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Designing For Reality with a Critical Eye: Big Brother is Watching You

One of my favorite things about the ever ridiculous slew of reality TV shows is that we are inundated with fresh new houses and sets that come along with each new season. For me that is half the enjoyment! Christine and I indulge in our shared guilty pleasure of watching Big Brother and talk shop about the great house they get to live in and maybe a bit of game haha.

The second season of Big Brother Canada has recently wrapped up and we figured why not talk about our most loved and hated features of the Big Brother Canada house.

One of my favorite features of the BB Canada house this season was the lighting in the group bedroom. There were so many different layers, and that in my opinion, makes the most successful lit spaces. I love the use of the white hanging pendant fixtures. They almost seem like low hanging clouds. It also lowers the look of the ceiling which is open to the ducting above. This makes the open “set” appear more residential and homey. The use of the recessed linear wall lighting as bed side lighting is great for both task lighting at the bed and ambient lighting for the entire room and is a very cool design feature to boot.

In what feels like the very same sentence of one of my favorite features I am going to explain an aversion I have to the very same. I love the use of the hanging fixtures in the bedroom. One thing I dislike the most about showhomes, or the Big Brother set for example is reusing the same light fixture over and over. I understand wanting continuity in the space but that can be achieved without using the same fixture in multiple locations. In my opinion it takes away the feature when the same fixture in different sizes or formats. You can achieve continuity through the same type of glass, metal finish or shape, not always from the same line… Just something to keep in mind for your next project!

My nick-name around the office is the “Bathroom Queen” so I obviously have some opinions on the bathrooms… Probably my favorite feature of this bathroom is the bench seating. Who doesn’t like to sit down while getting ready? Next is the millwork or built in vanities for two reasons. First being the drawers in the vanity rather than doors. Doors are typically used because it is easier and more cost effective. You have to build your drawer insert around the P-Trap. Drawers are much more functional for storage in bathrooms I find. Secondly I like the duel finish choices for the vanity, the simple white body and the contrasting drawers. The drawer faces are a more soil hiding colour/ pattern so you don’t see dirty hand or finger prints as much by the cabinet hardware. This is easier for up-keep and cleaning which is never a bad thing and is it also an interesting design feature.

One feature I am not a huge fan of in this bathroom is the flooring selection. Hardwood flooring is typically not used in what is called “wet zones”. These are areas in a bathroom for example by a shower or toilet. If moisture gets on the flooring and if you aren’t careful, standing water can permeate into the wood leading to permanent damage. In your typical residential project you will see hardwood in a powder room but never in a washroom with a shower as that can be a pretty wet zone. But as this is a set you don’t really need to worry about permanent damage as you do in a household. So maybe this point it moot, either way, just a thought.

An unusual feature of the Big Brother this year was the “Half-Not Room”; a bedroom designated for the “have-nots” that week to live and sleep in. Everything in the room was pretty much half of the typical size – beds & chairs were half the typical size, the ceiling was lower and the color scheme was graphic black and white. And while this certainly is not something that we would ever recommend for a home, there were interesting elements that deserve to be commended. Instead of a typical dropped ceiling, the ceiling was treated with an attention-grabbing star burst detail. This detail also created the lighting for the room. I especially like that this gave an overall glow to the room; a funky updated version of the 80’s sunshine ceiling. I also like how the starburst detail is carried down the walls and onto the floor. Again, this may not be practical in an everyday scenario, but I can appreciate the whimsical nature of this idea. I believe that elements of this room could be incorporated into an everyday living space with a few minor tweaks. Black and white can be harsh; adding in a few warmer elements like wood tables would change the dynamic of the space. Or even a pop of your favorite color to create interest. But I would never suggest cutting your furniture in half! (Unless you want all your friends to think you’ve gone off the deep end!)

For me, I think that the kitchen in the Big Brother house was one of the most interesting and well-designed spaces. Not very often do designers get to do such crazy things in a house! I love how the wood flooring wraps up the walls and carries over onto the underside of the bulkhead. This feature draws the eye upwards while creating an interesting detail that hides the ductwork above. (FYI – the wood product is most likely a Luxury Vinyl Plank; a very durable, flexible and economic vinyl product that we use frequently in commercial products but is starting to make its way into residential projects as well.) I also appreciate how the circular theme that is used throughout the house is also used in the cabinetry and overhead lighting. The curved cabinetry looks amazing and adds much needed space for seating for the many houseguests. And while this is a neat feature, I wouldn’t suggest asking your contractor for such a design as it is very costly!

We hope that you enjoyed our designer view of the Big Brother Canada house. Now that the US version has started up again on June 25th, we hope that you look a little closer at the interesting details in the house and give us your thoughts!


Christine & Nicole

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