Meet Someone Awesome: Thom Filicia

Queer Eye Thom Filicia

Queer Eye Thom Filicia

If all the stereotypes associated with interior designers, the overbearing snob is an enduring one. Thom Filicia, though, is far from being a stereotype. In an industry based on appearances, artifice and, sometimes, illusion, his utter lack of pretense, evidenced by his open, affable nature both on TV and over the phone from New York last week, has helped him build a far-reaching, ever-growing brand that spans the broadest spectrum of clients and commissions.

On the one hand, he has designed spaces for A-list celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, the late Peter Jennings and Tina Fey (“she’s exactly how you imagine her to be,” he says of the comic actor, “down-to-earth, generous and funny”). His high-end corporate clients include the W chain of boutique hotels. And his New York showroom, Sedgwick & Brattle, does a thriving trade in furniture, fabric and hardware produced by him or by designers he admires. Continue reading

Sleep Here: Drake Devonshire

Photo by George Whiteside

Photo by George Whiteside

Outside the Drake Devonshire in Prince Edward County, one of Ontario’s most picturesque agricultural regions, an upright player piano sits halfway between the parking lot and the front entrance, its strings sutured to amplifiers and extended to reach the inn’s parapet. As guests arrive, the exposed strings vibrate in the wind and Chopin fills the air. The gentle greeting, conceived by sound artist Gordon Monahan, sets the tone for this new type of getaway: the country inn as an art-filled, hipster-friendly retreat.

The lodgings are built around the historical Wellington Iron foundry, which dates back to 1860, now with a new campus of barn-like additions surrounding it on all sides. Together, the cluster of buildings amounts to a 1,200-square-metre interior with 11 guest rooms, two suites and a dining room and bar that seat 75. Various other anterooms offer Ping-Pong, canasta or karaoke until dawn, and a covered patio functions as an event space and an extension of the dining room.

Continue reading

Meet Someone Awesome: 3D Printing Wizard Benjamin Dillenburger

installation3

This was 3D printed

Benjamin Dillenburger created a room as intricate as one built over hundreds of years, in a matter of days. His tool? A 3-D printer. Below, I talked to the architect about pushing the boundaries of digital design and his dream of one day printing an entire house.

The operatic curves of baroque architecture are enthralling to visitors of Europe’s 17th-century cathedrals, palaces and grottoes. But in a modern world obsessed with efficiency and expediency, enthralling isn’t good enough to justify the mountain-high price tag and years of manual labour required to erect such structures.

Which is why Benjamin Dillenburger’s designs are so amazing.

Continue reading

Meet Someone Awesome: Chair Designer Andrew Jones

Chair designer Andrew Jones

Chair designer Andrew Jones

Battery Park, New York City’s 25-acre, tree-filled oasis at the southern tip of Manhattan, is about to become even more welcoming. The Battery Conservancy, the non-profit organization that supports the park, recently wrapped up a two-year competition for new signature seating, something more inspired than the basic benches already there. The winning entry, a perforated steel chair called Fleurt, is a whimsical, floral-shaped design that could have been plucked from a Marimekko print. In 2015, 300 of them will dot Battery Park’s newly renovated central lawn. New Yorkers can thank Toronto’s Andrew Jones when they settle into one.

Fleurt is only Jones’s second major public design, but the first was equally prominent: He is also responsible for the Jackie-Kennedy-pink umbrellas in Toronto’s acclaimed Sugar Beach, a Claude Cormier work that the city’s Ford brothers tried to make disingenuous hay out of recently by citing its supposedly exorbitant cost (four years after it was installed). On Oct. 15, Jones won the juried New York competition (including a $10,000 cash prize) by beating out almost 700 entrants from 15 countries. For the final round, his idea had to pass a sit-off, which saw the general public casting votes for their favourite among the five top proposals after trying them out. Nearly 4,000 people cast a ballot, which Jones won handily.

Coveted: The Fogo Island Long Bench

Coveted15lf1

Ineke Hans’ Long Bench

For culture-loving idealists who believe that art and design have the power to transform society, not just decorate living-room walls, Newfoundland’s Fogo Island Inn is a symbol of hope. Retired tech executive Zita Cobb – a dot.com millionaire who was raised on the island but left at 16 when her father’s fishing job vanished – started the hotel as a means of reviving Fogo’s depressed economy. This was accomplished in part by encouraging tourists to visit the rocky outcrop, which is Newfoundland’s largest offshore island, and also by hiring locals to build and maintain the 29-room structure, and encouraging international filmmakers, artists and writers to visit and spark cross-cultural collaborations. Although the inn, designed by Newfoundland-born, Norwegian-based architect Todd Saunders, only opened in June 2013, it has already created an impressive output, including a line of furniture designed by both Canadian and European designers (Quebec’s Elaine Fortin and England’s Donna Wilson) and made by local craftspeople. The Long Bench, by the Netherlands’ Ineke Hans, is particularly spectacular. Its simple spindle back speaks to the traditional aesthetic of the place – spare, unfussy and tough, in the best ways possible. Price upon request. Through klausn.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, October 16, 2014.

What’s That Smell? Seduction

Scent pro Tracy Pepe

Scent pro Tracy Pepe

The lobby of Toronto’s Trump Hotel has all of the elements of a ritzy, five-star lodging. The check-in desk is wrapped in Macassar ebony. The floor is inlaid with onyx and the drapes are velvet.

The most luxurious design detail, however, isn’t visible or even that discernible. Subtle wafts of champagne and caviar drift through the foyer, giving the place an air of exclusivity, and providing an olfactory signal to the c-suite clientele that they’ve arrived – literally and figuratively.

Continue reading

What’s That Smell? A Healthy Home

Photo courtesy of Shai Gil/superkul

Photo courtesy of Shai Gil/superkul

One of the telltale features of a freshly finished, just-built home isn’t the gleaming appliances or unscuffed, piano-gloss floors. It’s the heady, intoxicating, dizzyingly clean smell.

It’s an odour that architect Meg Graham is intimately familiar with, as the principal of Toronto’s Superkul, an award-winning studio that has built many top-quality houses. But in a home she recently completed in Mulmur, Ont. – a beautiful, waterside bungalow with sunbathed interiors and a rich, woodsy palette – “there was no new-home smell,” she says. Not because anything was amiss, but because everything had gone according to plan.

Continue reading