Hit parade

This past January, the Interior Design Show treated its approximately 51,000 visitors to a now well-established round of parties, international guest speakers and 300-plus exhibits. The latter displays at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre were the big draw, of course, consisting mainly of exhibitors from across North America, with a sprinkling of global suppliers. While not all of the products on view could be termed cutting edge, let alone unique (just how many near-identical kitchen faucets and bathroom sinks can you look at without reaching the tipping point?), several helped serve up a smorgasbord of directions in contemporary design. 

1-Retro no mo’

Nothing shouts “poolside” louder than basket chairs rendered in such vivid Miami Heat shades as turquoise, orchid, cactus and hot pink. And, thanks to Toronto’s Innit Design, we once again have available a sturdy collection of ’60s-style vinyl-cord chairs, stools and tables to lounge around with – fabricated for the new millennium to be phthalate-free, rust- and UV-resistant.  innit.com

2—LED-ing the way 

IDS’s special See the Light section offered surprisingly little in the way of inspirational illumination, yet AM Studio’s stand-alone booth more than made up for this lack. The Toronto gallery’s custom LED lighting fixtures featured a clutch of eye-catching designs, from the flat, brushed-steel optics of its Flying Lines chandelier and Flashlight grouping to the each-piece-
is-unique Moonlight pendants (shown) – a staggered array of hand-blown glass bubbles in frosty white, silver, amber and bronze finishes. AM Studio’s combination of art, artisanship and G-4 LED technology really illustrates how lighting can be lifted to the next level.  amstudio.ca

3—The hidden kitchen

Modern urban homes (read “compact condos”) employ an open concept to disguise the fact that they’re really quite small. The effect of this is that the galley-style kitchen, with its obligatory floating island counter-bar, is visible from all angles of the main living space. Mississauga’s AyA Kitchen’s new Avani line, created in consultation with white-hot, New York–based Israeli designer Dror Benshetrit, aims to minimize this visual impact by keeping all utilitarian objects out of sight. No intrusive hardware interrupts the blank wall of pull-to-open cupboards and drawers. The fridge and dishwasher are disguised by doors of matching veneer, and even the range hood over the flat-surface stove can be swung out and back into the surrounding cabinetry. Benshetrit’s “Arc,” a fixed Corian island counter with a pull-out, nesting-table bar, is situated front and centre. Narrow in both width and profile, easily expanded and diminished, the Arc acts as a sleek, minimalist framing device for the kitchen you hardly realize is there.  avanikitchens.com

4—Oh, beehive!

The original modular unit is arguably the beehive – a handy all-in-one home for workers, the queen’s nursery and, of course, delicious honey. Carleton University Industrial Design graduates Scott Bodaly and Heather Lam, working under the Toronto-based title The National Design Collective, have crafted a water-tower-like hive out of pieces of bent, raw cedar, whose round segments can be lifted out for individual maintenance. Designed with rooftop beekeepers in mind, the City Hive was ecologically motivated, meant to help reverse the depressing downward spiral of the world’s bee population. The fact that it looks pretty cool in the bargain is a sweet surprise.   thenationaldesigncollective.ca

5—Saving grace

If there is an upside to the current North American infestation of Emerald Ash Borers, it would be the way enterprising craftspeople have rediscovered the beauty of ash wood’s deep grain and flexible nature. Toronto’s Brothers Dressler, design leaders in salvaged-wood products, have come up with dozens of uses for an admitted fraction of the 860,000 ash trees that will be destroyed in their city alone over the next five years. We loved Lars and Jason D’s one-off Rad Desk, made from ash slabs and recycled lengths of radiator tubing, as well as the sinewy look of ash-wood fingers spreading out to support their new Branch Shelving series.  brothersdressler.com


What could be a more natural progression of Facebook’s and Instagram’s “social” self-involvement than a truly personalized home? That’s the theory, at any rate, behind Picture-Perfect Carpets. Toronto’s W Studio obtained the Canadian licensing rights for this European technology just one week prior to IDS. Clients simply provide their own high-res image and ink-jet printing does the rest – right down to a durable depth of three-quarter-inch in wool-and-nylon carpet pile.  wstudio.ca

7—The modular wall 

In a similar vein, the Italian firm Design You Edit (by way of U.S. supplier Ronda Design) offers a metallic wall covering that can also be insta-printed with your choice of artwork. Magnet-backed shelving units – available in a wide variety of shapes, from Ys to circular tubing to cabinets – simply click onto the wall and can be reconfigured whenever whimsy strikes.  commercialdesigninteriors.com 

8—New-old news

Thoreaux, a new wallpaper line out of Toronto, is doing its own bit of recycling. Partners Benjamin Leszcz and Witney Geller source classic ornamentation images – Chinese porcelains, Turkish mosaics, John James Audubon copperplates – and then rework the scale and colouring to create contemporary flair. After years of being banished to decor limbo, wallpaper is back on top again. It couldn’t have better champions than the Thoreaux team.  thoreaux.com