3, 2, 1…


The record number of guests attending the Interior Design Show’s opening night party at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Jan. 26. Renowned Canadian designer Karim Rashid was the featured DJ. Featured tipple was the delightful Veuve Clicquot champagne. An ice sculpture display of classic armchairs greeted attendees outside the doors, while the escalator ride to the second-floor exhibition space was enlivened by real-time video images projected onto huge felt strips, courtesy of RAW and Christie Microtiles. IDS’s international guest of honour, Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni, gave the opening-night address. 


Exhibitors vying for press and public attention. The following featured items are the ones that grabbed our attention and refused to let go.

4 from OneXOne

Take an iconic chair – in this case Julian, Spanish designer Javier Mariscal’s dog-shaped seat-slash-plaything crafted for the Italian decor store Magis – and hand it over to a passel of 20 different designers, asking for their take on it. That was the clever idea behind OneXOne, a showcase for established Canadian talent. Each unique work was sold through silent auction with the proceeds going to charity. More than $30,000 was raised to benefit a Haitian hospital pediatric wing and a First Nations breakfast program.


Dancing polar bears by Toronto’s Deborah Moss and Edward Lam at IDS’s experimental Offsite/Onsite exhibit on the main floor. For sheer size, the 12-foot-high Styrofoam critters were hard to overlook. On closer inspection, we were intrigued by the way the twinned pieces had been wrought, with rough kerfing and hot-wire marks at the bottom transitioning to the smoothed-out, deco-like planes of the faces. “We wanted to show the process that we’re in love with,” Moss explained. On even closer inspection, we were enchanted to see within the belly of one beast Lam’s exquisite 3-D rendering of another polar bear made simply from underlit crystal beads strung on clear filaments. Why polar bears? “They’re natural and national,” Moss told us, “physically large creatures that loom large in our minds and myths. We thought, ‘Why not explore that?’ ”  www.mossandlam.com


The anniversary year for Studio North, a juried selection of some of this country’s best emerging talent and, as usual, an IDS highlight.  

6 Studio North standouts


Sight and sound combine in Modern Revision’s HiFi, a quirky ode to the past “when stereos looked cool,” according to designer Jody Racicot of Canoe Cove, P.E.I. Loaded with the latest wireless technology for high-performance sound, capable of streaming music from any smartphone, tablet or nano, HiFi offers up-to-date functionality with a huge dollop of postmodern style. The reclaimed cherry wood piece – over three feet high and nearly as wide – is built like a bug, with strikingly curvaceous spider legs and speaker eyes. “I kept hearing Wall-E,” Racicot says of its IDS admirers, “and they were saying it with affection. One of the things I try to lean towards is a certain warmth, a positive reaction from viewers.” A cute creature/human communion near impossible to achieve with an ordinary iDock.  modernrevision.com

2—Cross III 

Studio North’s one-offs and prototypes remind us that design is fundamentally a sensual experience. Take, for instance, the tactile Cross III table by Toronto’s Brothers Dressler. “The first thing people would do is come over and run their hand along it,” says Lars Dressler. Made from two slabs of a local tree felled due to Dutch elm disease, the reclaimed wood possesses “beautiful flares and some really interesting patterns going on.” Surface interest is heightened by three wooden butterfly staples inserted at stress points for purely practical reasons, yet which somehow end up adding to the aesthetic, as does the reverse live edge running down the table’s centre, its roughness the result of larval boring under the tree bark. Angled legs of elm and metal form kinetic cross-trussed supports below.  brothersdressler.com

