KMD Group's Special Guest Feature: Stephen Pietro of Scotia Wealth Management

Hola Everyone! Today I am delighted to welcome you to another instalment of my special guest feature series on my blog that is brought to you by my Toronto based development firm KMD Group Inc.

My guest this week is Stephen Pietro of Scotia Wealth Management.  Stephen is a Wealth Advisor at ScotiaMcLeod, a division of Scotia Capital. He holds the Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Investment Manager designations. Stephen is passionate about education and especially educating those from communities that may not have as much access to financial planning resources. In 2018, Stephen began teaching classes at a local college on stock market investing and financial planning. He is also active in his local community and works with his councillor on charity projects, community events and on efforts to help improve businesses in the area. Stephen is currently my own personal wealth advisor and I have had the utmost privilege of working with him.

Katia : Welcome Stephen! it’s great to have you join us in this special blogpost on “Katia In Toronto”. Can you please tell us about yourself and how you came about to being in the position you currently hold?

Stephen: Thanks for having me Katia! Well I started what I do because growing up I saw first-hand what financial hardship looked like. The environment I was brought up in was in a loving family that struggled with money. This really impacted me and I was motivated to seek a future for myself that would give me financial freedom. I wanted to be able to give this to others as well, by pursuing a career in this field. Currently I work with Scotia Wealth as an Investment Advisor and in addition to this, I am also teaching two courses at a local college (Seneca College). One of those courses is “Introduction to Stock Market Investing” and the other is “Personal Wealth Management”. This allows me to reach an audience with a wide variety of financial backgrounds. Including people that have a lower net worth and may not have access to the information that clients with a higher net worth may have.

Katia: What Services Do You Provide Clients Here at Scotia Wealth?

Stephen: We are primarily focused on investments but a big part of that is financial planning.  Financial planning encompasses cash flow planning, retirement planning, contingency planning, tax planning, investment management, and estate planning. The investment side is one piece of the puzzle but its not the only piece. The way the investments are structured are almost as important as what the investments actually are. The idea is that we want to help people grow their wealth but also make sure that the way their wealth is managed is efficient and that it is protected from volatility and erosion. We want to keep as much money in our client’s pockets as possible. The transfer of money from one generation to the next is important and so we also want to help plan for that. From a tax planning point of view; we help you to understand what certain tax planning shelters and options are. For example, understanding things like a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), Tax free savings accounts (TFSA’s) and the use of trusts. Overall it’s planning for things like time and life stages. A portion of your money should be in something safe, a portion of your money should be in something slow and steady, and a portion of your money should be more long term and more growth focused. In the end It’s all about educating people that it does not matter how much you have, you can always save money and have investments even with a minimal amount.

Katia:  How many clients are you currently working with?

Stephen: I currently work with about 60 clients. But our team is growing and that is allowing us to expand our business.

Katia: How do you measure and evaluate investment performances? How do you track success

Stephen: In terms of how we evaluate success. I think success isn’t necessarily a number where one goes “I made 9% a year, or I made 10% a year” I think that needs to be more in line with what a client’s goals and risk tolerances are. For example, let’s say you have a client who is very conservative and wants to make sure that their wealth doesn’t decrease at all because they are not okay with fluctuations in the market. Knowing that, I go ahead and make that client an outlandish return in a particular year but I have put them at risk; to me that is not success. On paper it looks good and they have made money but if the market had gone the other way, the client would have been devastated.   Whereas if a client is more aggressive and can tolerate the ups and downs of the market and I have decided to put them in a more conservative mandate; then again that is not success. Understanding what clients are looking to accomplish and helping them get there is success. So I think success for each client is really personalized, in terms of what they are looking to achieve.

Katia: So what I understand from all this, is that most investments are successful when they are long term.

Stephen: Yes, that is correct, and I would say most clients are somewhere in the middle in terms of level of risk they are willing to take. Most are not the kind who don’t want to take any risks at all, because they understand that investments with no risk produce very little return, but they are also not very aggressive where they are okay with losing half their portfolio in a year. Most clients are somewhere in the middle and are looking towards long term consistent returns

Katia: Many people are waiting for a drop in the market. What do you think about this?

Stephen: Well we have seen people who have been waiting for a correction since all the way back to 2014. The part of the market that is difficult to manage, is that we know that the market ebbs and flows and has different cycles. However, the problem is we don’t know exactly when a cycle will stop or change. The problem with trying to wait out the market is that in the example of someone who has been out of the market since 2014, if they had waited from 2014 till now because there was no substantial downturn then they would have missed out on being in the market for all those years. Even if there was a significant downturn in the market tomorrow, that person would have been further ahead just being in the market all those years. Although a correction is always a valid concern, we know that trying to time the market isn’t an effective solution. What we do to mitigate that is that we have clients invested in various areas so that when the market does eventually turn, the type of investments they are in will decline less than what the market does. And when the market does pick back up again (as it always does). Their investments pick back up a little faster than rest of the market. It’s less exposure to volatility and more exposure to high quality securities in the right industries that will recover faster than everything else.

Katia:  and that is between the Stocks and Bonds?

