Kelly Wearstler: Carpet Master

Kelly Wearstler's Serpent rug for the Rug Company

Kelly Wearstler’s Serpent rug for the Rug Company

Interior designer Kelly Wearstler has had a career trajectory likely only possible in her adopted hometown of Los Angeles. Starting out in the early nineties, she was a waitress turned Playboy centrefold turned interior designer to the stars: her modelling money helped launch her studio; her glitzy clients include Gwen Stefani and Cameron Diaz.

Now Wearstler runs a global lifestyle brand: She has her own fashion, jewellery and furniture lines, and has written four books, each documenting the kind of maximalist, explosively colourful interiors that have helped make her famous. She also creates carpets for the Rug Company, a renowned London-based tapestry manufacturer run by Christopher Sharp. He’s never been in Playboy, but has collaborated on floor coverings with many of the world’s top designers, including Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

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Not Lame: Living with Your Parents

Photo by Marc Cramer. Design by Henri Cleinge

Photo by Marc Cramer. Design by Henri Cleinge

Ramona Omidvar is part of a growing cohort of young professionals who expects to eventually share a home with her parents, as well as her two children, currently 2 and 5.

The reason for blending the households isn’t financial – both Omidvar and her husband, who asked not to be named, have good jobs (she’s a policy analyst with the Ontario government, he works in banking), as do her parents (Ratna, her mother, is an Order of Canada recipient and president of the Maytree Foundation; Mehran, her father, is an engineer).

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Coveted: Judson Beaumont’s Squiddy Table

Squiddy_high_res1

Judson Beaumont’s Squiddy Table

Much of designer Judson Beaumont’s furniture has a Disney-like sense of innocence: curvaceous, cartoon-inspired pieces that look poised to, at any moment, burst into a rendition of Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast. His Squiddy table, on the other hand, comes from a darker, though still whimsical, place. Beaumont got the idea one day when he noticed some offcuts of alder in his Vancouver studio. The slivers reminded him of the super long, super skinny legs of a Tim Burton character. Jack Skellington, for example, or Victor van Dort. He embraced the creepy quality and started hand-carving similar members. The effect is chillingly cool, as though the squiggly fronds are stopped mid-scuttle as they scurry across the floor. 36″ w. x 18” h. x 16” d. From $1,500. Through straightlinedesigns.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

Great Spaces: Inside A House Filled With Can-Con

Photo by Derek Shapton

Photo by Derek Shapton

Mary Abbott grew up outside of Guelph in an old farmhouse so secluded that her parents didn’t bother with curtains. “The land around us was made up of fields and forests,” she says. “It was extremely private.” Abbott has since left the rural life behind. She’s a corporate lawyer, her husband, Kevin Gormely, is an executive at a printing company, and they live in the middle of the city with their two small boys. Still, she channeled her upbringing when they rebuilt their home last year. The property is ensconced in the tree canopy of the Moore Park ravine, so she opted for giant picture windows with no coverings. Even the master bedroom is ­drapery-free—Abbott and Gormely enjoy waking up with the sun. The couple, working with architect John O’Connor of Basis Design Build, also kept the ­interiors spare to better showcase their extensive collection of contemporary Canadian art. Spare, but not spartan: O’Connor incorporated natural materials like soapstone, birch and Douglas fir to add rustic warmth. So even though the house looks modern, the palette is as ­elemental as the towering trees outside.

For the rest of this story, please see the March 2014 issue of Toronto Life magazine.

Coveted: Miles Keller’s Kona Lounger

Miles Keller's Kona Lounger

Miles Keller’s Kona Lounger

Currently in Toronto, the emerald ash borer beetle is decimating the city’s ash trees. Over the next 10 years, about 860,000 trees will be felled because of the invasive species. Instead of simply mulching or trashing the trunks, industrial designer Miles Keller, founder of Toronto-based Dystil studio, hopes we can come up with a creative reuse. Turning the logs into art, say, or furniture. (Because the beetle kills the tree by attacking its bark, it doesn’t affect the integrity of the wood.) For his part, Keller has used ash reclaimed from a city woodlot in Scarborough to design a graceful lounger. Called Kona, after the Cree word for snow, it pays tribute to the long history of ash as a valuable construction material for Canada’s First Nations people. Because the wood is lightweight and a good shock absorber, it was used for thousands of years as staffs for spears or frames for dog sleds. Fittingly, Keller’s fine joinery is reminiscent of a hockey stick, and the shape and leather meshing brings to mind a giant snowshoe. From $3,500. Through dystil.ca.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, February 27, 2014.

Bathtubs Are Dead (or, Rather, Dying), Long Live Bathtubs

Photo c/o bettywasserman.com

Photo c/o bettywasserman.com

Most kitchens are filled with “good idea” investments – those gadgets, tools and appliances that were a good idea in the store, but which collect dust most of the year because, let’s face it, who’s really going to scratch-make pasta, bread or Belgian waffles on a regular basis?

In the bathroom, the equivalent might just be the tub. Scheduling a moment to draw a bath, let alone soak in one, is a near inconceivable indulgence considering that most Canadians work such long hours (almost two-thirds of us put in more than 45 hours a week on the job, according to a 2012 study). And with our aging population, tubs are increasingly trip-and-slip hazards rather than relaxation devices.

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Toys “R” Cool (Pharrell Says So)

A piece from the Design Exchange's new show, This is Not a Toy

A piece from the Design Exchange’s new show, This is Not a Toy

Anyone who recalls childhood toys as innocent playthings is likely misremembering. Figurines, cutesy or otherwise, are often just avatars for exploring the world, both its good and bad bits. I used to remove my stuffed animals’ appendices (white batting everywhere) in an effort to save their disease-addled lives. And I know people who twisted their Kens and Barbies into compromising positions (fine, that was me, too), well before any ideas of sex were fully concretized.

It’s with this spirit – that toys convey a complex, often adult, set of ideas – that the Design Exchange, a.k.a. DX, Canada’s national design museum, has launched its latest show. Provocatively titled This Is Not A Toy, and co-curated by Pharrell Williams – one of the world’s most influential tastemakers in music, fashion and everything, really – the exhibit is a vibrant, often funny, sometimes grotesque, slightly sadistic (one doll is covered in little needles) survey of limited-edition art toys by innovative, small-batch designers.

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