Beyond the surface

The Modern In Magrath-Q&A With Designer Diana Tidswell

The Modern In Magrath-Q&A With Designer Diana Tidswell

Jan 15, 2020

This year, HanStone partnered with blogger and designer Diana Tidswell on a home refresh project. The renovation focused largely on the kitchen and ensuite bathroom of a home that was built in the early 2000s.

Diana’s client was torn early in the process as to whether she should build a new home, or stay in the neighbourhood she loves and renovate. Once she decided to stay in the home and neighbourhood she loved – she officially brought us on board to help create the modern space of her dreams.

We’ve teamed up with Diana not only to help modernize this beautiful but dated home using HanStone Quartz, but to also help answer some common design questions.

Pictured Above: Yorkville 

How do you take a naturally dark space like the kitchen you’re working with here, and brighten it up without the addition of windows?

Diana: There are a few ways we can create the illusion of more light and space without having to add more natural light through windows. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to instantly brighten up a room is by using paint. For this particular project, the existing colour wasn’t a dark one per say but it did have a bit of a muddy feel to it which, paired with the other darker finishes didn’t do the space any favours. In a pinch or on a budget, a coat of white or slightly off-white paint always does the trick! Another simple way is to bring in more light with new fixtures or even just brighter light bulbs! In this kitchen we created the illusion of a brighter more open space through paint, and also by removing some of the ‘bulk’ of the cabinetry. As you can see in the before photos, there were a lot of dark cabinets and by removing the majority of the upper cabinets, we created some space and ‘visual rest’ in the room, allowing the new white walls to pop and creating an overall brighter and more inviting kitchen!

Kitchen “Before”

Creating a space that is the perfect blend of modern yet livable can be difficult to do. How did you strike the right balance between the two for the client?

Diana: As designers it’s our job to find the right balance between form and function. For this project it was important to our client that the overall look be very minimalist and modern while still providing enough practical storage and function for her day-to-day use. This is where very detailed planning plays a very important role.

In the kitchen we made sure to walk through the cabinetry layout and design in great detail, ensuring that we had enough space for all the practical needs of a kitchen. By taking out the corner pantry to modernize the room, we had to make sure to allocate for that lost storage elsewhere. This is why we used tall pantry cabinets along one wall to ensure that we maintained lots of storage. Fortunately for us our client is a minimalist so we were able to remove most of the upper cabinets in favour of open shelves that are styled with items that are used day-to-day. By keeping our millwork simple, it allowed for the standout features such as the quartz countertop from HanStone in the colour Yorkville and the custom iron work shelving to really pop!

In the bathroom we had a bit of a funky configuration to work with. We had to make the most of the space by using the largest vanity possible and by adding additional storage through the use of drywalled cubbies-they look great and are also functional. Lastly, by adding a small quartz ledge above the counter in the colour Angora from HanStone, we’ve added a functional ledge for practical items that now have a better spot so they don’t clutter up the countertop!

Trends lately are pointing towards bolder colours in the modern home – how do you ensure that these bold hues don’t overpower your space?

Diana: The key to working with bold colours is all about balance. There are of course exceptions to every rule but generally speaking, we tend to choose one or two elements that bring in bold colours and balance those with complimentary neutrals. By using the bolder hues more sparingly, they create more impact in how they are used rather than overdoing it where some of the elements that you would want to stand out could get lost.

 What was your favourite room to work on during this project and why?

Diana: This is a tough one! We felt very lucky to be working on this project as our client’s vision aligned with our own styles so perfectly. The renovation portion of the project was heavily focused on the kitchen and bathroom with some small changes throughout other areas on the main floor. Upon completion of the renovation, we’ve been working to style and furnish the main floor and as much as we love decorating and finishing a space, there’s something so rewarding to us about renovating a home and giving a space new life. I think both spaces were so exciting to work on because we knew from the onset that the transformation was going to be so dramatic!

Pictured Above: Bianco Canvas

What are some of the things outside of the home that influence and inspire your design style?

Diana: I find a lot of design inspiration from both travelling (of course!) and by visiting other small businesses such as little boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Travelling anywhere always leads to inspiration when you get away from what’s familiar and experience new cities or countries. I also find that I can’t visit a boutique, cafe, or restaurant without falling in love with at least one element. Perhaps  it’s a unique light fixture, something custom built for the space, or a combination of textiles. Inspiration is all around us and I’m always snapping photos of people, places and things that bring me inspiration.

What are some of the trending requests you get asked about all the time in projects like these?