Stephen: Yes between all the different products that we put in place including stocks, bonds, structured notes, ETF’s, mutual funds, other alternatives, and so on and so forth. Also remember that each one of those categories has sub-categories. For example, stocks have a lot of sub-categories (i.e. small cap and large cap) including being divided by geography and by the type of industry, some of them pay dividends and some of them don’t. Even on the bonds side there is short term and long term as well as corporate bonds and government bonds. So overall it’s really important to know all these and which one fits best for the client.

Stocks and bonds have somewhat of an inverse relationship to each other. That is, when stocks tend to go down in value, bonds increase. The reason for this is that stocks are viewed as a more risky investment and bonds are safer. So when the stock market has a downturn, people move their money out of stocks (causing the prices to fall further) and they move it into bonds (causing their prices to increase). 

A stock is like owning a tiny piece of a company. On the stock market, we are allowed to buy stocks of companies that are publicly traded. A bond on the other hand, is like you loaning money to that company. The company is obligated to pay you back interest plus your original investment. Bonds are considered to be safer because if a company ever goes bankrupt, the bond holders need to be paid before the stock holders do. 

Katia:  How often are reviews done on a Client’s Portfolio?

Stephen: In terms of watching the market, that is something that we do everyday and we have a part of our team that only puts their efforts on this. I have a colleague whose main job is to focus on the day-to-day of the market. As well, we also outsource some of our investment research and analysis. Our process utilizes 15 different analysts that are looking at mostly North American stocks. For us it makes more sense to have a team of people doing that rather than one person trying to do all that research by themselves and also trying to handle the client interactions.

Katia: Okay that makes sense. What about changes? How often do you suggest changes to the client? Is it weekly, monthly or just when you start to spot upcoming fluctuations.

Stephen: Part of it is built in whereby we do things like annual reviews and generally we look at the structure of clients investments quarterly. The exception to that is anytime we feel like something is happening we are tactical and try to adjust on the spot. So part of it is structured and part of it is that we act when we need to.

Katia: When do you suggest young people start creating an investment portfolio?

Stephen: As far as youth, they say that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the next best time is today. The younger the better. Often, I find with the young people that I work with they already have a good example through their parents. A lot of it truly starts at home and parents that teach their kids good habits with money tend to lead to more successful children.

Katia: You know this has really captured my attention because at the end its about education in every single area of your life and investments is something we tend to forget about. It’s not about how much money we have but creating the discipline. Educating yourself and optimizing your resources where you not only put aside money for things like the gym, education and leisurely activities, but also for investments. This is important in order to increase your wealth. For me I believe that a good balance in the different areas of your life is one of the secrets to success.

Katia: Are there any programs for youth on investments or programs that teach parents how to teach their kids about investments?

Stephen: Not any formal programs that I know of currently, but I am working on an article now for the Globe (newspaper) that discusses that specifically. Here is the question: If parents have been successful, how do they make sure that their success does not limit their kids ambition? Because if a child is given everything then there is no real incentive for them to work and often parents want to make sure their kids understand the value of money. However, they also do not want their kids to suffer either. There is a balance there, whereby one has to think about how do you give your kids a good life, but also teach them about the value of money and hard work? I am working on something now that will illustrate that, but in terms of formal programs there aren’t any that I know of. I do think that there should be one, and that is part of the reason why I like being on the education side. I think that is one of the biggest things our education system is lacking. Well in this country anyway.

Katia : I look forward to reading that article! I also would like to add that I think good values and ethics are a key component of educating your kids about money and having good human interactions.

Katia: what tips do you have for young people to start investing?

Stephen: Tips for young kids starting out. Once they get to high school and perhaps even younger, invest early and invest often. Once you have your first part time job start saving even as little as $50 a month. In terms of paying your bills, think of yourself as a bill. Before you pay your cellphone and electricity bill, pay yourself first. It’s not to say don’t pay all those but do think of yourself as an important priority. It’s doing something now for the older you.

Katia: What can people do to save for retirement and be financially stable?

Stephen: One of the most important parts about retirement planning is understanding what your cash flow is like. What I mean by that is understanding what money is coming in and what money is going out. Finances tend to change over a person’s life so if you are married or if you are single and if you live in a large city vs a small city, all those things affect your finances. Someone living in Toronto is going to have a higher cost of living than someone living in Sudbury, as the cost of real estate is quite different. It is important to understand what your costs and expenses are throughout your life and to plan for that. 

It is important to prepare for the different stages of life and realize that as you grow older new experiences may arise that result in needing to invest more in your changing lifestyle. Believe it or not, in the early years of retirement, people’s expenses actually increase. As long as you are healthy and you are not working anymore, it is like you are spending 7 days per week on vacation. Being able to be flexible in retirement planning is also quite important.


Okay everyone, thank you kindly for reading through my latest blog post and thank you once more to Stephen for being a part of this blog. I hope you were able to learn a little bit about wealth management.

