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Homeowner Advice Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Novell Design Build



4 Tips to Keep in Mind During Your First Meeting with a Design Contractor

  • By novelladmin

Purchasing your dream home is a huge stepping stone and a goal for many people. However, not all dream home come with the specifics that you would want whi

Source: 4 Tips to Keep in Mind During Your First Meeting with a Design Contractor



The First Residential Rainwater Cistern In The City of Burnaby

  • By novelladmin



Todays rain is a much-needed break from many people. Between the devastating wildfire conditions and the extraordinary dry summer, BC has experienced some of the harshest water restrictions we’ve seen in over a decade.  Yet we live in a rainforest – surely we should be able to capture enough rainwater through the year to hold us over when it’s dry.  Our 3 local reservoirs, Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam are reported to be at 66% of their normal levels and so the challenge seems to be capacity, with a rapidly growing Metro Vancouver population and our thirst for nature’s resource we need to find solutions.

Rain barrels are becoming a more common inclusion in our projects.  We’re designing homes with rainwater collection in mind, and recently we are proud to have designed and installed the first residential rainwater cistern in the City of Burnaby, and we are really excited about it.  

The homeowners came to us with an interest for alternative energy and water management solutions, and together we planned the undertaking of a rainwater capture system into an underground cistern.  They are now able to use rainwater to irrigate their yard, wash the car, and even flush their toilets.


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Rainwater is collected from the roof, travels through a 3-stage gutter filtration system; gutter grates, V-shape funnel system & downspout catch basin. From here it travels along underground channels towards the cistern on a downward slope. As the water enters the system it goes through an internal filter, designed for optimum cleaning performance with maximum water yield and into the 1700 gallon tank; which is completely buried except for a lockable manhole. There are different sizes of tanks to choose from depending on your needs.

In the house’s mechanical room the central control unit cleverly provides a switch between the harvested rainwater or city supply therefore never leaving the household without the water it needs. The city water and rainwater are strictly isolated from each other at all times, even in the event of a mechanical failure the two sources can’t meet; so there is no chance of cross contamination. This is a mandatory requirement stipulated by the City.


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Photographer Ivelina Blagoeva is able to see the artistic potential that’s hidden within ordinary water droplets.



If you were going to talk to 3/4 of the world and tell them you fill your toilets with drinking water, they would think you were crazy.  Living in a rainforest brings us a bounty of high quality water throughout much of the year – it only makes sense to capture it and be smart with this resource.  Using a rainwater cistern rather than fresh water for secondary needs contributes to ensuring we have enough water for the projected growth of the region and for our future generations.

From a short-term financial perspective, a cistern like the one we installed in Burnaby would cost approximately 20-25k depending on your needs. It can be a considerable investment for some households, but it’s also worth considering that more and more municipalities are making the move to consumption-based water billing.

Even under Stage Four water restrictions, the use of rainwater is unrestricted and so allows you to continue watering and maintaining your garden…….there are no #grassholes at our Burnaby Residence!



Interested in whether or not a Cistern makes sense for you?  
Thinking of designing & building your home?
Contact us today.



5 Reasons to Hire a Designer

  • By Tudor

For as long as there have been houses to build or renovate this question has always come up.  Why hire a designer?

The shortest answer is specialized knowledge.  Like any trained professional, a designer brings to a project a set of skills that have been acquired over years of education and practice.  A designer brings a project into focus, illuminating the path between constraints, and highlighting the opportunities within.

Below are 5 reasons why you should hire a designer.



1. Mistakes cost time and money

Hiring and allowing a designer to space plan, create and problem solve, mitigates the probability that costly problems will occur.  They understand that what is planned and drawn on paper carry code, life safety, maintenance and structural implications.  A designer speaks the language of those that are building, and is up to date on the requirements and constraints by authorities having jurisdiction, such as the municipality in which the project exists.  An extensive renovation or new build takes time even with the help of a professional.  But with a DIY approach, anticipate extra delays, unexpected costs and lengthy frustrations.


2. Space planning and thoughtful design is important

Although designers are trained to do much more than just plan for spaces, it’s important not to discount the impact a thoughtfully designed floorplan can have.  Many people don’t realize how psychologically linked we are to our homes.  How we want to experience and use our homes are based on myriad details.  A designer is able to tap into your wants and desired living experiences. They can implement practical planning for spaces that can expand, contract, and evolve over time.

