Renovating today: An evolving industry

Articles & Interest

The renovation industry is all about implementing meaningful changes and transformations to your home that last through the test of time. Much like a renovation itself, the renovation industry is constantly changing and transforming for the better.

We sat down with Rob Capar, owner and founder of maison d’etre design-build inc., to hear about how the renovation industry has changed over the years. Rob has been a member of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) through his local, Homebuilders Association Vancouver (HAVAN), for almost 21 years. He currently sits on the Canadian Renovators Council at CHBA advocating for renovators and homeowners alike.

Hi Rob. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about maison d’etre design-build inc.?

Of course. We are located in Vancouver and focus on renovations with our team of designers and professionals who specialize in renovation. At maison d’etre, we’ve always worked from the beginning of the design to implementation through construction. This has been a nice natural flow where we can ensure really good planning during the design phase with accurate price estimates that lead to an end product for the customer that is exactly what they expected from the very beginning.

You’ve said before that “everyone is deserving of good design, no matter the size of the project.” Can you elaborate a little more on what this statement means to you?

At the beginning of maison d’etre, my business partner and I focused on good design. Good design is going to last, and you know it when you see it. For example, if you see a great house built or renovated years ago, maybe a few of the systems have changed or materials have changed, but ultimately the design has transcended time and still holds up. Clients going through a renovation are looking for change that meets their needs. Good design requires you to think about the present and even twenty years into the future and create something that is there to stay and serve someone for a long time.

You founded maison d’etre twenty-seven years ago and have been doing renovations ever since. What has kept this industry engaging for you?

This industry is always changing, growing, and developing at a rapid pace. The amount of change in building codes, construction techniques and energy since I joined 27 years ago is phenomenal. I see myself as this great recycler. As renovators, we take places and – instead of tearing them down -fix them up and keep them in the market. The changes in products, materials, and options we have keeps everything really fresh. When you’re a homeowner, you might change your own kitchen once every twenty years, but as a renovator, I get to create twenty kitchens a year! It keeps every day really fun and exciting.

How has the building/renovating process evolved over time?

There was a point in time where you hired a red seal carpenter. He came and he built the house, starting by pouring the foundation, and went all the way up until he roofed the shingles and walked away from the house. But now there are specialists at every single stage of construction. There is a massive team that collaborates to create or renovate a home together.

Bright and airy white condo with luxurious view of Vancouver.

Renovation by maison d’etre that increased functionality of a odd shaped room – turning the round space into a highlight of the design and balancing the space with a TV area with a sound bar and ultra flush wall-mount TV provides flexibility and a dramatic feature!

What renovation trends do you think will take off this year and in the future?

It’s hard to predict the future, but I’ve noticed a few things that are increasingly important to folks. One being the concept of a healthy home. People are more aware of pollutants and air quality. Another is a keen interest in reducing energy costs. I believe the next important thing will be the rise in home automation. There are so many opportunities to automate and connect the home. Everything from our appliances, to remotely monitored air quality, to turning on and off elements all using Bluetooth technology, new emerging systems, speech control and more. There will definitely be a shift in how our homes are designed and how we can interact with them.

It sounds like we’re almost about to evolve into the Jetsons.

Totally. This is part of what has been great about being a part of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. My local association often puts events together that create an opportunity to learn about the emerging technology right from manufacturers and retailers of projects. Just the other day I was able to meet with several suppliers at an Expo and see what technology is coming up. It allows small business owners to expand their network and see what is possible, ultimately leading to a better outcome for our clients.

Beautiful and sleek condo renovation with large white couch and good view.

Condo transformation by maison d’etre that is both sophisticated and casual, perfect entertaining space for drinks, appetizers, and a spectacular view.

I remember chatting with you at CHBA’s spring meetings and you mentioned how being open about your sexuality influenced your experience working in the residential construction industry, leading to building trust with your customers. I was wondering if you could share a bit about this experience?

