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A MASTER Class

Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Design impacts every aspect of our lives. From the density of our mattresses to the curvature of our office chairs to the handle on our toothbrushes and even to the height of our dining tables, every aspect of a design is thoughtful. Even if we don't think about it. On Wednesday, September 25, Jamaica Observer Design Week 2018 presented by Kohler hosted a seminar at the Worthington at Spanish Court. Smack in the middle of the second staging of the week-long event, the seminar was first-rate.

If you don't care for rave reviews, stop reading. Design Week conceptualiser Novia McDonald-Whyte knew what she was doing when she invited Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke to open the event. Who woulda thunk that a local politician could be such a breath of fresh air? Spewing his fashion and design knowledge, the audience was putty in the minister's hands. The main takeaway from his presentation was him saying that we need to get to a place where we speak about “Coach handbags and GDP in the same sentence”. Referencing Michael Kors' purchasing of Versace for US$2.1b and Coach's acquisition of Kate Spade for US$2.4b the minister highlighted the importance that design and the creative industries have for job creation, business development and economic growth.

The minister was a tough act to follow but National Commercial Bank's Mortgage Specialist - Retail Banking Divison Sandra Lyn had guests paying close attention as she gave real-life examples of how to afford a dream home. From saving for a downpayment to pooling resources with a spouse or family member, Lyn made guests realise that aspirations about home ownership don't have to be pipe dreams. Lyn was followed by National Housing Trust (NHT) Corporate and Public Affairs Manager Dwayne Berbick. Berbick's presentation, “From the Ground Up”, showed guests how home ownership can be achieved through the NHT, and shared invaluable knowledge about NHT developments, grants and benefits. Fun fact: the NHT offers complimentary home-expansion renderings to persons who purchase a home in one of the trust's developments. So, a starter home can become a dream home and NHT is there to help at each step of the way.

The keynote panel was comprised of heavy-hitters — Spanish Court Hotel Managing Director Christopher Issa; Century 21 Heave-Ho Properties Managing Director Deborah Cumming; Philippa Rousseau Design director Philippa Epstein; and property manager, designer and contractor Eroleen Anderson. You could not pay to learn insider tips from this level of talent. Well, you could, but it would cost. A lot!

Issa mentioned that one of his earliest lessons was understanding the “elements of proportion”. The well-respected hotelier sincerely believes that “design creates culture”, but was quick to add that “good design creates time”. Being an Issa, there, of course, was a bit of business best practices. The Spanish Court managing director implored the audience to understand “the power of one”. “One comment could reflect that other people may feel that way, but they just don't say it to you”. Understanding the fundamentals of good design and how this can create a good feeling is fundamental in creating a long-lasting project. Issa wants Jamaicans to go from “trying a t'ing to designing things (well)”. His business and design presentation, “Making it Memorable”, surely was.

“How many of you watch HGTV?” asked Deborah Cumming, who was next up. The realtor and Century 21 Heave-Ho Properties managing director opened her presentation, “A Guide to Buying A Fixer-Upper Home”, with the question to reveal that there is a secret formula to ensure that your “flip is not a flop”. Not only is choosing the right neighbourhood an ingredient for success but so is choosing a house with structural integrity and sound wiring. Cumming shared before and after photos of a fixer-upper that is currently on the market, and listed the costs involved with undertaking such a project. Having the finance minister in the audience was advantageous as Cumming urged him to do something about the high land transfer tax. This was met with hearty applause.

With her presentation, “Creating Your Dream Bathroom”, Philippa Epstein made quite a number of people want to hire a contractor or grab a sledgehammer and get to building spa-like retreats. Epstein warned against cheap plumbing and how this can result in an exorbitant cost (that includes ripping out and replacing tiles) in the future. Having a bathroom that is well-designed and outfitted with top-quality finishes will immediately increase the value of a home. According to Epstein, “A dream bathroom is one that you want to come home to” and after a long day SO reckons one to which you'd like to retreat at the end of a long day.

Closing the seminar was Eroleen Anderson-Powell, an industry veteran. She wears three hats — property manager, designer and contractor, and is very good at what she does. Indeed, fellow panellist Deborah Cumming publicly endorsed Anderson-Powell by telling the audience that she efficiently and exemplarily manages a community in which Cumming has an investment property. Anderson-Powell's presentation, “Property Management — The Real Deal”, highlighted the intricacies of property management and how an effective property manager can protect your investment. How many of us think of the pipes or the septic system or landscaping? We may not have to because the property manager does. According to Anderson, the key to being a respected and trusted property manager is open communication with homeowners, properly vetting staff, hiring affable and polite grounds and ancillary crews and being available “any time, day or night”.

The Jamaica Observer Design Week JA 2018 seminar gave the public access to some of the greatest minds in real estate, property development, mortgage finance and home ownership. It was both a fantastic experience and incredible learning experience. So, as you go along your daily lives, think of the local designers, architects, developers and craftsmen who make our lives, in many ways, better.

Jamaica Observer Design Week JA 2018 presented by Kohler wraps this evening with the Kingston Creative after-party Riddim Sunday, hosted by Mutabaruka at Ocean's 7 Skybar at Victoria Pier, commencing at 5:00 pm. Design Week JA 2018 was made possible by Tile City & Home Centre, National Commercial Bank, National Housing Trust, Spanish Court Hotel, Caribbean Airlines, Business Access TV and Wealth Magazine.

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