Lucky 7

You know it’s a huge show when it takes up both buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This year for the first time, IIDEXCanada, the country’s National Design and Architecture Exposition & Conference, joined forces with six other previously independent exhibitions – Construct Canada, Concrete Canada, PM Expo, Construct International, the Real Estate Forum, and the Home Builder & Renovator Expo – to create The Buildings Show. Instantly the largest such gathering in North America, the three-day event in early December featured over 1,600 exhibitors, from 10 countries, along with 500 speakers. An estimated 35,000 visitors attended. 

I found more than enough to occupy myself by simply concentrating on the IIDEXCanada side of things. This expo-within-an-expo showcased 11 subsections that ran the gamut of the design field, from healthcare to textiles. As usual, I scoped out many fascinating objets, the first of which (Invent Dev) happened to be at the top of the escalator, as I headed into the show.

1-Virtual visuals Say you’ve got a drawing for a new condo building, from a napkin sketch to an entire set of blueprints. You can picture it all in your head, but clients and especially homebuyers may have trouble doing so. That’s where Invent Dev comes in. A new, Canadian-created computer program that renders any drawing in colour 3D, it allows you to “walk” through and interact with the proposed space. You can instantly customize materials, change lighting along a day’s axis to examine its indoor effects, capture images and videos, even stroll over to the windows for a full perspective of the view outside. Coming soon will be a set of interior design tools. Fun, smart, and did I mention fun? 

2-Sì saw Piemonte, the provincial home of Turin and Asti, among other northern Italian cities, sponsored a group of five regional design lines to the show. I particularly liked the versatile Suede sink (a) by Cerasa, which came in a multiplicity of shapes, colours and options, including many free-standing units that allow for complete bathroom liberation. I was also im­pressed with Caino Design’s MePa series of decorative metal-lace panels (b). Their intricate, semi-obscuring patterns are the result not of laser-cutting but a more precise technique of chemical etching originally developed for the automotive industry. 

3-Wood watch For the past couple of years, IIDEX has presented the Woodshop display, dedicated to the utilization of a small fraction of Toronto-area ash wood devastated by the Emerald Ash Borer. Here, a contemporary offering by well-known local maker Michael C. Fortune caught the eye. Twinned ovoid forms of steam-bent ash whose hardwood tops can be flipped to leather-upholstered cushions created a combination coffee table/ottomans/side tables unit (a) that would be tough to beat for furniture versatility. Close by Woodshop was a small booth occupied by show newbies Lisa and Brian Honing, of Melancthon, Ontario’s Honing Design. I loved their Hagensborg indoor bench (b), a simple structure of wooden planking and stainless-steel framing. I loved it even more when I found out that several of the benches had been constructed from antique hemlock boards rescued during the couple’s reno of their 1870s home. No roundup of reclaimed wood would be complete without mentioning Toronto’s marvellous Brothers Dressler. Their latest this year is the Mesh Nook (c), an articulated six-foot screen made from wood offcuts (including ash) that can be fitted with shelving, lighting and recycled felt seating in a variety of cosy, modular configurations. 

4-Sight lines Toronto-based Quadrangle Architects ( took home a Silver Innovation Award for its #Started booth, but to me the experience was golden. Quadrangle was one of three architectural groups competitively tasked by IIDEXCanada to present a 3D representation of the ideal start-up office. Quadrangle’s answer was literally a sketch brought to life. Full-dimension wire frames made from welded steel rods showed where windows, doorways, credenzas and light fixtures were to be placed. Here and there, “jotted” notations in custom-fabricated metal stuck out to the side, indicating sizes, LED placement and other design minutia. Herman Miller’s ( attractive new Public Office Landscape furniture, in white, provided the “room’s” only substance. And for visitors’ digital enjoyment, Toronto’s Designstor ( offered a tablet app that changed black-and-white sketches to rendered settings with one sweep of the finger.