In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the team at Synthesis Design wanted to go big—and that they did, by creating new homes for a dozen families. Partnering with Act 2, an organization that gives safe shelter to women and children, the design team renovated 12 safe shelter units in Vancouver.

After raising close to $30,000 over the course of this year, Synthesis just completed one of the units and they’re halfway through the second. They aim to have all units completed in the next two years.  

Their goal for these spaces? To create homes for women that need them most. Curtis Krahn, Principal and Founder of Synthesis says he and his wife Lynda Krahn (also a Principal at Synthesis) wanted to create something more than just a place to sleep. “We started thinking more about what the women and children would want and how much they’ve been through,” says Curtis. “They’re leaving a horrific situation. We wanted to make homes for these women.”

BEFORE: Main living space. Credit: Synthesis Design.
AFTER: Main living space. Credit: Synthesis Design.

And that’s what they did. The Synthesis team started with the basics: new carpet, tiles, cabinets, and appliances. But being a design firm, their true nature came out. While they’ve received a lot of materials such as tiles and backsplashes donated from contractors and suppliers, they had to plan to make sure everything worked together. The same goes with the artwork donated. “We’d normally choose all the products that fit together, but now we had to figure out ‘Okay we have this tile, now what colour are we going to paint the walls?’” says Curtis.  

BEFORE: Main Entrance. Credit: Synthesis Design.
AFTER: Main Entrance. Credit: Synthesis Design.

A little paint and simple features went a long way with the units. “It’s things as simple as continuous flooring… that made the space feel bigger,” explains Curtis. Since the units are modest in size, Curtis and his team found creative ways to utilize it. “With the first unit we had to make it as cost effective as possible and as nice as possible, with little changes,” he says. But with the second unit there was more freedom, and they were able to create an office space using the closet. “We took the doors off the closet, opened it up, and put a little desk in there with a chair.”  

Curtis made sure to highlight the help from almost 80 donors that supported the initiative, as well as, Smithwood Builders, Kybe Electrical, and Dove Painting, who volunteered their time to help with the project.  

“Act 2 is a second chance for these women,” says Curtis. “We want to make sure they’re empowered to continue their lives and raise beautiful children.”  

To donate to Synthesis and Act 2, visit this link. If you would like to make in-kind donations, email  

BEFORE: Kitchen. Credit: Synthesis Design.
AFTER: Kitchen. Credit: Synthesis Design.
BEFORE: Bathroom. Credit: Synthesis Design.
AFTER: Bathroom. Credit: Synthesis Design.