Better-designed buildings make people’s lives easier

Tomasz Sztuk of Sztuk Architecture explains why focus on long-term sustainability, efficiency and good detailing pays off

Tomasz Sztuk is owner of Sztuk Architecture.

Tomasz Sztuk
Tomasz Sztuk

Tell me about you and your company.

Sztuk: I’ve been practising architecture in Canada since 1991. Before starting my own firm, Sztuk Architecture Inc., in 2013, I worked in Calgary in capacities ranging from junior architect, to director of design, to principal.

In addition to running my own architectural practice, I also teach design at the Site Planning Studio at the University of Calgary Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.

At Sztuk Architecture, we have the capacity to work on projects valued up to $50 million. We’re proud of our multi-family, commercial, resort and institutional designs, as well as of our broad range of master planning and urban design experiences. For all of our projects, we carefully design the intricate relationships between different components of the project, including the surrounding environments.

At Sztuk, we believe that design matters. Better designed buildings make people’s lives easier. And they also provide a better monetary resale value. We believe that an efficient design process requires open communication with all members of the project team throughout the project duration.

In our work, we focus on long-term sustainability, efficiency and good detailing. Our buildings are designed with the character of the neighbourhood in mind. We love what we do and we love to share this experience and our passion with our clients.

What are the benefits of urban densification and infills?

Sztuk: Infill development influences and revitalizes aging neighbourhoods by transforming the urban built form to a more sustainable one that offers variety in the housing stock.

Infill development is also a powerful tool for accommodating growth by adding density without spending public money on installing new infrastructure and services on undeveloped land.

What are some residential design tips for a dog owner?

Sztuk: Create a pet-friendly zone where your dog can spend most of their time. Locate it somewhere where you will spend time as well, and should ideally have easy access to a dog run or play area. There should be a window or, ideally a glass door so your dog can look outside, for natural light as well as entertainment.

Choose materials that are practical and easy to clean. For flooring, durable and slip-resistant options are best. If you’re going to carpet the area, choose carpet tiles as they’re easy to clean or replace in the event of an accident. Choose a colour/tone that’s close to the colour of your four-legged friend’s fur. If your home has hardwood flooring, choose harder wood species. Also consider a urethane floor coating; it’s an extremely durable finish.

To organize your pet’s paraphernalia, provide storage cabinets. Pull-out bins can be added for food storage and wall hooks for leashes. Within the pet zone, create a dedicated feeding area. To avoid attracting squirrels and birds, it’s best to feed your dog indoors. Add mats to catch crumbs and drips. To minimize pet odours, position food and litter boxes away from kitchen and dining areas. If your dog will use pee pads, consider placing these in a space with an exhaust fan (or add an exhaust fan to the space where they will be kept).

Provide access to an outdoor play area or dog run. If possible, it’s a good idea to set up an outdoor space where your companion can be left unsupervised for short periods of time. To decide where to locate this space, choose and design an area that provides some shade, with a non-irritating surface, away from traffic zones or walkways. Ensure that this space is fully fenced and, ideally, accessible from the indoor pet zone.

Near the entranceway where you will most often take your dog out, create a cleanup station with a large sink and spray handle for quick cleanup. Provide a pet-specific laundry area, or even an entirely separate laundry if possible, to keep your laundry separated from your dog’s.

If they chew your shoes, make sure to set up shoe storage in your entryway that is out of reach.

What are some layout tips to move with style from public to private areas in your home?

Sztuk: The layout of a home is critical to the well-being of its users. The floor plan must achieve a balance of public areas to bring the family together, and private areas to provide quiet spaces and privacy for individuals or couples. Typically, private spaces should be off from the main traffic routes of the home, so that one person’s quiet time is not interrupted by others passing through.

For adults, private spaces are needed for personal conversations, intimacy and romance, difficult conversations and/or quiet, focused activities. Examples include:

  • a home office or hobby room;
  • a den or ‘man cave;’
  • a home gym;
  • his and her bathrooms;
  • small seating areas (indoors and outdoors); 
  • work stations, such as a desk near the kitchen. 

For children, private spaces are needed for entertaining friends, schoolwork, play and sports, and creative pursuits like painting, writing or music. Examples include:

  • a game room;
  • a home theatre;
  • a study or library;
  • an outdoor play area.

For all generations, bedrooms are the most important private spaces in a house; they are the last refuge of a person seeking some peace and quiet. The floor plan should account for a master suite and the appropriate number of bedrooms, with accompanying bathrooms, closets and laundry room.

Soundproofing is a helpful tool for creating privacy and sleep; it can be installed or improved through proper insulation, closely-fitted doors, or acoustical wall and window coverings. Bedrooms for children, due to their earlier bedtimes, should be positioned away from noisy high-traffic areas.

 The ensuite bathroom is quickly gaining importance as a private space, used for relaxation and personal care regimens. Private his/hers bathrooms can allow some much-needed extra-private space, fully customized to each partner’s needs, with high-end features such as a vanity table, heated towel racks, steam shower and in-floor heating.

 Public areas are specific to the lifestyle of the family; how they spend time together and how they choose to entertain. However, gone are the days of the formal sitting room that was only used for guests. Entertaining, for many families, means sharing the family spaces with guests in ease and comfort. Examples of public and semi-public spaces include:

  • a living room;
  • a dining room; 
  • large indoor and outdoor seating areas; 
  • a kitchen (perhaps with breakfast bar or kitchen island for additional seating).

Another public space, the multi-purpose room, is very useful for adding some versatility to the layout of the home. It can be a play area, book club meeting room, project area, holiday scene, guest room, music room, Friday night poker room, craft room, and anything else the family needs it to be.

What are the premium spaces you’d like to consider in your dream home?

Sztuk: Interior spaces/rooms

  • sitting/reading nook in the master bedroom;
  • spa style master bathroom with:
    • usually freestanding luxury bathtub, 
    • walk-in shower with multiple shower heads and steam-room functions, 
    • seating, 
    • soft lighting, and/or 
    • built-in music system.
  • dressing room with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and custom cabinets and storage spaces for clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories;
  • well-equipped gourmet kitchen with appropriately sized pantry and semi-custom- or custom-built cabinets;
  • cinema-style home theatre;
  • games room;
  • study room/home office/library;
  • each room with its own private bathroom;
  • luxurious powder room with plenty of counter space for purses, cosmetics, etc.;
  • sauna;
  • Private gym;
  • well-designed storage space,;
  • an upstairs laundry and ironing room with linen closet space;
  • craft room with storage, and/or mudroom with personalized storage spaces;
  • for pet owners, dog run and dog washing station;
  • wide and inviting front doors with drop zones for keys, sunglasses etc.;
  • Usable-size balconies and decks.

Exterior space/landscaping

  • courtyard or semi-courtyard style outdoor living area with:
    • outdoor kitchen, 
    • built-in barbecue, 
    • bar, 
    • lounge style seating,
    • fireplace.
  • designed landscaping around the property

Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

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