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3. Creating beauty feels good

A designer is programmed to create beauty in the built environment that is sensitive to proportions, balance, rhythm and composition.  Design often gets entangled with style and style is precarious.  Great design considers the shelf-life of an idea and strives to transcend beyond what is current and into timeless appeal.  A designer helps you discover what aesthetic risks you are comfortable with, and is trained to explore expressions that will enhance the way you experience your home.  This allows you to emotionally connect with your surroundings in a meaningful way.


4. Building codes and city regulations can be a nightmare

Many prospective clients don’t initially realize that their municipality can sometimes stand between them and their dream home. City regulations can be strict and if a homeowner has little experience or knowledge of their local regulations, they may experience significant delays when submitting design drawings.  Naturally, a designer is able to navigate these rules.  Building codes are also always changing as are the various materials and assemblies allowed.

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5. Not all materials or products are created equal

A designer will know which particular materials and products are appropriate to use and when.  Selections by a designer consider attributes such as content, origin, aesthetics, life cycle costs, installation ease, finishing options, maintenance and performance.  Environmental conditions like humidity, light and acoustics can also play a part in the decision process.  Designers often have access to new products and materials, and ones that may not be readily available to the public.  With a purchasing network at their fingertips, a designer can shop, compare and specify solutions far more expertly and efficiently.


Hire a designer and start your custom home build today.

Connect with one of Novell Design Build’s designers here.



Funky Reupholstery

  • By Tudor

Not everyone is willing to take a risk when it comes to decor. What you put in your home is inevitably an extension of your personality. Maybe you’re a fan of clean lines and subdued tones. Or maybe you need your home to reflect your vibrant personality. But how do you incorporate these bold aesthetics without creating a space that’s garish and off-putting (and on budget)? Now, we know what you’re probably thinking: ‘Reupholstery can be just as expensive as buying new furniture!’ It can be–but not if you do it yourself. If you’re willing to devote the energy to refreshing an old piece of furniture, do-it-yourself reupholstery can be a fun and rewarding process. We’ll show you a few projects that caught our eye and give you some tips for creating the perfect funky space.

Be Bold

Take traditional or outdated upholstery by choosing fabrics that are eye-catching. Experiment with colours and don’t be afraid of them clashing–if you approach the design of your space with a predetermined intent, it will show.


A home office is the perfect setting for this striking chair. Use it as a focal point or combine it with some quirky artwork to bring a sense of vibrancy to the space.


This transformation shows a very modern interpretation of the chair’s old upholstery.

Embrace Contrast

Use contrast as a way to enliven a space and add personality. Experiment with contrasting colours and styles or take inspiration from different design aesthetics. Pair a reupholstered French provincial loveseat with a sleek acrylic side table. By incorporating contrast, you create individuality and give your space a ‘curated’ feel.


Colours and patterns add wild contrast.



Experiment by contrasting traditional, old-word aesthetics with modern lines. This reupholstered and repainted armchair’s intricate detailing blends well with the knobby textures of the table lamp.

Combine Textures

When reupholstering a chair or loveseat, the feel of a fabric is just as important as its colour and design. Consider textured fabrics as a way of adding visual interest. For example, a chair reupholstered in black leather works well with a furry, chunky throw.


This chair’s backing creates visual interest and compliments the interior upholstery.


An even cheaper alternative to reupholstering your piece is to swaddle it in a furry or textured cover. This has the dual effect of creating textural interest and refreshing your furniture.

As with all refurbishments, make sure that the thing you’re refurbishing is still in useable condition. Dents and scratches in a chair frame aren’t a big deal–those can be fixed–but be wary of structural damage that can compromise the integrity of a piece. Reupholstering an old piece is an investment, and generally, the golden rule is that older furniture is better. You can be sure that chairs and couches that were crafted 40 or 50 years are solid wood–some may even be handcrafted. These pieces have stood the test of time, so if they haven’t thrown in the towel yet, it’s safe to assume they’ll last you for more years to come.

For more reupholstery inspiration and links to tutorials, check out our Pinterest board!

Follow Novell Design Build’s board Reupholstery on Pinterest.
Also, for fans of funky furniture and decor, read up on this home that combines old-world feel with modern aesthetics.



Thoughtful Home Design: Natural Light for Healthier Living

  • By Tudor

When most people think of skylights, the image that usually springs to mind is one of a leaky square hole in the ceiling that lets out more air than it keeps inside.  But what if we were to tell you that skylights can not only look good but they can also help increase energy efficiency, reduce electricity costs, and encourage passive heating and cooling?  And not just that, but that skylights can also contribute to healthier living? Read on!