There is so much value in every single stage of your life. You do not need to be young to have lots of vitality and you don’t have to be old to have acquired knowledge or wisdom. To be fulfilled and economically stable, It’s about making the right choices in life (and how you design your life for every single stage of it) that drives your growth and happiness as a person. Being prepared allows you to confront any challenges that may arise. Life is like planning for an amazing trip. If you start planning today you will have a more pleasant experience and a better future. I personally believe in a world where everything is possible. So I end off by borrowing a line from Scotiabank which is that “You’re richer than you think”.

Until next time, love and light always!


Photography by Karimah Gheddai


Hola Everyone! Hope you are all doing fantastic! Welcome to another blog post on my website! Earlier this year, the Canadian team of my Toronto based property development firm KMD Design Group, got to visit the team at my Costa Rican Architecture firm KMA Design Group Inc. in Costa Rica! In my previous blog post our photographer Karimah showcased her trip to the La Paz Waterfalls. This week I am happy to share some more of the images from the trip here! This time our office team took a road trip (or shall I say mountain trip) to go see the Arenal Volcano. It is a dormant volcano about 90km Northwest of San Jose. We stopped by the city of Zarcero on our way there to take in some beautifully manicured topiary gardens and an awe inspiring catholic church known as the Iglesia Católica de Zarcero.

Below is a photo of the KMA and KMD Team. Missing is our photographer.

But here she is.

We started our day bright and early. We boarded the bus at 5:00 am in the morning and everyone was super sleepy. This photo below hilariously shows everyone sleeping (well everyone except David).

Here we are arriving in the city of Zarcero, Alajuela. Which was one of the stops on our way to the Arenal Volcano.

Here we saw the Iglesia de San Rafael which is a pink and blue church that was built in 1895. What a stunning church it is ! The topiary garden that is in front of the church (as seen below) is known as Parque Francisco Alvarado.

Ani, Marcela, Diego and myself.

The splendid topiary garden. It was so magical.

The team amidst the garden.

We were lucky enough to catch the man who has been taking care of these gardens for years, in action. His name is Don Evangelista Blanco and of course we all had to take a photo with him. He is a local legend full of passion for the gardens he takes care of.

Alberto was feeling cold, so here I am borrowing him my scarf.

The beautiful landscape in the city. You can see the topiary garden in the foreground.

Here is Fabio standing up on the ledge to take in the surrounding views of the city.

Another photo of the Iglesia Católica de Zarcero.

Ani, David and Viviana head towards the church.

Marcela in front of Iglesia Católica de Zarcero.

After taking a look at the exterior of the church. We had to go check out the Interior.

The ceiling with it’s arches and artwork was just remarkable.

We were all just in awe of the ceilings.

An impressive altar! In the Bible, altar’s are attributed to being "God's table". A sacred place.

Back outside. Ani and Marcela take a selfie!

Beautiful Sisters!

Team Photo

When our photographer tells us to point to the left lol.

After checking out the grounds and church we headed back on the bus to head on to our next destination.

Arriving to a little restaurant to have breakfast

It was interesting to see our breakfast being made in the kitchen

Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans (famously known as “Gallo Pinto” in Spanish), eggs, and plantains. Yum!

We also had to try out the Costa Rican hot chocolate.

Here I am pouring some hot chocolate for Marcela.

Team conversations around the breakfast table.

After breakfast we went back on the bus for our trip to the volcanoes. The landscapes on the way were just absolutely spectacular.

It rained so much on the way to the volcano. Here one of my team members had written “Costa Rica” on the foggy windows.

After a long bus ride of about 4 hours (and a lot of hoping by everyone for the rain to stop) we finally arrived at Costa Rica Sky Adventures Park.

This is a neat idea for wayfinding. It made it easier for us to understand the layout of the park.

We took the red line to go get the team some ponchos and waterproof shoes since the rain kept on going strong. Here I am with Diego as we return with our bag full of rainproof gear for the team.

Pre-trek conversations.

All ready with my poncho to explore the cloud forests.

After a rainy trek through the forest we happened upon a bridge and stopped to pose for some photos. You can tell from how wet our rain gear is that it was pouring.

and some more trekking later, we finally came across this beautiful waterfall. Here are the guys discussing how incredible it looks.

So incredible that the next thing we did was to walk towards the falls with the intent of having the “water fall” on us (pun was intended).

Here I am right under the waterfall! What a wonderful feeling.

Everyone else had to join. Well not everyone lol as some of our team members were not thrilled at the idea of being completely soaked by a waterfall when it was still raining. I mean how were their clothes supposed to dry with no sun. Common sense prevailed there, the rest of us just toughened it out the rest of the day.

After our hour long trek in the rain, we worked up a huge appetite and went to the famous Baldi Hot Springs to have a delicious lunch buffet.

Even though it was a foggy day you can see a bit of the once active Arenal volcano from the dining hall of the resort.

The Baldi Hot Springs resort was filled with amazing greenery.

Ani, Marcela and I as we head off to explore the rest of the resort.

The waterpark on site was amazing. There was a cool slide and some man made hot springs. The team had a fun time exploring the park and enjoying the facilities.


Another team photo at the end of the day as we get ready to board the bus back to San Jose.


and one more in front of the iconic Baldi Hot Springs sign.

