The mature neighbourhoods in Edmonton are experiencing an influx of many beautiful infill homes. If you’ve stopped to admire one of these homes, it’s likely you’re looking at a home designed by Katie Warwa, Lead of Design at Urbis Infill Homes, and her team.
Katie has a Masters of Architecture from UBC, but her role at Urbis is much broader than residential design. She is a swiss army knife of talent in her field – she touches everything from marketing, to client relationships, to exterior and interior design of homes, to overseeing construction.
Katie not only assists clients in designing their homes, but more importantly focuses on the client experience during the process. For Katie, it’s about ensuring that her clients will love their dream home for years to come thanks to her timeless and thoughtful design style, as well as her focus on providing a positive and supportive design and build experience for homeowners.
How did you progress into your position as Design Lead at Urbis?
After starting my career working for a few different architecture firms, I really longed for something more intimate and entrepreneurial. The opportunity to join my father and brother in a family business endeavour was a no brainer. I have been with Urbis since the company first began; technically our first single family build was my own home.
Back then, we were a small team of four. I wore many hats and learned the business very quickly. Early on, I discovered great reward in balancing my passion for residential design with my desire to be involved in the construction side of things. We have grown to a much larger in-house team and I am so grateful to be surrounded by extremely talented and creative people.
What is the most fulfilling part of building an infill home for a client?
For me, I really enjoy the relationship aspect of residential design. Designing and building custom homes can be a long process. You learn a lot about a client– from the ins and outs of personal preferences, nuances of family dynamics, to the small details about the way people want to live.
The most successful designs truly come from really getting to know your client–every job and family we build for is very unique. At the end of the day, if a homeowner tells me they are going to miss our team on possession day, I know we have done our job. The feeling is mutual.
What sets Urbis Infill Homes apart from other home building companies?
Urbis is much more than a just home builder because our variety of services are vertically integrated. We are a one stop shop that can support clients from start to finish. We are incredibly passionate about the communities in Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods, and have a genuine desire to have a positive impact.
Infills, the process of house design, and building in the inner city can be overwhelming. We have the expertise to assist people in navigating where to start. Whether its architectural design services, due diligence for a lot purchase, new construction, renovations, permits or interior design – we offer all these services a la carte.
What trends do you see in home design?
I’m seeing a lot of Art Deco silhouettes lately – I’m sure you have noticed that Arches are all the rage. Fluted textures seem to be popular at the moment as well.
What are your three favourite buildings?
This is a tricky question because my taste for architecture is ever-evolving, but I can name a few buildings that have had a positive impact on me. I’m a big advocate for not judging a building until you have gone inside. It’s not only about the form of a structure, the massing or expression on the outside, but more importantly the experience of the spaces within. As such, my list of buildings worth mentioning are limited to ones that I have visited.
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona stands out as a genius in its engineering, and the details and drama of the space (that are still under construction to this day.)
Another favourite is a tie between two great libraries, the Seattle Public Library and the Calgary Central Library. The idea of maximizing the program of a library to its full potential as a community hub is so relevant and the spaces within these two buildings do just that, and do it so well.
And last, I really adore Mid-Century Modern Architecture so I have to make mention of the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs. The clean lines against the desert landscape are just so effortless. You really can’t go wrong with anything Mid Century Modern.
Left: Kaufmann House (Image source: Joe Fletcher)
Right: Seattle Public Library (Image source: Hoffman Construction Corp.)
What lasting impact will the pandemic have on home design?
I think the pandemic has brought the priority for perfect home office to the top of many people’s list. That makeshift temporary desk set up at your kitchen table will no longer cut it. Having a designated space with access to light and privacy is more important than ever.
I think in general all this time spent at home has a great deal of people longing to re-imagining the space they live in. Fortunately, this has led some great clients our way over this past year. This has been a really unexpected positive, in a year that generally has been quite difficult, and has provided our company with some wonderful opportunities!