Monthly Archives: May 2016

Coffee Talk: Erika MacKay of Niche For Design

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I first met Erika MacKay at CoMotion 302 (then Platform 302) just over a year ago. Knowledgeable and well spoken, our brief conversation ended up being not-so brief. It lasted well over an hour. Erika’s company Niche For Design is unlike most interior design firms and I can’t quite put my finger on why. She’s been involved in so many projects throughout the city and beyond (checkout their portfolio) and I wanted to ask her about Niche. I wanted to know more. She’s a trendsetter, an amazing interior designer, and a pleasure to have coffee with. Niche For Design has a bright future ahead. Here’s what she had to say:

What got you into design?

I’ve always been into design. Ever since I was a kid I was drawing floor plans. Eventually I learned about interior design and realized that was the area I was most interested in. I ended up doing a degree in Interior Design at Algonquin College. It’s an industry where you always have to be learning and evolving as a designer and that’s something I’ve always loved.

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Tell me about your company, Niche for design.

I had worked for an architectural firm, for the government, a residential designer and a hotel designer, so I had a really broad range of skills. I really knew what kind of firm I wanted to work in and I felt there were ways to make the process better and more efficient. I wanted to offer services that some other firms weren’t really offering, so that’s when I decided to start Niche and that was in 2012. It was really small. It was just me. And now we are three people, plus lots of trades, contractors, and suppliers on a regular basis.

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What are some of your favourite projects so far?

All of our projects are so different and that’s why I love all of them. The coworking spaces that we worked on were definitely favourites, because they were close to our hearts, since coworking at Platform 302 helped us develop as a company. CoMotion and The Forge were definitely favourites. They were kind of cool. The last year we’ve been doing a lot of office projects. It’s really fascinating to get to know a company and their brand and tailoring the space to their needs as a business.

How do you get to know these companies?

We do a lot of research on their brand and how they want to be viewed. We interview them and go over the details of their space. We also do surveys with their staff too. Often we’ll survey all of the staff members to find out what they need functionally and to get additional ideas from them. For a company to have a space that is actually reflective of their branding and identity is a huge asset. It reinforces the culture they’re trying to build with their staff and it’s a great display for clients when they visit.

What’s the day-to-day life as an Interior Designer?

The programming and launch phases are big day-to-day projects, but they’re enjoyable. There are lots of spreadsheets for organizing the information of our clients. A big part of our time is construction drawings for our clients and ordering furniture. There’s always little glitches that come up, so problem solving and collaboration often happens day-to-day. It’s less glamorous, but I still enjoy it.

What are some of your influences in the design world?

Travel is a big influence for me. I love to observe new cultures and how they use space differently and  I love to learn about their traditional aesthetic. I like to see what’s trending in different areas too. We live in a globalized world, but there are always subtle differences in trends between cultures. It’s also important to pay attention to fashion. They’re pretty closely related. But I’d much rather shop for a sofa than clothing.

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What are some upcoming trends you see?

This neutral palate seems to be holding strong, but I’m seeing clients become bolder with their colours and patterns. Pattern tile is a really big trend that is coming through. So far it’s been neutral too, but we’re starting to see colour there. A lot more clients are looking at durable materials and wanting a better longevity in their products. They’re looking from a sustainable perspective and wanting things that last. Clients are becoming more environmentally conscious about their furniture choses.

What do you bring to the table that sets your apart from others?

I think having the team that I have in place is very important. They all have different skill sets and together we’re really strong. We try to be a lot more flexible. The tradition design process is really rigid, and it isn’t perfect. There has to be a better way, so we try and make the process smoother and easier for everyone. We are open to how the process could work.

Where do you see your firm in 5 years time?

I think we’ll probably have a showroom space. There will be some growth in the works. We’re already growing right now. I’d love to expand the team a bit more and focus on bigger projects that we are trying to obtain. We also want a warehouse space for faster distribution. There’s a lot of improvements that could happen within the process.

What is your favourite thing about Hamilton?

The people are very different. They’re very collaborative, open, and supportive. The architecture is amazing too. So many cool buildings in this city that are waiting for more creative uses. And the food scene in Hamilton is ridiculous. So amazing. There are so many great, unique independent restaurants throughout Hamilton. I don’t think I’ve been to a city where the food scene is like ours. There’s almost no chain restaurants downtown.