The day after, we all went out to celebrate Kenneth’s graduation from University (Kenneth is one of KMA Costa Rica’s Architect ) . We had lunch at an amazing restaurant called La Hacienda. They had a neat menu which included a great selection of sandwiches and drinks.

Here is Alberto with a Tortilla de Queso (traditional cheese and corn tortilla)

and we presented Kenneth with his graduation gift from the office.


Kenneth wearing his new watch.

We never miss an opportunity for a Team Photo.

From Left to Right: David, Viviana, Philip, Marcela, Kenneth, Me (Katia), Diego, Ani, Fabio, Alberto and Esteban. Missing: Karimah (took the photograph)

Alright everyone! Thank you for going through my latest blog post. It has been a lovely experience to spend time in my home country and with my lovely KMA and KMD Team. It was a nice change from the cold Canadian winter. Stay tuned for more posts from my trip! Until next time love and light always.


Photos by Karimah Gheddai

KMD Group’s Special Guest Feauture: Alex Nowakowski and Ben Lowry in Conversation With Katia Marten on Passive House Design

Hola lovely people!

Welcome to another blog post installation on my website! Today we have another Special Guest Feature but this time we have not one but TWO guests. Alex Nowakowski of Tacoma Engineers and Ben Lowry who owns his own building company (Lowry Building Company). In this Blog post I will be speaking to both of them about Passive House Design. Alex is part of the engineering firm that will be working on one of the homes I am currently building up north in the town of Penetanguishene. Today we are discussing the topic of Passive House Design. Alex and Ben are both proponents of Passive House. I first heard about this building and design practice through one of my meetings with Alex regarding the two developments that we are currently building with my company KMD Group. A little bit about KMD group is that we are a boutique development company based out of Toronto (See our website here: and we are currently working on our marquee projects located in Penetanguishene and in Midland, Ontario. These projects are named North Pearl and Aberdeen (respectively). Our sister company, Costa Rican Architecture firm KMA Design Group is providing the conceptual designs for these two projects and of course we are working with qualified Canadian professionals to carry out the necessary work to bring the projects to life.

After hearing about Passive House I decided that I would like to learn a bit more about it so I invited both Alex and Ben to discuss this growing field over lunch at Ciboulette et Cie (my favourite restaurant in Midland (really can not pay a visit to the town without visiting this lovely restaurant) . Karimah (our photographer and landscape designer) also joined us in the discussions and took the photos for the blog post). We started off our discussions at the restaurant where I ordered my fav kale salad.

From Left to Right: Ben Lowry, Katia Marten and Alex Nowakowski.

Katia: What is Passive House Design?

Alex: Passive House is an International Standard and design methodology for buildings that are Energy Efficient. The main design principles are based on airtight and super insulated building envelope, which includes high performance windows/glazing. The aim of the standard is to create an energy efficient building with high levels of occupant comfort economically.

Katia: How did you both meet and what is your story with Passive House?

Alex: I met Ben on a construction project. Ben was working for a company called Monteith at the time and the company had a good philosophy and so did Ben. Our mindset jived together. When Ben went out on his own, we still continued to keep in touch. We met for a coffee in Orillia one day, and found out that we were both doing a Passive House Course at the same exact time. Ben doing a construction course and myself doing a designer course.

Ben: Yeah It was weird that we were both taking the courses on the same day. I was like hey Ben where are you? We were in different buildings though. Same course, same time but in two different locations. So yeah I remember at coffee we were discussing Passive House and that I was so committed to doing these courses and I said to Alex, Do you think am crazy? Alex was in favour of committing to the Passive House principle.

Alex: Yeah so I was taking a course from the Canadian Passive House Institute, and upon completion of the test am now a Certified Passive House Designer. Ben has gone on to use Passive House building techniques in two homes that he has been working on Including his own!

Ben: Yes I believed it in so much am building my own home that way. We are building a home in Niagara as well.

Alex: Very cool projects! Ben has helped us with a few of our clients at Tacoma who were interested in the Passive House Concept. He gave suggestions on material choices constructability, durability, etc. The Passive house community is an interesting one in Canada. There seems to be a great degree of collaboration.

Question: What drew you towards Passive House:

Ben: Personally, I had been following passive house for at least 10 years. I was always drawn to the philosophy which is Invest in the envelope, the windows, the walls. If you put your money there you are going to get your best returns with that. So you know it was in Darmstadt where they questioned, Can we make a building that is so well insulated that we get rid of any heating or cooling system entirely? and they figured out that they could. The metrics are so tight so that you are able to hit a 0.6 air change per hour at 50 Kilo pascals. If you can hit that then you have certain levels of insulation and so you save so much on mechanical. In a poorly insulated building, when you stand next to the walls or windows you can either feel the heat in the summer or the cold in the winter. In passive house you could be standing next to a wall or a window or in the middle of a room, or on the basement or second floor and there is no stratification, it always feels the same.