3—Natural Slate Chalkboard

Kino Guérin of Kingsbury, Que., creates amazingly curlicue tables and convoluted benches, including the twisted tour de force Why Knot table that received a lot of press attention during the show. What we really loved, however, was another item just as whimsical in its own way: a chalkboard made from a chunk of broken slate attached to a sheet of cherry-veneered, homemade birch plywood, a graceful curved lip at its bottom for holding chalk and erasers. A simple, and simply elegant, functional object that doubles as a paleolithic work of art. “While I was designing new products, workers were repairing the slate tiles on the roof of my house,” Guérin says. “Searching for inspiration, I looked out the window and saw material falling from the sky, nice century-old slates. The idea came immediately to recycle this noble material found in my own environment.” Another, smaller version is perfect for kitchen messages. kinoguerin.com

4—Tensegrity Spaceframe 

Michal Maciej Bartosik’s new work is literally a beautiful sight, a seemingly  discontinuous latticework of lights and wires inspired by the geodesic designs of Kenneth Snelson. The versatile modules can be arrayed in any size and direction to form phantom architectural elements like columns and walls, or to take the place of dropped ceilings. “The actual electrical cables that power the lights are now part of the structure,” says Bartosik, winner of a 2011 Best of Canada award for his Dominion light object. “The two work mutually in compression and tension to create a stable structural element with no redundancy. Instead of something you would insert lights into, the light now becomes the actual structure and the wires an integral part of its design.”  mmbartosik.com

 5—Post & Beam

A different kind of conversation piece is After 6 Design Studio’s ingenious Post & Beam unit. Constructed from industrial-painted MDF boards, this definitely condo-worthy item is a combination shelf, floor lamp, two-person cushioned bench with an interior wine storage rack for 17 bottles, and pull-out nesting table/seat with holders for hanging wine glasses – that is all of six feet long. Woodbridge, Ont. designer Sia Zanjani says his company now specializes in this kind of “multi-functional, ‘smart’ furniture that serves several purposes at the same time.”  His 4.2 (pronounced “For2”) chair, providing abundant storage space, was a big hit at last year’s IDS.  A6DS.com

6—Cortical Chair

Toronto designer Mani Mani, principal of Fishtnk, focuses his work on parametric furniture design, which uses computer algorithms to produce nature-like lines around which objects can be built. His Cortical Chair represents the first product outcome of this complex process. “We took the background of a book seat and loaded it with human weight parameters, expressing the forces on the chair with a back spine,” Mani explains. “The computer was told to remove all unnecessary material, which left a light bone structure very similar to a tortoise’s shell.” Hence the name Cortical, a reference to the supporting spine and ribs embedded on the underside of the amphibian’s carapace. The chair itself has a shell seat of walnut veneer, a spine of solid aluminum, and solid walnut legs. Good bones, indeed.  fishtnk.com

1 Best in show

Dog Sled Cha

We did get around to the rest of IDS, seeing everything there was to see. But at the end of the day, and for days afterwards, one piece from the Studio North collection stuck in our mind: the prototype Dog Sled Chair from Mississauga’s PAB. Amazingly, this represents designer Philip A. Brown’s first foray into wooden furniture and first attempt at the ancient art of rush seating. “I was driving along and had an idea for a chair that would resemble the cockpit of a race car,” Brown says. “When I made a sketch of it later on, I saw that structurally what you’ve got to put into the seat resembled the trusses and rails of a dog sled, so I went with that.” After taking a class in rushwork from Toronto-based specialist Donna Kim, Brown went to town on the solid oak chair frame. “There’s eight or nine pounds of paper rush in the seat, sealed with shellac. It’ll last a good long time, and you could spill a glass of red wine on it with no staining.” The deep, lounge-like seat is surprisingly comfortable to curl up on. “It lends itself well to the human body. The direction of the figure-eight weave creates a horizontal line right where the butt goes and a vertical line for the spine.” Yet as much as we loved the overall look and feel and very Canadian-ness of the chair, one small detail literally stood out. “I left all the dowels to the end for cutting flush and fine finishing,” says Brown. “But when I saw that the dowels’ protruding represented much more of a Canadian feel, like the post-and-beam construction of log houses up north, I left them as is.” A wise decision. And a truly wonderful chair.  pabfurniture.com