the 80% of potential Vancouver homeowners who cannot access social housing, yet cannot afford the high cost of many of the urban and suburban housing options. The joint income of these households ranges from $60K to $175K. 
  • Accordingly, the Making HOME initiative is responding to the “60 percent of the city that is simply out of reach to average families, couples and those looking to downsize their homes.” – Mayor Stewart, The Globe and Mail

Here is an example drawn by the City of Vancouver as to how five dwelling units could exist on a single-family residential lot.

This is an example of a five dwelling home designed for Making HOME by the City of Vancouver.
Example of a five-dwelling home designed for the Making HOME program.

2. THOUGHTFUL DESIGN leads to meaningful spaces: How can the Design Build process offer intangible value to densified homes?

Expertly crafted spaces facilitate life’s moments: from everyday needs, to work at home spaces or social gathering events. Homebuilding is done best when the process considers what matters most to its inhabitants, and plans for the decades to come.

Thoughful Design Build can make this vision a reality by offering services that would deliver the project in totality; and it all begins by listening to what people care about the most.

  • The Making HOME initiative offers an excitingly feasible opportunity, but we must be wary of having a single-minded approach. Building for building’s sake just won’t do. That being said, the benefits of a successful Making HOME project cannot be ignored! On top of widening access to the housing market, the Making HOME program promotes a walkable Vancouver while providing an alternative to unfettered vertical densification.
  • It’s an opportunity for the younger generations, their friends and families to remain in Vancouver. The program would fight the widening sprawl of Vancouver’s commuters, and/or the dispersal of younger people by sheer virtue of affordability.

3. FULL SERVICES from a one-stop shop required: How would a homeowner begin to undertake such a large project?

It is early days, and much still to be determined. Of those that may be eligible for such a major development, this type of project would undergo a case-by-case permitting and development process. While the City of Vancouver boasts an expedited process for the Making HOME initiative, there is still much to consider and we have seen incredibly slow permitting activity around the Character Merit Program, for example. Interested homeowners should strap in for a long process. Patience will be necessary.

Such a complex project requires experts who can envision the totality of the project, including:

  • intensive custom design for complex dwellings;
  • permitting and development expertise to forge a path for the rest of the industry, and navigate new challenges as they arise;
  • construction expertise for coordinating a major addition, major renovation and new build simultaneously.

For this, Design Build firms with a firm understanding of both custom new build and major renovations will have the full breadth of expertise to offer. As well, Design Build firms are a one-stop-shop that can thread together the details from early concept to final finishing, and remain accountable throughout.

What’s Next?

In reality, not all 67,000 single-family lots in Vancouver would qualify for this program. While 71 percent of Vancouverites want more home choices in single-detached neighbourhoods, only a small percentage of land would be eligible for the Making HOME pilot program. At the moment, it “would not be applied to designated heritage homes, or homes with rental suites within them to avoid any potential of displacing current renters” says HAVAN, our professional association.

Coordinating a pilot program was at the core of last week’s announcement. According to HAVAN, 100 unit pilot and proof of concept could potentially be in place by the second quarter of 2021, with the first shovels hitting the ground in late 2021.

We know, along with others, that the work to stratify a property will be much more complex, time-intensive and expensive than the City implies.

Why Do We Need This Program?

Similar to laneways, this initiative responds to the urgent housing demands and socioeconomic needs of Vancouverites. Efforts to create gentle densification with laneway homes have seen much community support, but perhaps not enough municipal efficiency.

Laneways are beautiful, functional options for densification, but smoother processes must be in place to make it an affordable option. Accordingly, we have high hopes that the Making HOME initiative can bring heightened awareness to the need for thoughtful developments.

Of course, this project is welcome beyond housing and City development. Its benefits include the relationships of these communities to transportation, to economic development, to existing and new amenities.

A six dwelling property won’t suffice for Vancouverites unless it is thoughtfully crafted, and meaningful to its inhabitants.

This can be best delivered by a Design Build team because the tenets for thoughtful design are already, inherently woven into the Design Build process. Vancouver can be a housing leader. We’re ready!



Constructive Comment: Creative ways to transform spaces

  • By novelladmin

Our Principal Designer, Laurel James, talks transforming spaces in The Province with @GVHBA CEO @rdewit


Following Mortensen’s talk, I reached out to Laurel James, principal designer of Novell Design Build, to learn more about trending designs related to this concept.

To begin, I learned that the great-room concept, which has been trending for some time, is spilling over into the bathroom. James said people don’t want to be confined by the traditional toilet, sink and bath combo.

“They want function, but they also the spa-like experience, with the ability to choose how the room is used, creating different experiences for different family members within the singular space.”…

Source: Constructive Comment: Creative ways to transform spaces



Get started on your new home build at the 2018 BC Home + Garden Show

  • By novelladmin

Deciding to build a new home in Vancouver can feel like an overwhelming process. With so many moving parts, it’s hard to know where to start. The BC Home + Garden Show is a great place to connect with the companies who can build your home and start the process. We’ve gathered a few tips of what to consider if you are in the early stages of planning your new build.

Know Your Zone

Vancouver zoning bylaws are complex to say the least. Different zones come with different considerations for your new custom home.  Our first step as a Design Build team is to identify the zone in which the home will be built. You can look up your zone based on your property address on the City of Vancouver website.

Once you find the zone for your property, write it down and bring it with you to the show. Don’t worry about understanding the guidelines or details of your zone. A knowledgable builder will be able to take your zoning information and with a little research, provide you with your options to build new.

Don’t have time to look up your zone before the show? Let us know your address and our team can do a search at our booth.

