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The mind behind Intermind Design
Little Luka had seen his mother, Mila Djuras, constantly talking to her clients about themselves. She would constantly ask them about themselves and who they wanted to be. So when the “what does your mother do for a living” question came up in his Grade 1 class he replied, “My mom is a counsellor, but I don’t know why she builds houses.”
Djuras is a New Westminster designer who keeps racking up awards, recently collecting two prestigious Georgies for renovations. She says part of her secret to success with her Intermind Design company is finding out who the client is and telling their story through the renovation, often exhibiting eclectic tastes in her choices for the client in the process.
“We create a story. Our talent is in telling that story well. There’s a social aspect to design,” says Djuras in her office at the front of her 1894 Queen’s Park home. “I try to have a timeless look while at the same time be edgy.”
For Djuras, it all began in Eastern Europe. She has a masters degree in geophysics and a degree in architectural technology from the former Yugoslavia. In those days, she taught geophysics at university while running a design studio with six friends.
Djuras and her husband came to Canada in 1994 because their homeland in Serbia was falling apart, although it wasn’t in a war zone. When the conflict broke out, the couple had been in Japan where she was studying on a scholarship, but because of international sanctions her funds were revoked.
“In less than six months everything changed. People changed, the country changed. We just didn’t want to stay,” says Djuras.
Although it was tough for them after their arrival, she was able to develop and teach programs in design and architecture for the Vancouver school district’s continuing education department and Dorset College. She also did design on the side.
“My students became my clients,” says Djuras.
It came to a point where she had to choose between education or business and in 2006 Intermind was born and set up shop in New West.
“I had one huge advantage; I had experience in working with small spaces and there were lots of people with condos and townhouses that were downsizing,” says Djuras. “We’ve established ourselves as a company that can do eclectic work. We do not copy and paste designs ... It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. All our clients become our friends. We have two ladies competing to see which one will have 10 projects done by us.”
Djuras credits the popularity of reality TV renovation shows for spurring the design business.
“Watching the Discovery Channel doesn’t make you a scientist, and neither does watching Home and Garden make you a designer, but it does get you comfortable with what your preferences are,” says Djuras.
In one project, she put a skylight in the kitchen with glass rocks on its sides and an LED wire running through it, so that at night it appears to still cast natural light. She does both interior and exterior projects, ranging from $50,000 to $1.3 million, and she takes them from the design to final construction.
Intermind won Georgies, given out by the Canadian Home Builders Association of B.C., for the 2011 best residential renovation under $100,000 for a condominium in South Burnaby, and best condo renovation for a Vancouver project. It was also a finalist in the best kitchen renovation under $100,000.
The company also won Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association renOVATION awards in 2011 for best kitchen reno under $40,000 and renovator of the year-small volume while being a finalist in two others. Intermind also won three categories in 2010 and was a finalist in four others.
In the future Djuras would like to combine her educational experience with her design talents to develop the psychologal, cultural and social aspects of living in her designs because houses are mirrors of one’s self, she says.
It’s a concept that Luka, now that he’s 15, won’t have trouble grasping.