Alex: So for me I was big on sustainability even when I was fresh out of college. I am a LEED Green Associate but came across the work of Wolfgang Feist (the founder of Passive House) who started this whole movement in the early 90s and I was blown away by the simplicity of the concept and the real world performance

Ben: Incidentally he was inspired by some guys in Saskatchewan who were the first ones to try it. It was not called passive house at the time but the idea was can we super insulate so that we don’t need heating or cooling. So Wolfgang took that idea and ran with it. So it does have Canadian roots.

Question: That sounds all good but I am very curious what happens if you like to have windows in your home and you like to open your windows?

Ben: Well in the summer time you can still do that for sure. You just turn the Fresh air off and open the windows. But if it’s really hot and you need cool. You might not want to open up your windows during the winter though. I mean not a lot of people do.

Alex: Or you open them up for 10 minutes to get some fresh air. I mean I do that in my house now, especially on the weekends. But with the HRVs you get Fresh Air constantly circulating in and so the need will be less to open your windows.

Question: How much air is recycled from the Inside and how much air is recycled from the outside. Is there a different percentage from what they usually use in other systems?

Ben: So the Fresh air system is sized to the interior volume of the occupancy but in terms of the energy efficiency you are exhausting a lot of stale air but there are heat exchangers in the system that basically work like, well there are a few different ways. The one that I am using has a dual core system where the stale air passes through a membrane and the fresh air has to go past it as well and that membrane absorbs all the heat and transfers it to the incoming air. The system I am using is like ninety-two percent efficient but they make ones in Europe that are like ninety-seven percent efficient and you lose almost no energy. The technology has been around for a while but it’s just gotten that much bigger.

Alex: So it is always Fresh air, Fresh air in and stale air out. They are not recycling any of the interior air.

Ben: They say that that level of oxygen actually leads to people being more alert. They have done studies that say people don’t fall asleep, they learn better, these empirical studies have shown that. I mean I used to fall asleep in the auditorium all the time, because it was dark and the air was stale. I mean it did not matter how much sleep I got. I still felt tired.

Alex: I think it is Austria where all their public buildings and schools are required to meet the Passive House Standard. I mean Europe is so far ahead with energy efficiency and government involvement. We are just playing catchup in Canada. Though we have people on the front lines here who are innovators (early adopters) and are pushing for these systems and more people are building with regard for passive house design standards.

At the North Pearl Property

Question: How much more expensive is Passive House?

Ben: I would roughly estimate about 15% to 20% more. Maybe a bit less but we will see at the end of the day. I do think the devil is in the details. I mean passive house does try to preach that you simplify your building form because ultimately a building with less corners and simpler rooflines is going to have less opportunity for thermal bridging and it will be easier to air seal. Say if you have a metal frame you don’t want that going from the inside to the outside because it is a really good conductor of energy and you are gonna have all kinds of heat loss.

Question: So How do you manage with the windows?

Ben: The most energy efficient windows are those windows with wood frame, and with aluminum cladding on the exterior and they make really good fibreglass windows as well and if you want to go for really value focused windows they do make decent vinyl triple glazed windows. At my own house that I am building, I have to really watch my dollars so I have put in high quality, vinyl triple glazed windows. The doors are wood frame aluminum clad from Europe.

Question: How will you be building the work that KMD is developing?

Alex: As with previous projects, we are going to aim for Passive House targets, but also keeping in mind what makes sense for the project and budget. If we don't meet the most stringent of requirements, but we are still 65% more efficient than the building code, it's a wind for the environment and a win for the project. In Darmstadt Dr. Wolfgang Feist has a graph which shows energy efficiency and economics. We want to have our project in a spot where both objectives are met reasonably. We do not want to sacrifice the environment for the economics, but we don't want to have an unreasonable budget that makes the project unachievable. At the end of the day, it is an energy balance, so we will balance all the important factors to ensure success for the project.

What is the difference between LEED and Passive House?

Alex: LEED is a system that is based on points for various aspects of a project. If the project loses points in one area, say energy efficiency, it is then possible to regain the points in the other areas, say access to public transport. This is a good system and paved the way to make building efficiency main stream and helped move the conversation forward. Passive House on the other hand, is based on energy balance. Energy Efficiency is addressed separately from other social or environmental concerns. Not that those other items are not important, but in my opinion they are separate and should not be a reason to discount or ignore the other. The Passive House standard, when followed and implemented correctly, result in buildings that perform as expected, with the energy savings as predicted. Buildings account for a large amount of energy was and greenhouse gas emissions, so the energy efficiency of buildings is paramount.

Where do you see the future of this going in North America?

Ben: At the City of Vancouver they have already written this into their building code. I mean it is not mandatory i don’t think so they would be the ones leading this in Canada at the moment and hopefully the rest of the country will follow suit.

Alex: I believe Seattle is also mandating that you get blower door tests (used to measure the airtightness of buildings) done. I think City of Toronto has their own by law that is mandating low energy and i am not sure if it is pretty close to passive house or if passive house would be a good way to achieve what they are asking for.

Ben: Toronto has three tiers of green standard. Green standard 1 you have to hit . regardless. Standard 2 there is some incentives and standard 3 is basically passive house performance and the incentives are much greater. So there is lowered development charges .