 

 

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20 buildings that make Hamilton so great

1) Yeah, I’d say the Lister Block is pretty damn awesome. The white terracotta and brown brick make it look like an edible piece of cake.

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2) The Medical Arts building is a work of art. How awesome are those urns?

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3) Stanley Roscoe’s City Hall. A building too beautiful for bureaucracy.

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4) The brutalist Hamilton Place. A gothic-inspired fortress on the exterior. A visually and acoustically masterful interior.

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5) Treble Hall: A facade that makes you stop and stare. Also, can you say Wine Bar?

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6) The city’s first and best Skyscraper, the Pigott Building. Anybody want to split on a penthouse?

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7) Stelco Tower might be rusty (thanks to stelcoloy), but it is still one badass building.

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8) It might be a copycat. Honestly though, who cares? The Landed Banking and Loan Company Building is one special piece of architecture.

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9) The Right House is more than just alright. It’s allllll right (bad joke).

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10) The Hamilton Public Library Central Branch and The Farmers Market. Books and Food. Concrete and glass. Nuff said.

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11) We have a freaking castle. (Dundurn Castle)

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12) A FREAKING CASTLE.

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13) OH HEY LOOK IT’S ANOTHER CASTLE. (Scottish Rite)

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14) We all have a love/hate for the city’s tallest building, 100 Main.

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15) All white Victoria Hall. A facade that makes you happy.

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16) The Royal Connaught. A lobby suitable for Royalty. We won’t talk about the rest of the development though.

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17) Can we please get this building designated? (The Coppley Building)

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18) The TH&B Go Station: An Art Dec(G)o beauty.

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19) Liuna Station is perfect. Look at the garden. Look at those columns. The curtains inside the halls? Versace.

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20) Let’s just admire this for a second. (Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King)

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A look at the new RBG Rock Garden Visitors Centre

IMG_3357.JPGThe new David Braley and Nancy Gordon Rock Garden Visitors Centre is ready just in time for spring.

The building is a grand gesture, inflecting North towards Aldershot. Its leaf-shaped roof is anything but ordinary, as it swells towards the gardens beyond.

Not only is the building noticeable, so is its entryway. Swooping, welcoming, the entrance is easily navigable. Even with it’s looping drive and expansive grass, which will surely attract Canadian Geese by the flock. Landscape architect Janet Rosenberg curates just a taste of what’s to come.

IMG_3358.JPGWalking towards the entrance of the new Visitors Centre is when the immensity of the building is first felt. Designed by Toronto firm CS&P Architects, there is a touch of Eero Saarinen’s modern influence in its curving imagery.

The front of the building bends in a crescent shape, flanked by small ponds, with feature walls clad in stone. There’s a sense of motion to the building. It’s non-static. The leaf-like hyperbolic paraboloid roof lifts up like the wings of a bird to a maximum height of 26 feet.

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IMG_3334.JPGThe vistas from inside the main event room overlook the newly landscaped gardens below and Princess Point beyond. Illuminated glulam beams of Douglas fir line the ceiling like the veins of a leaf. The steel struts, just outside the windows, like trees in a forest. The allusion to nature blends the centre with its surroundings through subtle gestures of crafted symbolism.

IMG_3315.JPGThe building includes offices, event space, public washrooms, and a café. A patio connected to the café is located just outside of the building, a romantic setting to enjoy a drink and overlook the beauty of this man-made paradise. There is also a courtyard for weddings and events, surrounded by walls of limestone, on the opposite end of the building.

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At the backend, or bug end, of the building steel struts like angled stilts silently hold the roof up as if it’s weightless. The edge of the roof projects beyond the doors, dipping with a chain downspout, which would give the impression of droplets from a leaf during rainfall.

The new gardens are another story. Serene. Quiet. Beautiful. They are a paradise, an oasis, and an escape from the city beyond. It’s like stepping into a foreign land, beautifully landscaped to feed the imagination with nature as poetic inspiration. Words don’t do it justice.

See this new $20 million rejuvenation project for yourself on May 20th, when the doors open to the public. It’s worth the visit.

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