24th Best of Canada

The disruption that COVID-19 has had on the design industry is still being felt, but that didn’t stop the best and brightest of Canada’s design talents from shining through.

Things change quickly in our modern times, and those changes create waves that spread out in all directions, pushing things forward or out of the way. The challenge is to learn how to anticipate, match and then ride that wave, or risk being swept under. As you can imagine, the wave of which I speak is COVID-19, and like many other industries in Canada the interior design sector had to react quickly and make decisions: do we hold our breath and hope the wave passes over our heads, or do we learn to surf. While the intensity of the wave appears to be dissipating and things are slowly returning to a more recognizable state, there is still debate as to whether it has fully hit shore and everyone is safely out of the water yet.

The metaphor of the wave and its impact extends to the 24th annual Canadian Interiors’ Best of Canada Awards, 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 were less in quantity than in previous years, but that can be expected. What has not decreased is the impressive quality of the work being produced by Canada’s exceptional design talent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ratio of projects designed before the pandemic hit is much larger than those completed during, suggesting that there are many surfers still out in the water, finding their way back to shore. We look forward to seeing them in upcoming Best of Canada competitions.

As always, the 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: Karen Mak, joint CEO of dkstudio Architects Inc.; Ian Rolston, founder of Decanthropy; Toon Dreessen, president of Architects DCA; and Isabelle Talbot, principal of Ray. On the Products side, three judges put their expertise to work analyzing material from an impressive list of candidates: Catherine Chong, professor in the Bachelor of Industrial Design program in the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Technology at Humber College ITAL; Eiri Ota, principal at UUfie; and Andrew Sun, principal of Atelier SUN.

Ultimately, a total of 23 winners were chosen, which include two Products and 21 Projects representing a cross-Canada spectrum. When it came to selecting the Project of the Year, the judges debated at length until finally nominating Network Child Care Centres, a nonprofit childcare organization that provides high quality services and programs to children and families in locations across Toronto and the GTA. “Fresh and considerate are words that immediately came to mind when reviewing the Network Childcare Centre. However, it was the vibrant calmness of the space that distinguished the submission. The thoughtful expression of care offered in the use of colour, placement, and simple use of materials, helped to balance function with beautiful clarity of space,” enthused Rolston. “The project can be likened to a prepared canvas, ready to be adorned and animated by a community of users invited to add a layer of texture, activity, playfulness…life, to a place clearly designed to meet their needs.”

The Best of Canada Awards also continues to celebrate the exceptional work of Canada’s interior product designers, with the honour of Judges’ Pick going to the Catty chair designed by EOOS for Division 12, a subsidiary of Keilhauer. “Catty has a look that makes people happy. Minimalist yet stylish, Catty is a fabulously discreet seat that feels light, giving an impression of barely there. The clever stackable function is versatile,” observed Chong. “A smart design makes use of simple bent metal which is inconspicuous but is built to last. The less-is-more approach to sustainable design and careful craftsmanship enhances its timelessness. Catty’s variety of colourful finishes inspire joy; its easy-on-the-eyes design sets it apart from the other entries, hence our Judges’ Pick.”

Congratulations to all 23 winners!

Projects judges (l to r): Toon Dreessen, Isabelle Talbot, Karen Mak and Ian Rolston

Product judges (l to r): Andrew Sun, Catherine Chong and Eiri Ota