After the visit we went to check out both properties in Midland where my company KMD Group will be developing the houses we are working on. Of course we had to fit some photo time in between the visit. Below you will also find some images we took back in the fall with my KMD Group Team Members.

Smiling on a sunny day!

Smiling on a sunny day!

Alex Nowakowski of Tacoma Engineers

Ben Lowry of Lowry Building Company

Alex, Karimah and Ben

Alex, Karimah and Ben

Back in the summer when we were clearing the land .

Had to pose with the bobcat!

The Team including members of Morden Construction who worked on the clearing of the land.

Photos are a great way to

A photo with Marcela in front of the Lake

Fall Leaves were so pretty!

Fall Leaves were so pretty!

Marcela and I sitting on one of the boulders

I would like to thank both Alex and Ben for having this discussion with me about Passive House. I was able to get an insight into the field and I believe what they are both doing is important work for the future of the building industry. I am excited to be starting this new chapter with KMD Group in Canada. Through my over 33 years experience as an architect in Costa Rica (running my firm I have been able to experience the many sides of project development from an architectural point of view, and now in Canada I am excited to be developing projects and experiencing the process as a developer. In Canada I am currently working with well experienced and qualified professionals on KMD Group’s development projects. To learn more about my firm KMD Group Canada please visit our website at

Until next time, love and light always!


Special Guest Feature: Steven Green (Real Estate Agent)

Hola Everyone,

Today’s blog post is special as it is one of the ones where I feature guests that are some of the brightest movers and shakers in the city.

This week’s feature is on Steven Green who is one of the top real estate agents in the city of Toronto (not an easy feat to achieve). He is currently Number 1 at Royal Le Page Partners and has continuously been in the top 10 over the past couple of years.

We conducted this interview at beautiful Edwards Gardens which is located in the neighborhood where Mr. Green does a lot of business.

I first met Steven Green through a mutual friend some time ago. At the time, I was interested in learning more about the real real estate landscape in the Toronto Area and Steven Green was the perfect person to educate me on the current real estate scene (as I already mentioned he is one of the top real estate agents in the city).

After having met with Steven for lunch at the Granite Club one day. I was able to understand the city of Toronto’s real estate landscape better and pinpoint some of my own favorite neighborhoods in Toronto.

It was a bit chilly on the afternoon of this walk but Steven came prepared with his PRADA scarf! Keep reading below for the interview!

Katia: What do you enjoy most about Real Estate?

Steven: What I love most about Real Estate is the interaction with buyers and sellers. I truly enjoy assisting my clients in fulfilling their home owner dreams and finding them a home that is the perfect fit.


Katia: How did you get into Real Estate and how long have you been doing it for?

Steven: I have been selling real estate since September 1987. My family was already in the real estate field to begin with and so it was a natural path for me to take.


Katia: What type of real estate and real estate services do you sell?

Steven: I have helped clients with the marketing and sales of various new home sites and also with the resale of homes and condominiums. My clientele are diverse, from first time buyers up to those seeking homes in the multi million dollar range. 

Katia: What are some of the trends that you are seeing in Real Estate at the moment?

Steven: Well I have a lot of clients who are now deciding to sell their large homes and move to smaller homes or even condominiums in the city and they are doing this without scaling down on their lifestyle.


Katia: Do you see the current Real Estate Market in Toronto staying strong?

Steven: Yes, Real Estate is still a very strong investment to have in the city. I would encourage anyone thinking of buying their first home to prioiritise saving funds to invest in their first home.


Katia: What advice do you have for young people who want to be future home owners?

Steven: I would say building credit and having good credit is super important. If you don’t have a credit card you should get one now. I always advise young borrowers especially to get a line of credit and have a credit card in good standing.

Toronto Real Estate Agent Royal Lepage KMD Group Canada Ontario Katia Marten KatiainToronto Costa Rican Architecture Design Blog Portraits Edwards Gardens trends

Katia: How long have you lived in Toronto for and what has your experience in Toronto been like over the years?

Steven: I have been living in Toronto my whole life. I love being a part of such an amazing community. Over the last seven years, I have helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for our local hospital at our annual golf tournament and I am very involved at our local public school as one of the lead sponsors. It's important to give back to your community, and it gives me great pride to do so.


Katia: How do you market your business and stay ahead of the competition in a super competitive real estate market?

Steven:  Marketing is critical in what I do, from virtual and digital tours, floor plans, feature sheets, advertisements in newspapers, magazines and flyers. I love the whole process of preparing a house to sell. 

Okay that brings me to the end of this blog post. Thank you kindly to Steven Green for being a part of this blog series!

To get in touch with Steven Green you can contact him via his contact details below:

Steven Green
Royal LePage Partners Realty Sales Representative
Tel: call or text: 416-990-2313 
Fax: 416-229-6480 Email:

Until next time friends have a great week and stay tuned for more special features! Love and light always!


Muskoka and Toronto Wanderings

Hello! Welcome to my blog! It is great to have you here! This blog post is a continuation of our last blog post whereby some of my team members from my Architecture firm in Costa Rica had recently come to visit me in Canada! This blog post is a continuation of our last blog post. It showcases some of our fun moments during their trip here including a visit up North to the Muskoka Region and some wanderings around the city of Toronto including taking in a bit of the Design T.O Festival in the process.

