A Conversation with Design Master Giulio Cappellini

Giulio Cappellini at his Milan Showroom

Giulio Cappellini at his Milan Showroom

Even if you’ve never heard of Giulio Cappellini, or the eponymous design studio he’s run for three decades, chances are you’ve seen some of the furniture maker’s quizzically shaped, brightly hued tables, couches and cabinetry.

If not in top style mags like Elle Decor, Dwell and Architectural Digest, then on display at prestigious museums like the V&A in London, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris and New York’s MoMA.

Part of what has made the 59-year-old so successful is a singular ability for discovering, developing and collaborating with untapped talent: much lauded stars like Marcel Wanders, Jasper Morrison and Tom Dixon all got their first big breaks by working with the Milanese master.

When Cappellini was in Toronto recently to give a lecture at the Design Exchange, we caught up with him to talk about his sense of colour, humour and how he finds his bright young things.

You’ve got a knack for spotting fresh talent. How do you do it?

I travel a lot. I visit universities and schools. I meet a lot of people. Sometimes I just see a rough prototype or a sketch. Or sometimes I meet someone and I just think that this person can work well with Cappellini. The feeling I get for the person is very important, because sometimes it takes years between the first prototype and the final design. And I never just want to make one piece with a designer. So we need to build a strong relationship.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Comeback: Cut Glass Gets a Modern Update

Cumbria Crystal's Bottle Vase

Cumbria Crystal’s Bottle Vases

During the Victorian era, hand-blown, intricately patterned glass was a stylish sign of wealth. European aristocrats and American tycoons used it to transform their salons into jewel boxes, lining the rooms with gleaming vases, goblets and treys.

But, similar to carriage making and shoe cobbling, the craft fell out of favour in the early 20th century, when more modern, steam-lined luxuries came into fashion. In the US, there were over 1,000 studios working with cut glass during the 1800s. By 1908, there were only 100.

Continue reading

Coveted: Brenda Watts’ French Rolling Pin

Brenda Watts' French Rolling Pin

Brenda Watts’ French Rolling Pin

A French-style rolling pin is ideal for pastry. The tapered ends pivot to work the dough into pie-crust-perfect circles, and the slender profile applies only a gentle touch, which helps keep tarts and croissants flaky. Carpenter Brenda Watts has been making them at Cattails, her Hermitage, PEI, studio, for the past decade. She started making them because her sister, who is a baker and worked at a kitchen store, wanted a French pin for herself. Watts, who studied woodworking at Holland College, uses locally harvested flame birch and brings out the wood’s naturally flamboyant grain by sanding it to a sheen then finishing it with sunflower oil and beeswax from a local beekeeper. Aspiring Julia Childs will appreciate its soft, warm grip. Everyone else will just admire how good it looks on the kitchen counter. French rolling pin. 22 “ l. x 2” dia. $50. Through shopbrendawattswoodwork.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Coveted: A Fuzzy Felt Owl

Marja Koskela's Owl Musicbaby

Marja Koskela’s Owl Musicbaby

When her son was born eight years ago, Vancouver-based designer Marja Koskela welcomed him with an owl-shaped, music-playing crib hanger. She wanted a way to serenade him with Braham’s lullaby that was a bit less girly than the pink music box she had growing up. Koskela knew it was a hit when her son didn’t want to give up the felt toy, even long after he had outgrown his cradle (he kept it in his bed with his other stuffed animals until he was four). Now, she sells them all over the world, from Ireland to New Zealand — and not just to new parents, but to the young at heart who want a quirky piece of decor to hang under their kitchens cupboards. Owl Musicbaby. $30. Through etsy.com/shop/mimishop.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 21, 2013.

Ditches, Beaches and Woods: Where Designers go to Forage

Natalie Stopka's Napkins

Natalie Stopka’s Napkins

For devout foodies, scavenging through public parks and roadside ditches to pick wild, esoteric ingredients is an almost sacred ritual. Although the yields are small, the thistles, berries and greens they collect are nutrient-packed, deeply flavourful and, perhaps most importantly, not what the neighbours are eating.

But gourmands aren’t the only ones out foraging. Pioneering designers, including furniture makers and architects, are uprooting their own raw materials to make everything from cabinetry to structural columns. Turns out there are lots of aesthetic possibilities when working with forage. Roadside weeds can be boiled down to dye textiles, for example, while a naturally fallen tree can make a fetching coffee table.

Continue reading

Coveted: A Pair of Maple Knives

The Federal's Maple Knives

The Federal’s Maple Knives

When friends and industrial designers Ian Murchison and Rohan Thakar left their jobs at Research in Motion a few years ago, they wanted to work on projects that had a more organic quality. So the Carleton grads started the Federal, an Ottawa-based studio that makes tactile, nature-friendly products such as sheep’s wool earmuffs and plywood desk lamps. Even their knives have a soft side. While most tools of butchery have a menacing look, these blades are more aptly described as warm. With the exception of the honed metal edges, they are made entirely of sealed, food-safe Canadian maple – the waving grain of the wood giving them a gentle, painterly effect. Through thefederal.co.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 14, 2013.

Coveted: Christopher Solar’s Strapping Bench

Christopher Solar's Strap Bench

Christopher Solar’s Strap Bench

Seven years ago, Christopher Solar gave up a career as a software developer and began teaching himself the art of furniture making. After he mastered the classics, the Ottawa-based designer got creative. His Strap Bench is strung with a colourful, almost chaotic top made from seat-belt webbing (the brightly hued kind used in custom hot rods, not your typical sedans). It’s Solar’s wink at traditional weaving techniques, done with an updated, post-industrial sense of ingenuity. And although the taut, crisscrossing pattern looks random, it’s anything but – each strap is carefully placed to ensure the right level of give and support as you sit. From $1,600 through christophersolar.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 7, 2013.