We are growing, and we aren't referring to the inevitable winter weight pack on
Design Shop is pleased to announce the addition of our first natural blonde interior designer, Natasha Bargen!! We scooped up this talented, vintage clothing connoisseur, hotel hopping, kitty lovin, choco eating wo-man + we are beyond thrilled! 
And, her design talent - look out.. Well versed in commercial, residential, furniture + film, set design, she is the perfect addition to our wee team.
Give this girl a warm welcome !!

From left to right... Newbie: Natasha Bargen, Partner in crime 1: Amanda Minuk, Senior Designer: Melanie Dupuis, Partner in crime 2: Debbie Golub #teamawesome #thelittlefirmthatcould #girlsgonewile

From left to right... Newbie: Natasha Bargen, Partner in crime 1: Amanda Minuk, Senior Designer: Melanie Dupuis, Partner in crime 2: Debbie Golub #teamawesome #thelittlefirmthatcould #girlsgonewile

The Design Shop Girls


Some of the most inspiring contemporary spaces take cues from time-honored, traditional design practices. The trick is to blend these conceptual and functional conventions with modern materials and trendy touches to create something new and authentic.

Sitting in a brainstorm session, sipping on our current “brainjuice” of choice (aka Cherry Rose Rooibus by TeALCHEMY… which you absolutely MUST try) we started to discus the idea of the teahouse.  

Teahouses have existed for thousands of years, and are found primarily in Asia and Europe. Hugely popular, and catering to all customs and classes (depending on where you were and what they served) there was once a time when the teahouse was more common than the concept of a restaurant! 

Although the function of the teahouse varies widely depending on the culture, teahouses are basically centers of social interaction where people come to, yes, drink tea and socialize! Both things that Design Shop loves to do! So, we started researching modern teahouse-like spaces, just for the sake of curiosity and inspiration, and we stumbled upon this one…

Tea Mountain, a cafe in Prague, is the product of true interior intuition. By drawing inspiration from a traditional Japanese teahouse, Tea Mountain is a perfect example of balance. Aesthetically, you can’t deny that this is a well thought out space. Just looking at it made us feel instantly calmer.

However, it’s the details that really got us.

The first detail we noticed was the tactile mixture of black plaster, coal, and pieces of straw that line the walls, emulating the clay plasters used inside traditional Japanese teahouses. Stunning! And creative.

Then, we couldn’t help but gawk at the seating, spacing, and shelving. FACT: The layout of a space is just as important as what you put inside that space. By sparsely placing the ash-wood tables and stools (note: stools vs. chairs to connote a distinctly central asian feel), and not cluttering the walls with tightly mounted shelving, the space immediately embraces an open, airy, and calming ambience – which we happen to love. The vaulted ceilings and globe lighting also add to the vastness of the room. A+

Finally, the contemporary anchors, structural and decorative elements not drawn from tradition, really help to create a true sense of balance in the space. For example, the metal finishes along the shelves contrast the raw, earthiness of the wood, and neutrality of the wall colour and slate-like flooring.

Whether you’re a tea drinker or not, wouldn’t you love to spend a little bit of time in this space!?  

With that, we wish you a happy Saturday, and encourage you to take some time today to sip some tea, and consider what traditions inspire your style!

The Design Shop Girls


Today, we’re taking a break from dispensing design tips to talk about something very real and important. The hazards of working with your body.

The thing about being an interior designer is that it’s not all cocktail parties and paint swatches. There’s a lot of real, hard, down-in-the-dirt, nitty-gritty, manicure-ruining, stiletto-heel-breaking, sweat-spewing physical labor involved.

You think we’re kidding? Here’s just one example of how the body is just as much a tool as our measuring tape in this industry:

At our wee statures, just last week we were left to stage a home with what felt like a 1-tonne couch in it, entirely by ourselves. We did like the experts always say to do; plant my feet hip-width apart, bend from the knees, keeping the back straight, and move slowly. SUCCESS! (See below... looks pretty alright, eh?)

couch: EQ3 space: award-winning show-home by Trikor Builders

couch: EQ3
space: award-winning show-home by Trikor Builders

However, the celebration didn’t last long. Not more than a few hours later, the pain began in my lower back, inching up toward my neck, and then somehow wrapping itself around my shoulders. That evening, I had a consult booked that I was really looking forward to, and yet I was rendered completely immobile, with my feet up on the couch, a tea in my hand, and a tiny voice inside my head whispering… “Debbie, youuuu iiiidiot.”

Enter my new all-time favorite product. Like, on the entire planet. It’s called MuscleCare and it comes in an ointment and a roll-on. It’s a topical, all-natural, doctor designed and developed product that was created to eliminate pain, without any risk at all to the user. Best part? Unlike all of the other creams and gels that say they’ll help with pain, and we've tried our fair share (hehe), this one doesn’t have you smelling like a tube of toothpaste all afternoon. In fact, the smell, although minty, was quite fresh and pleasant.