We drove up North to Muskoka region for a work field trip. It was so cold and the landscapes were pretty much all covered in snow.

Always conducting business. Thank God for cellphones.

Can you believe we are standing on a Frozen lake!


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The team plus our friend Lawrence.

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There is nothing quite like a Snow Covered Canadian Landscape.

with Marcela

My Costa Rican Team members Ani, Marcela and Diego

Arriving at 3 Guys and a Stove Restaurant for Lunch:

The next day we decided to spend a fun relaxed day in the City of Toronto. We visited one of my favourite restaurants in the city of Toronto called Tabule. This was at the Bayview Mall Location.

Tabule serves up delicious Middle-Eastern cuisine in a modern way. This restaurant never disappoints and everyone really enjoyed their lunch.

A spread of Hummus, Babaghanoush and Labne. This is definitely a reccomended starter!

Falafel Plate



Cauliflower appetizer

Shish Tawouk

The Gang

After Lunch we headed to Pusateri’s in search of some goodies for the Kids of some of our Costa Rican team members

Saying Hi to the Kids via facetime.

Next we made a stop at Squint Eyewear to check out some of the fabulous eye wear was also one of our stops after lunch.

I loved these wooden frames.

When I am at Bayview mall I always have to stop by one of my favourite stores which is NEAT. They sell all kinds of gadgets and products for the home to help you stay organized and Neat!.

We are always telling jokes.

All kinds of kitchenware for the home

After our visit to the mall, we found out that there was a design festival opening that evening. So here we are at the T.O Design Festival! We got to listen to the designer Tiffany Pratt who inspired the crowd with her eloquent presentation. Don’t you just love her pink hair! If you don’t know about Tiffany Pratt, she is a Toronto based designer and artist who inspires through her generous use of colour in her work.

Listening attentively to Tiffany Pratt’s inspiring speech

Next stop was a kitchen showroom that featured appliances with some bold colours.

We ran into a lot of fun characters throughout the night.

When the photographer said “Quick everyone open an oven door” lol

This is the Urban Fabric Installation presented by “Founded by Garcia”.

One of the exhibits we checked out was at the Bulthaup building. Here we saw the “Light Cage Duo” by Luvere Studio . This was exciting as we had previosly seen a picture of it in a magazine given out at IDS called Design Lines So to see it in person was super exciting

Ani and Diego posing with the “Light Cage”

Next we walked over to Aquavato which is a company that sells a large variety of luxury bathroom and kitchen fixtures.

Check out this Bath Tub

There was some form of entertainment at each stop and here I am with two of the musicians playing at one of the exhibitions.

Wow can you believe we all fit under that chair!!!

Okay folks that brings me to the end of this beautiful blogpost! I am happy to have shared these beautiful experiences with my some of my Costa Rican team and my Canadian team at KMD Group. Until next time I wish you love and light as always.



Hello! Welcome to my blog! It is great to have you here! In this instalment some of my team members from my Architecture firm in Costa Rica had recently come to visit me in Canada! This blog post (and the next after this one) will showcase some of our fun moments during their trip here. Moments that included a a trip to the 2019 Interior Design Show. The Interior Design Show (IDS) is an annual event that takes place over four days in January. It showcases some of the best and innovative interior design products and talent from around the world. There are also a number of speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds who give talks on their work and a wide variety of design related topics.


Lighting designers Hollis +Morris had a beautiful display. I absolutely love their lighting designs.

Ontario Wood’s booth display and they had a neat installation. The whole team had to pose for photos.

A portrait of myself with the structure.

This is Ani Our Costa Rican Architect from our Costa Rican office.

Here is Karimah (Our photographer and landscape designer) here at KMD Group.

Here is Marcela who is the managing director at KMD Group!

This is Diego. He is a Costa Rican Architect from our Costa Rican office.

This is Philip who is our Project Manager at KMD Group in Canada.

Here was one of the showstoppers at IDS. It is the Concept House “Great Lakes Cabin” that was designed by Backcountry Hut Company (BHC) with landscape design by Flattery Design.

The team (minus our photographer) in front of the cabin!

At IDS we came across this exhibition by Dutch designer Marije Vogelzang called the “Intangible Bento”. It was quite interesting as it invited visitors to take a walk through the ribbon filled installation. Inside we got to try some delicious samples of food such as flatbreads made in front of our eyes , and Apricot and Seed Balls.

Fun times!

Do you know how they made flour back in the day? Well now you do.

Fresh Flatbread Samplers? Yes Please!

These seed and apricot balls were delicious!

Stuffed Pasta Shells in the making.

The ladies!

Well? What Inspires you??? A display by the Ryerson School of Interior Design (

We came across this company that produces Space Optimization Furniture and the representative gave passersby a quick look at how desk tables could be turned into dinner tables and cupboards could be turned into workstations.

Testing it out for myself.

The display by VYVYD Lighting.

The display by Miles and May. They sell high quality wood furniture.