A properly installed skylight or roof window (defined as a skylight that is within reach) can help reduce heat loss, which is necessary in winter months.  During the same season, shorter days mean less light, so a skylight can help provide increased daylighting before the sun goes down.  Naturally, increasing the amount of natural light a space receives means lowering your reliance on artificial lighting, helping to keep those electricity bills down.


Roof windows provide daylighting during winter months. Source: Vermont Integrated Architecture

From a design perspective, experimenting with skylight orientation and architectural details can produce dramatic lighting and shadowing effects.

Actual-Size Architecture

Architectural detailing can create dramatic shadowing effects. Source: Actual-Size Architecture

Robson Rak Architects

Source: Robson Rak Architects

Passive solar gain can be a double-edged sword, but if orientation and exposure are carefully considered, skylights and roof windows can help to warm spaces in winter.  For homeowners looking to reduce heating costs in the winter, consider a south-facing skylight.  Any rooms with south-facing skylights should be protected during the summer through the use of shades.  Operable skylights can help facilitate passive ventilation by allowing hot air to escape as it rises. This helps keep homes cool during the summer and reduce reliance on artificial cooling.

In addition to daylighting, roof windows can also provide ventilation. Source: Joel Gross Architectural & Residential Photography

In addition to daylighting, roof windows can also provide ventilation. Source: Joel Gross Architectural & Residential Photography

Source: Velux

Source: Velux

Natural light can be used to illuminate spaces that are either dark or require privacy, such as bathrooms.  Solar tubes or sun tunnels are an inexpensive and effective option to consider in these cases.  These cylindrical skylights use internal mirrors to reflect sunlight into a home. Rooms that make great use of solar tubes are closets, bathrooms, narrow hallways, laundry rooms, offices, and studios.

Solar tubes (also known as sun tunnels) can be used to brighten up dark spaces, like offices. Source: Velux

Solar tubes (also known as sun tunnels) can be used to brighten up dark spaces, like offices. Source: Velux

Because of the need for natural light, studios also benefit from the installation of solar tubes. Source: Velux

Because of the need for natural light, studios also benefit from the installation of solar tubes. Source: Velux

In addition to all of the measurable benefits of using skylights in your home, using natural light to brighten up spaces makes for healthier living. An increased exposure to daylight can lead to better mental health for family members, especially during short winter days. Issue like Seasonal Affective Disorder affect many people, and while there isn’t much we can do to make winter shorter, we can make thoughtful home design decisions to increase the amount of natural light in our homes.




Living Small in Metro Vancouver

  • By Tudor

Living Small and Design for Small Spaces

Living small can be a challenge in Metro Vancouver. Here are some tips and tricks.

As part of the GVHBA Spring Home Renovation Seminar, Laurel, director and principal designer at Novell, conducted a presentation on living small and how to thoughtfully design a small space. We’ve dissected our presentation and compiled some of the juicy details for your perusing pleasure. You can view the entire Prezi presentation here. For more information on the projects featured, click on the thumbnails.

Create a beautiful path to a beautiful home

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A shipping container becomes an eye-catching home that demonstrates excellent landscape design. Source: Architizer










 Organize your desired experiences

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Colour is used to delineate the entryway and storage spaces in this home in Mexico. This design characteristic also separates the living and dining areas from the bedrooms. Source: Dezeen. 

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The floor plan of this 581sf home cleverly separates areas meant for entertaining and dining from private spaces. Source: Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects.

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This home’s design creates a psychological separation between areas used to entertain company and areas private to the homeowner. The plan also segregates the kitchen so as so facilitate undisturbed preparation of meals. Source: Slade Architects.












 Design with flexibility

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A 420sf apartment makes the most of its available space using convertible features and flexible living solutions. Source: Architizer

living small

Using tracks, the far wall of this apartment slides to reveal extra sleeping space. A murphy bed in the living area adds a third sleeping area. Source: Architizer

living small

Convertible space allows this small home to accommodate large parties, so entertaining is a breeze. Source: Architizer

living small

When you think of convertible features, outdoor spaces might not immediately come to mind. In this photo, a home in Australia uses a movable roof to create additional living space. Source: ArchDaily




















Be clever with storage

living small

A staircase is a great way to put unused space to work. In this 600sf London home, the space underneath the stairs acts as its main storage space. Source: Dwell

living small

This London home is a great example of how a small space doesn’t mean compromising on lifestyle. The owners’ bikes are neatly stored beneath the stairs. Source: Dwell











 Hide what you don’t want to see

living small

Believe it or not, this is a fully equipped kitchen. But what’s missing here? Source: Contemporist

living small

Built-ins are a clever way to hide visual clutter. In this photo, movable panels hide shelves and appliances and instantly convert this minimal space into a functional kitchen. Source: Contemporist











 Use height for more storage solutions

living small

In this small apartment, vertical space as well as a staircase is doing double duty as storage space. Source: Architizer

living small

Our very own laneway house uses a 12-foot tall space as storage for our clients CD collection.










