15 & counting

 The Interior Design Show – held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre over a 3½-day extended weekend; host to over 300 Canadian and international exhibitors and more than 50,000 attendees – reached a milestone this January. It officially turned 15 years old. What would merit teenager status in a human being becomes venerable in a trade exhibition, proof that it has what it takes to lead the field. And lead it did, with highlights that included star turns by Japanese-Canadian Oki Sato and Canada’s Douglas Coupland and Karim Rashid, a broad-ranging keynote speakers program, and an opening-night party that left several media members and exhibitors sleepy-eyed the following day (not I, alas, as I was unable to attend). You’ll find the products I liked best, along with a special exhibit, in the following pages.  

1—Write on!

Douglas Coupland did more than just address an IDS seminar audience; the renowned artist and author also debuted a new luxury furniture line under exclusive license to Vancouver’s SwitzerCultCreative. The small collection contains lamps, chairs and bookshelves built along the lines of traditional Japanese design. The standout piece, however, is the Bento Box Escritoire: a drop-front writing desk, deeply lacquered in either black or white and lined with bold red felt. In a multi-tasking, multi-purpose world, Coupland says he enjoys the single-minded nature of the escritoire, adding that viewing its lush, rich colour “makes my brain release a small hit of dopamine which, in turn, makes me want to write more.”   switzercultcreative.com

2—Wooden whimsy

The Studio North and Prototype displays always get grouped together in one corner of the exhibition, yet they remain the centre of attention for many IDS visitors. This year, Prototype showcased a half-lacquered sugar maple accent table – called T1 Storage – by Quebec City’s Six Point Un (a) that is not only as cute as a bug’s ear but, when its upper portion is removed, doubles as a cool stool. At Studio North, the white oak Parkdale Chair (b) by Toronto’s Scott Eckert coupled simple lines and a sinuous saddle seat to delightful, and restful, effect.   sixpointun.ca; scottdeckerfurniture.blogspot.com

 3—The works

Four design groups took on the challenging IDS Show Feature exhibit. Each was given the theme “How Do You Work?” and a separate 200-square-foot display area within an enclosure landscaped by HGTV host Joel Loblaw.

a) Montreal and Milan-based studio Samare used pegboard walls hung with tools, rug swatches and the occasional snowshoe to support its position that modern CGI technology, while very useful, can’t replace hands-on experience.   samare.ca

b) The “irreverent botanist” inspired Montreal firm Igloodgn to create a mainly two-dimensional workspace, filled with Fornasetti library-book wallpaper and tree-sized line drawings of tulips, that riffed on our modern, 3-D world.  

c) Toronto’s Black Lab also used pegboard, plus 60 hours of labour, to meticulously place 1,200 pencil crayons in one-inch squares, creating a pixelated abstract that spoke to both the literal and non-literal meaning of the firm’s own design life.  blacklabarchitects.com

d) But it was left to Toronto’s Dubbeldam Architecture + Design to blow the roof off the joint. Interpreting the chosen theme to mean how people in general now work, principal Heather Dubbeldam proposed the Pop-up Office. Take one shipping container and line it entirely with shipping palette wood. Have that wood rise up, seamlessly morphing in graduated levels of sanded finish from floor to furniture, walls and ceiling. Toss in a few well-placed lights and outlets. Use minor distinctions to indicate areas of individual focus, collaborative effort and relaxed conversation. What you are left with is a highly flexible, mobile workplace that distils today’s office life down to its essentials – a simple surface to work on and somewhere to plug in. 

4—Mum’s the word

Seven years ago, before his third child’s birth, Toronto designer Ralph Montemurro decided to remodel his house. In doing so, he hit upon the conundrum he calls “the nursery niche” – in an otherwise completely modern home, traditional baby furniture just don’t jive. So he and wife, Michelle, started Monte Design Group Inc., producing Canadian handcrafted nursery furnishings that now sell across North America and as far away as Australia. The firm’s big attraction this season is the Grazie Glider, a matching armchair and ottoman that gently slide back and forth along with a nursing mother’s rocking motion. Available in multiple fabrics, including Paul Smith stripes and Missoni zigzags, the glider possess such style and comfort that every home should own one, whether or not children are in the offing.  montedesign.net


Montreal’s Wet Style is justifiably proud of its new Wetmar BiO eco-friendly material. Made from a proprietary composite of soy and mineral stone, it offers strength and superior heat retention, and comes available in matte, high-gloss and dual-tone finishes. But that’s just the counter-top. The rest of the floating vanity in its Japanese-inspired Frame Collection is built with powder-coated Canadian aluminum and American black walnut, and features lacquered glass panels that can be popped off and replaced with differently coloured or mirrored sections whenever a fresh look is required.  wetstyle.ca

6—Sink me!

Fresh from Victoria + Albert in London’s design district comes a small sink with big attitude. At only 44cm long, the Edge basin is specifically fit to grace any restricted powder-room space. Cast in a single piece out of a unique volcanic-limestone-and-resin mixture, each stand-alone sink has a natural high-gloss white finish and is guaranteed to last without cracking or chipping for 25 years.  vandabaths.com