I used the roll-on, and boy did I roll it on. Lower back, shoulders, neck? I covered some good surface area with that thing. Once I felt well enough to get off the couch, I proceeded to do some stretching. Just light stretching, nothing strenuous, and proceeded to hit the showers and gussy up for my meeting.

I have encountered muscle pain before, and I will likely continue to encounter it throughout the course of my career as an interior designer. Whether it’s sitting at a computer all day, getting down on the floor laying out sketches, lifting area rugs to sample the texture, or even catching a midday yoga class to clear my head in between projects, my body will always be apart of what I do. Not unlike a pro-athlete, body-builder, construction professional, or any other kind of professional that relies on the fitness and flexibility of the body, interior designers must take care physically in order to take care of business.

Have a fun, fit, fabulous and pain-free Friday!


The Design Shop Girls



Brand junkies, we are indeed!!

How does a brand influence people?! A loaded question, to say the least, but we are going to attempt to dive right into it.

To begin with, we need to briefly discuss what a brand is. A brand is essentially ones company identity, vision + mission all mushed together. It manifests itself physically, psychologically, visually, acoustically and so on. A strong brand carries consistent messages and can tell a story. It has the ability to tap into your memory formation and make a lasting impression and respectively receive a life time commitment from others. 

Typically, when one thinks about the concept of branding, images of logos or words to tag lines come to mind. Although a logo as is its tag are important components to saying who 'you' are, your brand goes way beyond those layers.  If created and maintained well, a brand will make it's way (and should) into every part of your company's being. It becomes visceral.

So, how does this happen?!

Treat a brand like a thesis statement, the claim you make in the first paragraph you write in a paper. When writing, all the information you gather and research you've done is filtered by the thesis statement. Does it support the message you want to convey? Or, does it negate your thought process? Every time a decision is made, be it how the 'front of the house' of a business, the staff in a hotel, restaurant or retail environment behave and treat clients, should run through the critical filter of the brand identity. Am 'I' formal, poised and accommodating? Or, am 'I' fiesty, casual and good at winging it. Your brand will tell you what you are.

Your service, product or space... Again, does it reinforce and stay in line with your identity,  or does it communicate a different message and confuse your users and customer base? Continuity is the key !!

Design Shop is passionate about branding. We understand and respect the power behind it, but also make it our mission to use it responsibly and educate our clients on all layers of brand we design for them. It's not enough to have it created, one needs to understand what the branded layers mean, how to implement and maintain them so the 'story' isn't lost or miscommunicated.

When working on a commercial space, we deconstruct the company's identity, then translate key messages into the built environment. It is our job to ensure that when your client/customer walks into your space it screams 'you'. We analyze the function of your space down to the most minute of details. How will your customer enter your space? What is that they first see, feel, experience, etc.? Where can we add impact? 

The following is one of our favorite snack branded environments... Love cupcakes (who doesn't) ? Sprinkles Cupcakes is a great example of a company who knows their stuff and who they are! Their brand has successfully been translated it's into every inch of their space. Their interiors are inviting, clean lined, bright and playful. They and their designer ;) perfected the introduction of little details to create large impact, drama and they know how to suck you in and more importantly keep coming back! Their cupcake displays are not only functional, but so visually appealing, they have become almost iconic - like to who they are. Display = Sprinkles Cupcakes... Pretty much carrying the power of a logo.  Sprinkles hasn't missed a beat. Their exterior facade and storefront,  menus, website, stickers, bags and logo all speak their brand language. 

Do you get the message? We do! Come brand with us :) !

Photo by others...

The Design Shop Girls


It's so early in our blogging career and already we feel like product pushers - buuut, we guess that's better than the "other" sort of pusher. Nonetheless, when you see a good thing, you can't help but want to share, gush and pray that a client is on board and invites you to experiment with a finish as provocative as Jamie Beckwith's flooring line. It's that faboo - we swear !!

Design shop often specifies wood in our projects because it brings a natural, warm element to our interior spaces.  However, we are often limited by more traditional formats, like planks, albeit differing in thicknesses, lengths, texture, et.  Don't get us wrong, we constantly work with our vendors and reps to challenge install applications to be "revolutionary" and uber original, but sometimes you need that little something extra special to communicate a stronger design statement.

Beckwith has created The Enigma® flooring collection that redefines hardwood flooring. The collection offers consumers and designers custom wood flooring designs that are like no other. There are 16 patterns that can be installed both on walls and as a flooring surface. You can mix and match colours and patterns, or even use it as an insert detail within a field, more traditional plank floor application.

Quite frankly, we at Design Shop would use it on almost any surface given the opportunity to do so. A bar front, a head board detail, a bulkhead, an "rug" insert, create a ceiling to floor, to wall waterfall detail - you get the picture !!  Check out Jamie's site and you will immediately know why our minds are going wild with ideas...