Look for Design Build

When you are thinking about a new home, you may first think “I need to find a builder”. While of course your builder is an integral part of the process, don’t forget about the design component. Although you can hire one company to design and another to construct, consider the benefits of Design Build. Increased efficiency, effective problem solving and expert collaboration are just some of the advantages of Design Build.

Many companies advertise as “Design Build”, but true Design Build is when both teams exist under a single company. When talking to firms at the show (especially those who advertise as Design Build) – ask them if their designers and builder are all on staff, or is one side subcontracted? That will give you an indication if you are working with a true Design Build team.

If you’re exploring your options to build new in Vancouver, come see us at the 2018 BC Home and Garden Show at booth 513. The show is happening February 21st – 25th at BC Place. A full schedule and discounted tickets can be found by clicking the link below:

buy bc home and garden show tickets online



Take a 360 Tour of one of our Homes in Virtual Reality

  • By novelladmin

virtual reality home tour

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest technology trends, you know that virtual reality (VR) is on the rise. VR is quickly becoming more accessible with affordable hardware and mainstream applications. We all know that VR can be a fun way to escape reality with games, but what about in the home design and build space? It turns out that virtual reality can play a role in helping you envision what’s important to you with your home.

Why Virtual Reality?

When looking for inspiration for your major renovation or new custom home, websites like Houzz and Pinterest are a great resource. They allow you to browse thousands of images for design ideas, but the downside is you rarely get to see an entire home. Getting to truly experience a home from top to bottom can put into your mind the little things – important pieces you might not see captured in static photos. Viewing an entire home also allows you to experience all aspects of the space working together. Of course the best way to do this would be to visit homes in person, which isn’t always an accessible reality. Luckily, the VR world has given us the next best thing. By viewing a home in 360 degrees, you can experience the feeling of visiting a home without making the trip.

Where Can I find a Virtual Reality Home Tour?

Because VR technology is still on the rise, these types of tours aren’t yet very common. That being said, why not ask your builder?  You’ve likely seen lots of static photos of their work (which are a great resource) but ask if they’ve got anything in 360 that can give you a more complete vision of a project. However, keep in mind that this technology is still new, so you may not find a whole suite of VR tours available with every builder.

Novell Design Build’s Project in VR

Here at Novell Design Build we are committed to staying ahead of the curve, so we’ve gotten in on the virtual reality game. Our Kitsilano Residence Rebuild is now available in 360 degrees! You may have caught a peek of this project already at the 2017 Vancouver Fall Home Show where it was available for touring in partnership with the Greater Vancouver Home Builder’s Association. Although VR is typically experienced through a viewer or set of goggles, navigating through the home on a computer or tablet still offers an experience unlike any set of photos!

Click the play button below to view the 360 tour. For the best experience, click the “View Fullscreen” button in the right corner of the viewer.


3D Tour by SeeVirtual



Your Guide to Meeting Builders at the 2017 Vancouver Fall Home Show

  • By novelladmin

Can you believe we are only a week away from the 2017 Vancouver Fall Home Show? Our team has been gearing up for the show for the past couple months, but we shouldn’t be the only ones getting ready! If you are shopping for a design-build team such as ours, keep in mind that not all firms are alike. Every company will have their own specialty or niche offering, so preliminary conversations like the one’s you’ll have at the show are key. Here are a few elements to keep in mind when talking to builders at the show:



Visiting a home show can be overwhelming when there are hundreds of booths competing for your attention.  Take a look at the exhibitor list ahead of time and write down the companies you’d like to visit. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What’s important to you?
    We ask this question with every new project, and it’s never too early to start thinking about it. Consider the experiences you want to have in your new home and know your priorities.
  2. Am I just shopping around for ideas, or am I looking to make a decision soon?
    If you know you are still in the early stages of your project, don’t feel pressured or intimidated by pushy salespeople. The most important thing is that you work with a company you feel comfortable with, so take your time.
  3. Is there any specific information that I feel is important to find out like ballpark budgets or timelines?
    Write down your questions to be sure you don’t forget!

Knowing what you are looking to get out of the show will keep you focused. Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This will ensure a good record to refer back to once you are back home.



Choosing a company to take on a big project like a custom home or major renovation is a big decision. You will be working with this team for months, so make sure your communication styles are a good match.

Ask them to describe their process. Will they be communicating with you in person and via phone regularly, or just over email? If you have a concern and need to get in touch, can they guarantee a window of time to get back to you? If the company answers no, or it doesn’t seem like communication is a priority for them, take that as a warning sign of how they may treat you during your project.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of any large scale project. This is your home, so it is crucial that you are always on the same page as your builder.



You are trusting a builder with your home, something which is very personal. It’s important to vet any company you are considering which includes asking them about their history. Check out examples of their work and ask questions. Your builder should be proud and eager to tell you the story of each and every project.

It’s important to feel a connection with your builder, so be sure to also ask questions about the company and it’s people. Every member of the Novell team will be taking a turn at our booth, so come by and meet us!

The team you choose will be building your story, so have fun with it! No question or idea is too small. It’s the builder’s role to take your priorities and create something you’ll love, so share whatever is on your mind.

If you keep in mind the 3 elements of Goals, Communication and Story while talking with builders, the conversations should flow with ease. There is also a lot to experience at the show outside of visiting vendors. Check out any presentations or workshops that interest you (including from our own Laurel James) and take your time just browsing around. The show should feel like a treat, not a chore, so be sure to take time for yourself to explore everything the show has to offer.

We’ll see you at the 2017 Vancouver Fall Home Show!



Home Renovations You Really Shouldn’t Do Yourself

  • By novelladmin

Home renovations are expensive, which is why many homeowners will attempt to tackle them themselves. Nonetheless, we all know that can be a risky situation

Source: Home Renovations You Really Shouldn’t Do Yourself