Who We Are
housebrand is a unique type of design company that was founded in 1994 by John Brown, Matthew North and Carina van Olm. We are the only firm in North America to combine professional architecture services with construction, real estate brokerage, interior design, and product retailing into a one stop shop. Our mission is to help people who want a modern, simple, environmentally responsible place to live in one of Calgary’s established communities. We provide well designed reasonably priced Slow Home alternatives to the cookie cutter world of fast houses.
In 2006 we launched Slow Home Studio as a web based extension of the housebrand philosophy. Slow Home Studio has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Times of London, the Globe and Mail, L’Uomo Vogue, World Changing, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
In 2008 we opened the housebrand Design Store as part of our 4th Street studios as a full retail outlet for housebrand’s unique collection of products for the home.
housebrand’s unique model of practice, and the sensitive residential work it creates, has been featured in magazines, television programs and journals around the world. In 2003 the firm received the prestigious Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Award of Excellence for Innovation and in 2008 John was invited to present housebrand’s philosophy and work to the executive education program at Harvard University. In 2009, he was awarded a Leadership Award from Residential Architect Magazine in recognition of both his architectural work and his efforts to educate the public about the value of good design.
I was born in Calgary about one block from our offices and a ten minute walk from my current home. After going to architecture school and working in the United States and Europe I returned home to teach at the University of Calgary. Twenty four short years later I’m now a senior Professor of Architecture, researching and teaching residential design. I’m also a registered architect, a licensed real estate broker, and one of the founding partners of Housebrand. My job in the firm is to work with our clients at the beginning of their project in the concept design phase. When I’m not at the University, housebrand, or working on Slow Home Studio, I like to cook and relax with our dog, a crazy Saluki who thinks he’s better than me. The smartest thing I ever did was convince Carina to marry me and my biggest accomplishments are my two kids.
I grew up on the west coast of Canada. After a happy childhood of sailing and generally getting into trouble I finished a bachelor’s degree in Geography in Victoria. I came to Calgary to study architecture and was a student of John’s for several years. After graduating with a Master’s Degree I joined Carina and John to found housebrand. In addition to being a graduate architect I’m also a licensed Realtor. I spend most of my days at Housebrand working out the detail design of our projects and overseeing their construction. I like this holistic approach because it connects back to the original, and slower, meaning of the term architect as master builder. One of my biggest challenges is trying to keep my black clothes clean on the building sites. Outside of the office, I teach aerobics to keep fit and I’m fanatical about planes, ships, and Madonna.
Carina van Olm
I’m from Amsterdam. Growing up in one of the world’s great cities was an incredible experience that shaped the rest of my life. After I finished school my family immigrated to Canada where I learned the art of business by working for a small international fashion company. After that I started my own design retail store in Calgary and it was during that time that I met John. In fact, our first date was in a restaurant less than 100 feet from where we would one day establish our office. How slow is that! My responsibility in housebrand is to make sure that our projects stay on budget and on schedule. I also source the products and furniture we use in our projects and carry in our design store. Right now my role in Slow Home Studio is more behind the scenes but I hope to become more involved with the content side in the future.