Home is where the soul is
Whencustom home and renovation designer Carla Wolff set out to design her new house three years ago, she didn’t consult the latest trends or pour over glossy architectural magazines. Instead, she studied a book of Asian prayer mats. “Each room, and the house itself, is some proportion of the three-by-six dimension of the prayer mat,” she says of the stunning Marchvale Estates home she shares with her husband Mark.
The journey to this new way of designing with her company, Yellow Designs, started a few years ago after a health scare prompted Carla to reevaluate both her way of life and the way she created living spaces. Her epiphany occurred when she realized the difference between “wants” and “needs.” This enabled her to establish priorities in her life in order to decide what was worthy of her attention and what was not.
“Sugar is a want. Healthy food is a need,” says the designer, who loves cooking nutritious meals in her open-concept kitchen. “Discovering our needs is a process that takes practice so it can become a habit. Our lives are full of habits, and most should be examined to discover whether they are contributing to a healthy lifestyle or not.”
To better understand her own experience and to encourage others to follow a healthier path, Carla wrote a book about her journey to discover the important needs in her life and how she built those needs into lifelong habits.
“My life became very simple when I realized I have a short list of needs,” says the energetic designer, whose list includes fresh air, clean water, healthy
and locally-grown food, outdoor exercise and a good night’s sleep. Meeting these needs helps Carla achieve her highest priority and final goal – which is to do her best work, always.
“Taking care of my other needs allows me to put my best efforts into my work,” she says. “End of the list of needs.”
The beautiful simplicity of this concept is evident from the second you enter the Wolff’s home. The first thing you notice after crossing the threshold is the amazing lack of clutter. Clean lines and warm, calming colours greet you in the airy, open liv ing space. Behind ingeniously hidden doors you’ll find spotlessly organized work and home papers, books, shoes, jackets, and other odds and ends.
“Storage helps to put the things that make us comfortable on a rainy day out of sight on a sunny day,” says the avid organizer. “And a calm and organized predictability contributes to a very peaceful atmosphere.”
Carla’s love of nature is also evident from the moment you step inside, as wide, soaring windows line every wall, affording views of the forested three-acre property. When de
signing for both herself and for clients, she takes the unusual approach of starting with windows rather than walls.
“Abundant natural light contributes to our mental health,” she explains, adding that it also means you can interact with nature so “nature can come right up to the window.”
The advantages of forgoing manicured landscaping in favour of the natural surroundings, can be seen from every room in the house. Regular sightings of deer, coyotes, birds and the many other forest animals that cross through their property are multi-seasonal treats for the Wolffs.
Creatinga space based on what it will be used for, is another important consideration for Carla when designing a home. She says that because a house is such a big investment, you can feel pressured to include certain features for resale value, whether they suit your lifestyle or not. You may feel obligated to have a formal dining room, for example, even though you eat all your meals in the kitchen.
“If you can trade in a few of these ‘norms’ for design features that are really useful for your lifestyle,” she explains, “then you can create a better life experience for yourself, while at the same time protecting or even enhancing your investment.”
One of the ways that Carla has achieved this in her own home is to create a room for her husband’s large collection of musical instruments, as well as to create a house designed for listening to him play: “I wanted to live with music pervading the whole house, so this proportion pretty much established the scale of the structure.”
Carla believes that the things you are passionate about should be incorporated into your home. Whether it’s a love of art, wine collecting, or simply watching movies, finding space for these passions in your house is a way to serve your soul.
As much as Carla enjoys her current home, she is also looking ahead. Her concern for the environment means that sometime in the future she’d like to build a home that is completely off the grid.
But for now, she is busy enjoying living and working in her beautiful, peaceful environment, taking time out to walk along the country roads or to watch the birds fly by her office window. “This ebb and flow of taking care of ourselves and taking care of work that we are completely passionate about is what goes on in these four walls. It is the highest quality of life,” she says. “What could be better?”
this page: The stylish kitchen where Carla creates nutritious meals. facing page: The master bath oozes simplistic luxury.
below: Carla Wolff.
The view from above shows the abundance of natural light. Music is good for the soul. Organic food is a lifestyle choice. Stainless steel is the metal of choice.