 Go big or go home

living small

Less space means your dollar goes further. Have fun with your home using bold accents and fixtures. Source: Dwell

living small

A smaller kitchen means choosing high quality finishes like marble won’t break the bank. Source: Canadian House and Home











For more small space inspiration, check out our newly completed (and very first) laneway house! You can also vote for it as part of Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool Contest 2014.




Thoughtful Home Design: The Basics of Geothermal

  • By Tudor

Geothermal heating and cooling uses the Earth to keep your home comfortable all year round.

While our climate is among the mildest in Canada, heating and cooling a home is still a concern for many homeowners. The cost of utilities has always been on the minds of homeowners, but now, the environmental impact of conventional heating and cooling systems is also a concern. Using the Earth as a way to regulate home temperature is now a viable way to address both of these issues. Commonly referred to as geothermal heating and cooling, the process of using the Earth’s temperature to affect a home’s temperature is done through the use of a underground pipes and a temperature exchanger. So how does it work?

Underground, the temperature isn’t easily affected by weather and sunlight so it remains constant all year round.  An exchanger (also known as a heat pump) is what allows a home to take advantage of the difference between the underground and the open-air temperatures. Pipes (known as ground loops) connected to the exchanger and containing liquid are sunk into the ground where they passively take on the temperature of their surroundings. The exchanger tempers the air with a conventional system to be distributed throughout a home.


An exchanger (or heat pump) facilitates geothermal heating and cooling. Image source:


A geothermal system can help to both heat and cool a home. During hotter months, the open-air temperate is warmer than the underground temperature. The temperature exchanger is then able to transfer this cooler air into the home’s system and helps keep its internal temperature at a comfortable level.

There are major benefits to having a geothermal system in a home. The cost benefits are very apparent over the long term. A geothermal system is initially expensive to install but the reduction of electricity bills makes it economically viable. By not solely relying on electric heaters or gas furnaces, a home equipped with an eco-friendly geothermal system will also generate less greenhouse gas.

We love nurturing healthy living environments. Combine this with passive planning techniques, like cross ventilation, and you have taken quite a burden off your home’s mechanical system.



Thoughtful Home Design: 4,000 Years of Light Well Magic

  • By Tudor

A light well is an ancient technology that does the simplest thing: It provides us with natural light.

Everyone enjoys sunlight. There are numerous studies that link the amount of daylight we receive to mental and physical health. There’s also no denying that a sun-drenched studio or kitchen just look really darn good. So if natural light is so important for our homes, how do we design for it in a thoughtful way? Light wells are an effective way to capture light and distribute it throughout a room, atrium or even an entire home.

The history of light wells dates back thousands of years to the Minoans of Ancient Greece, who many historians believe were some of the first innovators of light wells. The Minoan city and palace of Knossos, first built in 1900 BCE and then re-built after burning down in 1700 BCE, is considered to exemplify classic Minoan architecture. Archeological findings have documented the use of light wells in this structure.  The circular opening (known as an oculus) in the ceiling of the Roman Pantheon is another example of a light well—this particular one providing both light and ventilation.

Even in its contemporary form, a light well provides a building with the same benefits it did for the Romans and Ancient Greeks. Most modern light wells are simply a vertical volume with an angled, stepped or sloped opening at the top to let light enter.

We like when a light well, clerestory window or skylight can pull off the trick of bringing daylight into a room that wouldn’t otherwise naturally benefit from window exposure, such as this bathroom. Light wells can be integrated into building design in an infinite number of ways depending on the vision, needs and desired experience of the space. Check out Renzo Piano’s expansion to the High Museum in Atlanta, GA., where he sculpts the entire building shell to facilitate light well magic.

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‘Minimalist House’ by Shinichi Ogawa & Associates

light well

‘Hornstein Residence’ by Design Platform LLC

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‘Green Edge House’ by mA-style Architects

Because of their high reflectivity, materials such as brick and aluminum paneling will increase the effectiveness of a light well. A white finish will reflect all of the colours of the visible light spectrum to the eyes. That full spectrum light from the sun is what brings us mental and physical wellness.

So what other benefits do light wells bring a homeowner? Less reliance on artificial light can cut down on electricity bills. Light wells can also serve a secondary purpose in naturally ventilating spaces.