In this industry, you have teams of people with different personalities and backgrounds working closely together on important projects. We’re talking five days a week, forty hours side-by-side. For the team to excel, every person on the team needs to feel comfortable and respected. So, years ago, it was a big thing for me to be starting out in the construction industry as a gay man. I ended up finding that I was accepted in this space. I always aimed to be comfortable in my own skin and to be comfortable around other people. This confidence attracted others to work for maison d’etre because we believe in the importance of a diverse workforce at our company.

At the beginning, this also led to attracting diverse clientele. At that time, being openly gay was not an option for many people. So, my whole business started with a large gay clientele because they knew that I could come into their home and they wouldn’t have to hide their pictures of themselves and their partner. They could be open about what they wanted to accomplish with their projects. I owe a lot of the development of the company to the gay community.

Thank you for sharing. Have you noticed any changes in a sense of acceptance or inclusivity since the beginning of your company and where the industry is today?

Certainly. Especially here in Vancouver. Clients work with all sorts of people and the industry is incredibly diverse with people of all backgrounds, sexualities, etc. What truly connects us all is a common excitement to create really great projects and end with happy customers.

I think people getting into this industry might have certain expectations that it will be a bunch of macho guys who are all tough and you may have to hide who you are or what you want to do. But it has really evolved and is continuing to evolve to welcome and celebrate all sorts of people. There’s a job for everyone when it comes to construction. There are project managers, designers, people who shop, install or create. I find it hard to think that there isn’t a place within this industry for anyone to find something that interests them.

As the renovation industry has evolved, what role does the RenoMark program play in Canada for both homeowners and renovators?

Unfortunately, everyone has heard a horror story about a renovation project taking way too long, going way over budget, and that was poorly planned and sometimes not even completed. These are the stories that get the most attention rather than all the success stories. That leads to renovators getting a low ranking in the minds of many homeowners. It is, of course, important to be cautious about who you hire, and the RenoMark program is aiming to get the word out there that there are members who are committed to following the rules, getting permits, proper insurance, using contracts and setting both themselves and their clients up for success. You can find a RenoMark renovator by using the online directory here.

You’ve been an important member of the Canadian Renovators’ Council and are the chair of the Renovator Council for British Columbia. What are you currently advocating for and looking forward to in the future of Canada’s renovation industry?

Being on these boards has been a great opportunity to learn about and advocate for important topics relating to the interests of renovators and homeowners. We touch on education training, direction for codes, developing new programs like CHBA’s Adaptiv Home and more. I’m able to have input and advocate for changes that reach far beyond my own company and improve issues that are bigger than just me, positively influencing an entire industry and potentially an entire client base.

Glamorous condo renovation with exposed brick and modern furniture.

Beautiful transformation of 100-year-old warehouse converted to condos by maison d’etre.

We’ve chatted a little bit about how the renovation industry is evolving, but what is a piece of advice you have for homeowners that will stay the same no matter the year or project?

My advice to homeowners is simple: be very realistic about costs throughout the whole process. Say you go to a grocery store with your grocery list that has 10 items on it, but you put 20 items in your cart. When you get to the checkout, you will have to pay for all the items unless you put some back. It’s the same with renovations: people begin a project with a list, then during the renovation ten other items get added. This will inevitably add cost, which can hurt if you were not being realistic from the beginning.

What advice would you give to homeowners when looking to hire a renovator for their home renovation project?

You’ll also want to find a renovator who understands the process and timeline involved. Everything from design requirements to other professionals that will be needed. These days major renovations require more than one person to be completed. Ideally, you are looking for a renovator who has a team of their own staff and good relationships with people in other trades to work with, who can complete your project in a timely fashion at the proper pricing.

Are you ready to renovate your home?

You can find a trusted contractor in your area through RenoMark’sprofessional directory.

About Rob Capar Rob Capar Headshot

Rob started maison d’etre in 1995 and has remained steadfast in his belief that everyone deserves great design no matter the size of the project. He is adamant that maison‘s design and contractor teams bring to every project the skills, design expertise and integrity that have become hallmarks of maison d’etre‘s work.

Rob is a Registered Housing Professional (RHP) and Registered Renovation Professional (RRP) through the Canadian Homebuilders Association – BC.

Rob served as President of the CHBA-BC for 2013/2014 and is currently Chair of the Renovation Council BC.