23rd Best of Canada

We may find ourselves in uncertain times, but what is still a certainty is how much exceptional talent Canada has to offer when it comes to the very best designed interior Projects and Products.

The year 2020 will go down as a crazy one, no question about it. The perfect storm of foreseeable and unforeseeable circumstances has made us all collectively scratch our heads and grumble “WTF?!” Perhaps it is a sensitivity to this confluence of abnormality that shines a light on the numerical order of this year’s 23rd annual Best of Canada Awards, but it turns out the number 23 carries a lot of peculiar significance. A small sampling of examples include John Forbes Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and subject of A Beautiful Mind, was obsessed with 23; the nuclei of human cells have 46 chromosomes made out of 23 pairs; sports stars such as Michael Jordan and David Beckham wore the number on their jerseys (with equally-famous athletes wearing its reverse in deference); and a group called 23rdians subscribe to the mystical power of 23 and see it throughout daily life.

Coincidences? Of course. But fun ones, nonetheless. While the numerical designation has changed, Canadian Interiors’ Best of Canada Design Competition hasn’t: it is still the country’s only design competition to focus on interior design projects and products without regard to size, budget or location. Submissions from interior designers, architects, interior architects, decorators, and crafts persons came pouring in, contributing to a record number of entrants.

Two categories of Projects and Products require distinct judging exercises, which were held on separate days, both at the Teknion Toronto Collaboration Hub and with Teknion’s support. A stellar group of designers stepped up to tackle the daunting task of reviewing the submissions and selecting this year’s cream of the crop. For Projects we recruited:  Dyonne Fashina, principal at Denizens of Design; Deborah Moss, principal of Moss & Lam; Betsy Williamson, principal of Williamson Williamson; and Trevor Kruse, CEO of Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). On the Products side, three judges put their expertise to work analyzing material from an impressive list of candidates: Desmond Chan, co-founder of COFO Design Inc.; Paul Krüger, principal at Modus ID; and Nathaniel Garcia, president of Garcia Rep Group.

Ultimately, a total of 35 winners were chosen, which include five Products and 30 Projects representing a cross-Canada spectrum. When it came time to select the Project of the Year, the judges debated at length until finally selecting Le Diamant Theatre, the rehabilitation of the old YMCA in Québec City into the new home for a theatre company. “The challenge with adaptive reuse projects is to honour the heritage of the original architecture while creating a space empathetic to contemporary users. Le Diamant Theatre is a breathtaking expression of exceptional detailing, informed with a deep sensitivity for the building’s past,” enthused Fashina.

“The design team has distilled the structure’s bones, reinterpreted its visual language through motif, and simultaneously created a dramatic study of shadow and light.”

The Best of Canada Awards also continues to celebrate the exceptional work of Canada’s product designers. With the Judges’ Pick, one of the Products category winners got the nod for a trip package to attend Maison+Objet Paris as a VIP in 2021, thanks to the ongoing generous sponsorship of Maison+Objet. This honour goes to Patkau Architects for their Twist Chair. “There is a delightful elegance to the shape of the shell. You instantly get its form but then wonder how the hell is the leg connection structure strong enough?” says Krüger. “There are no visible fasteners or increased material thickness to reveal how it is done, it’s quite mysterious really. This may cause concern to some users, but I found it was this mystery that made it such a beautiful, sculptural piece.” Garcia adds, “Having attended many trade fairs in Europe, I felt that the level of design is right up there with the top designers. The organic shapes evoke comfort and make for a good-looking sculpture that is very sellable. And hello! It’s made in CANADA!!”

Congratulations to all 35 winners!

Projects judges (l to r): Deborah Moss, Betsy Williamson, Dyonne Fashina, Trevor Kruse
Products judges (l to r): Nathaniel Garcia, Paul Krüger, Desmond Chan