Diana: Clean lines and simplisticity, as well as open shelving are recurring requests from our clients in their kitchens, bathrooms and throughout their home. Open shelving has been a trend that’s been increasing in popularity over the past few years, and based on our client requests, it doesn’t seem to be stopping! There seems to be a very strong pull towards paring back and taking a more minimalist approach.

When we work on laundry rooms and powder rooms, we always have requests for fun wallpaper and we get to work with a bit more colour. When it comes to the main bathroom and the kitchen, we find the trends are leaning more towards warmer tones, cleaner lines and an overall simpler aesthetic.

What should homeowners keep in mind when selecting a countertop for their kitchen or bathroom?

Diana: Selecting the type of material is where we always start when we work on a renovation or new build project. We ask our clients about their preferences for overall look, if they have a preference for material, and what they’re prepared to take on in terms of maintenance and upkeep. Nine times out of ten we use HanStone Quartz on our projects because we know that we can find the look we want with so many options available as well as the quality and practicality that our clients need for their day to day lives.

 Why did you opt for a quartz countertop instead of other stone surfaces?

Diana: This one was a no brainer for us. Right out of the gate we had a very clear vision for the kitchen and we wanted the ‘marble look’ without marble maintenance so we knew that quartz was going to be our material of choice. We have a few ‘go to’ favourites from HanStone for the marble look without the marble cost and upkeep so that selection was our jumping off point for the whole space which then just carried through into our material selection choice for the bathroom upstairs. 

Pictured Above: Yorkville 

What key pieces or materials in your client’s renovation are you lusting after the most? (hint hint)

Diana: Ooh can I say everything?! haha

In the kitchen I have serious countertop/backsplash envy. I’m such a fan of running the countertop material up the backsplash and the whole back wall with the hood fan makes me swoon! Yorkville from HanStone is my personal favourite quartz colour so getting to use it in such a great application on this project was a dream! I also adore our little tube flush mount lights above the kitchen island.

In the bathroom I’m very envious of the whole vanity situation…. I love the contrast of the warm wood vanity paired with the soft Bianco Canvas HanStone countertop. And for me, adding the little ledge not only adds a very functional element to the room, but I think it’s a unique addition to the space that adds lots of character too!


Pictured Above: Yorkville 

What are some of your top tips for maximizing space and organizing your ensuite?

Diana: If we’re talking about a full renovation (and if budget allows, of course), one of the first things we look at when planning a bathroom is the overall layout. It can be easy to get ‘stuck’ thinking about your space only in the way it’s currently shown, but if you pull back and look at the overall footprint without the existing elements, you can sometimes find ways to switch up the layout or orientation of a room to maximize the space and make the most out of the bathroom. In this space we did just that, there was an awkward corner vanity, a lot of wasted space with the built-in tub and a shower that was too small. By reconfiguring the layout slightly, we could increase the functional use of the room as well as allow the space to feel more open than it did before.

If a full renovation isn’t in the budget, a small investment in some organizational products can really go a long way. We’re big fans of making the most of your space through organization. A good Marie Kondo-ing of your products is always a great place to start, and then make sure that everything has its place. Whether you prefer baskets, organizing trays or little containers, find an organizational system that works for you and stick with it! Most of our projects are not overly large spaces and it’s always our biggest compliment when clients come back to us saying that their rooms are not only beautiful, but more organized and efficient too. Trust us, it can be done!

Bathroom “Before”

How do you ensure that your spaces stay as timeless as possible when re-designing?

Diana: When we think of timeless design in terms of a renovation, the most important place to start is with the quality of materials. Trends come and go and there are so many styles out there that when we design a space for a client who wants their space to have a classic quality to it, we know that the quality of our materials used is going to be the most important. Timeless spaces need to stand the test of time and poor quality materials will only set the stage for the room looking dated and tired. This is why we love working on renovation projects – it gives us the opportunity to build the foundation of a room before worrying about other elements such as furniture, accessories etc. A well-designed space that’s functional and high quality will always have a certain degree of timelessness to it in our opinion. This is why we take so much time and care when we’re picking our finishes such as our flooring, cabinetry and of course, why we use HanStone Quartz so regularly as well. Quality is everything.

About Diana:

Diana is an interor designer, blogger, and partner at Kresswell Interiors based in Edmonton, Alberta. Diana has spent the last 10 years in the design industry working in residential and commercial interior design and project management. Diana started her blog 204 Park as a way to document her love for lifestyle and design and has been able to turn that passion into a creative career she loves. Her design style leans towards eclectic contemporary with a heavy mid century modern influence.