Also, it is exclusively available here in Winnipeg at the Floor Show on Waverly !!

The Design Shop Girls




Bathrooms on budget with colossal personalities !!

We all have been told repeatedly that the most involved, expensive and pay it forward renovations for the home are the kitchen and bathroom spaces. But what is rarely spoken of, is that if planned creatively and proactively (wink, wink.. hire a seasoned INTERIOR designer), your renovation can stay on track and you can avoid bankruptcy, foreclosure and emptying your wallets !!

So, with the above statement said, How the h*ll do you update said spaces while still infusing massive personality and innovative design moves into your new and improved space !! Brilliant question you / we ask ...

Here are a few steps in the process that will keep you and your designer on track with budget vision and timeline...

1. BUDGET -  TALK ABOUT IT! Don't be afraid to communicate this integral baseline to the entire project. Do your homework. Think hard about your needs (and wishes) for the space. What are your expectations? What's your vision? What is your timeline (are you securing an interior designer at the 11th hour and rushing everything)? Are you satisfied with your current floor plan and layout? Is there anything in the existing space you are open to salvaging? And, on and on.... Don't worry, it's not that daunting of a task and your designer will help facilitate this dialogue... But the end result will help your designer know if your expectations are indeed in line with the budget, or if you are completely out to lunch... Design Shop will say this politely of course .

2. Keep as many mechanical, plumbing and electrical locations in place. Every move of said system can add dollar bills to the final construction costs. Wee moves or slight adjustments are typically not the biggest deal, but a complete reconfigure of the plan WILL add up.

3. Concept - the design story!!  Yeah, yeah... the perceived "hooey hooey" part of the design process, but this is where and when the magic happens with the overall vision of the design (please don't use the word theme - a decorator may be ok with this "term", but an Interior Designer will throw up in their mouth.. Just a heads up!).

The concept behaves like a thesis statement when writing a paper. It filters ideas, decisions and the body, ensuring the overall "story" is consistent and uniquely yours!
When it comes to staying on budget it allows you and your designer to choose the appropriate finishes and materials, fixtures, etc., that are congruent but most importantly we can make decisions about when,  where and how much you can splurge with your selections! There is always a way, you just need to have the right brain power to put this creativity to work.

4. Form should always follow function, specifically in a bathroom space, and one should allow for a variety of tasks to be performed in this multifunctional space. Your designer may ask you seemingly odd questions... ie: (sorry Ben Hopper), do you shave your legs in the shower? Show us how? These question may lead to your designer to suggesting a bench detail or an elongated or segmented alcove in your shower wall. Maybe one alcove storage opening is intended for shampoo and whatnot storage and maybe another segment is perfectly placed for you to prop your foot up to shave your legs!! If you are going custom - truly make it yours.

Enough Design Shop verbage for today... Now it's your turn, let us know what you think of our blog entry. Share, comment or hit the cute little red heart !!

The Design Shop Girls 



How serendipitous to be introducing our blog today, which is Valentines Day!

Why? Because we at Design Shop Inc. absolutely LOVE what we do.  And how many people can actually say that? And, like, really mean it when they say it?

In case you didn’t already know, we’re Amanda Minuk and Debbie Golub, two precocious, ambitious, and sometimes (if you catch us on a bad day) facetious Winnipeg women with an eye for design, and a vision all our own.

We’ve built this business on one core belief, and that’s the importance of balancing accessibility with aesthetic.  Yup, we believe that great design should be available to everyone, at every budget, in every space, every day.

When you think of an interior designer, what comes to mind? Remember “Franck” (played by Martin Short) in Father of The Bride II? With his hoity-toity accent that bared no resemblance to any nationality whatsoever? And his ridiculous outfits? Flamboyant demeanor? Condescending manner?  Well, that’s the opposite of who we are.

Gone are the days of pretentiousness in the industry. Gone are the days of technical speak, and down-talk to clients. We believe that every project should be a true collaboration between designer and client. We believe in an open dialogue at all times. We believe in a healthy combination of tradition and innovation. But most of all, we believe in ourselves. And we believe that every space, no matter the size or scope, deserves to be beautiful.

The name of our blog is Gin + Diamonds. You might be thinking “What? I thought you just said you’re the opposite of pretentious! How much more pretentious can you get!?” Well STOP RIGHT THERE! We said we’re not pretentious, we didn’t say we weren’t fancy. And, see that’s the point, no one said high end always means high cost, and, friends, we’re as high end as they come. Think a Lamborghini for the price of a Camry. A Rolex for the price of a Swatch. Agent Provocateur for the price of Fruit of The Loom. We believe that what we offer is more than just a facelift for your space, what we offer is an upgrade for your lifestyle.

Join us as we embark on this journey through a commercial, residential, and branding wonderland, and visit weekly for tips on quick fixes, complete overhauls, and everything in between.


Until next time,

Debs + Mandy