This was the stage setup.

We took photos with one of the Main Stage Speakers the designer Michael Sorenson .

One of the other speakers whom we truly enjoyed listening to were Neri and Hu (pictured below (photo credit: IDS 2019 website). They were invited by IDS as the headliners and International Guests of Honor. We really enjoyed their talk so much that we actually forgot to take photos during the actual talk. Here is a short description of them as described on the website of IDS: Neri and Hu are an interdisciplinary practice based in Shanghai with an office in London. They have won numerous international awards such as the the PLAN Award (2018), EDIDA Designers of the Year (2017) and Wallpaper* Designers of The Year (2014) to name a few. Neri & Hu strongly believe in research as a design tool, their work draws from the dynamic interaction between experience, detail, material, form and light.

EQ3 is a store that sells furniture that are “Modern Designs for Everyday Living”.

The Interior of a shipping container display by the group “Giant”.

The exterior of the shipping container.

The carpet display by W Studio.

How neat?

A fireless fireplace.

This DJ was spinning some cool tunes.

I love to take photos with interesting people. Check out this guy’s hair and beard.

A wall of Kitchen appliances.

The WrKkit workspace by SDI Design Inc.

According to their website” WRKkit is a life size kit of parts that can be reconfigured into thousands of configurations according to one’s ‘workplace personality’”.

We came across these beautiful Ottomans by the Guelph based company “Ottomn”.


Stumbling upon these cloud like things, we were curious to know what they were. Turns out they are from a company called Tangible and are known as “Haven”. Haven is an inflatable cloud structure and it has been conceived as a place to relax, meet or simply take a moment.

Naturally our team had to go inside and check it out for ourselves.

Inside “Haven”.

Okay folks that brings me to the end of this beautiful blogpost! Above was our last photo at IDS 2019. It was a lovely show and we tried to see as much as we could in the short time we had. We all absolutely loved the Interior Design Show this year! The displays were amazing and we were fascinated by the speakers at the main stage. They were all great! We look forward to returning to IDS in 2020!

Until next time I wish you love and light as always.


A Trip to the Scarborough Bluffs

Hi Hi Hi! Welcome to my page and my latest blog post! Today's blog post is of the time I visited Bluffers Park in Scarborough which is located in the east end of the city of Toronto. The Scarborough Bluffs are one of the most picturesque locations in the city. At times the water at Bluffers Park takes on a beautiful turquoise colour, so much so that one could be forgiven for thinking they have been transported to the Caribbean. On this day however it was quite an overcast day and so the water was more on the greyish side.

A wide view of the beautiful Bluffs 

A recently added sign to the park explains the significance of the Bluffs.

Taking in the beauty of the bluffs .

Here I am with Marcela

Standing in front of the beautiful Marina with all the boats.

A view of the Marina

I was excited to see the Canada geese

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but they didn’t seem too excited to have visitors lol

The bluffs behind me are just so majestic. They are truly a gem in the city of Toronto.

Marcela found a running buddy at the Scarborough Bluffs.

A portrait pic of Marcela.

We happened on this site where we found some “Muskoka Chairs”. I am not sure who exactly provided them but I loved the writing that said: “TO Canada with love”. For those that don’t know T.O is also the short for Toronto hence why it is capitalized.

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Scarborough Bluffs Toronto Blogger Architecture Ontario Nature Blogs After 50 years old greenery Canada Geese

A lot of different types of species of plants can be found around the park.

There are so many interesting natural elements at the park such as this waterway that leads to the lake.

To end off this blog post, I leave you with this majestic image of the bluffs. It is truly one of the gems in this beautiful city of Toronto.

Until next time my good friends. I wish you lots of love and light as always!


Unzipped: The Striking pavilion by BIG comes to Toronto

Hola beautiful friends!

Welcome to this week’s blog post! Today I am sharing my trip to see the Pavilion by Danish Architecture firm BIG. The story behind the structure is that it was first designed for and unveiled at the Serpentine Pavilion in London, England back in 2016.

According to Azure magazine the Unzipped pavilion is about twenty-seven meters long and is assembled with 1802 hollow square fibreglass frames that are stacked upon each other with the form tapering upwards to a point to create a zipper like look to the structure. When we were there it seemed to be a big hit, with a constant/ steady stream of visitors coming onto the site on a Friday Morning.

The thing that struck me about the pavilion was that once I approached it, I could see beyond the structure all the way till the end. Inside, the place embraces you but also invites you to keep moving forward and not stay put in one place. Once through the structure visitors are met with a large area of grass whereby they can sit down and admire the structure from outside. It was a great place to chat with friends about their experience viewing the pavilion and and just have a good time.

Housed in the pavilion are displays of 10 of BIG’s projects showcased through models, renderings and recordings. This included a model of the planned 480 suite condominium building in the spot the pavilion is located on in the King Street West area.

If you want to check out the pavilion you should hurry up as it will only be open up until November 30th before it heads west to it’s final destination on the Vancouver Waterfront! Complimentary tickets for the Toronto exhibit can be obtained from the following link:

A majestic view of the pavilion