Crowd pleaser

You could feel it in the air – a steady hum of anticipation and excitement – after stepping through the doors of the Direct Energy Centre on the morning of Sept. 20. For here was a brand-new IIDEX Canada, thanks in part to the involvement of Architecture Canada|RAIC, presenting the show, for the first time, with IDS (Interior Designers of Canada). It soon became clear that the country’s National Design + Architecture Exposition & Conference had got its mojo back. (A week later, the numbers spoke of IIDEX’s success: attendance was up, with 15,500 visitors over two days.)

Taking my cue from the cover of IIDEX Canada’s 2012 Official Show Guide, I spent the better part of the show’s first day casing 350 architecture and design exhibits in search of the “new/now/never before.” Following are a half-dozen of my favourites.


I was prepared to like the rugs at W Studio’s booth, if only because the Toronto-based carpet-design gallery scored a Gold and three Bronze Innovation awards. The Gold winner was created by German designer Jan Kath; called The Joker for its playing-card motif in one corner, the black-and-white area rug is seemingly a blown-up collage of degraded filmstrips and other ephemera. Very cool, but it was another work by Kath that intrigued me the most: a traditional Turkish carpet scribbled all over with ivory silk hand knotting. Kath patterned his abstract scrawl by tracing the trajectory of a soccer ball during a 90-minute match. Known only as No. 27023 in the catalogue, I privately dubbed the rug “Turkish Delight.”


The Jump Seat, new from Chicago-based manufacturer Sedia Systems, presents a modest, under-four-inch plywood profile. Pull down the front section, however, and it transforms into a legless, felt-covered seat, thanks to a cantilevered core of spring steel and perfectly engineered bevelled kerfs that allow the seat to only go so far. Weight-tested up to 600 pounds, available in multiple heights and widths with optional armrests, the Jump Seat is ideal for auditoriums, a fact that won it a Silver Innovation award from IDC/IIDEX. Any place where space is at a premium – a boardroom, hallway, lobby, even a condo – could use this surprisingly comfortable, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t furnishing.


Furniture powerhouse Herman Miller has a knack for what it calls “modernism with soul.” The new Herman Miller Collection references the style and philosophy of its legendary mid-century design director, George Nelson, who once described the ultimate office environment as “a daytime living room where work can be done under less tension with fewer distractions.” The collection encompasses both classic and contemporary pieces that mesh seamlessly with each other anywhere from boardroom to backyard. Typical of its approach is the time-transcending quality of the new Tuxedo Bench: based on a modular grid that allows the standard model to expand from single- to multi-seat units, the design consists of narrow steel legs available in a half-dozen finishes and an exceptionally slim seating profile thanks to cantilevered construction and dual-density foam cushioning.


Lobbies, lounges, libraries and open-concept offices could all use the latest (and Silver award–winning) sofa series from Toronto über-design line Nienkämper. Promising “a room within a room,” the Tuxedo High Back, available in a two- or three-seat model with the choice of two heights, offers a tall, sound-absorbing back and sides that effectively block out external noise and create an island of intimacy inside. A green island, at that, given the sofa’s construction from FSC-certified maple, soy-based foam and organic New Zealand felted wool.


Not a product, per se, but an annual showcase for artists and designers from the greater Ottawa area tasked with exploring electric light as a creative medium, the Candela exhibit this year anchored IIDEX’s Light Canada Expo. My favourite offering is Flitzer, a conversation-piece lamp by Montrealer Daniel Harding. Crafted in curves of laminated plywood and aluminum, its upper portion a recycled wing rib from a Bombardier Challenger jet, this lamp’s sleek, intrinsically aerodynamic shape appears poised to turn any desk into a vintage Duesenberg.