I yelled at my husband on the street today. A stranger stopped and asked us for directions. I kept walking. Matthew, my husband, paused to help, standing less than six feet from the man. “Oh my God, stand back!” I shouted. I grabbed Matthew by the arm, pulled him away, and suggested to the stranger that if he was lost, he could use his smartphone. When I apologized to Matthew at home, I explained that everything is stressing me about Toronto these days: opening the door to our condo lobby, touching the buttons on the elevator, passing people in the halls. The virus could be anywhere. It’s a conversion we have had before, like after I called Matthew “reckless” for picking a stray nickel up off the sidewalk. “Try to relax,” he told me. I said, it’s hard. I feel nervous every time we go out and the scores of shuttered storefronts depress me. “I want to leave,” I said, referring to our vague plans of escaping to our cabin in the Laurentians. “We can’t,” he replied. A simple truth. Quebec has closed its border to Ontario. Fine. I will continue distracting myself the same way everyone is: eating too many carbs, watching too much Netflix.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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.
Designer Riley McFerrin was raised in a place that celebrates its artificiality: Los Angeles. But because he married a Canadian (and hated L.A.’s smog), he now lives somewhere almost entirely natural: British Columbia’s serene Sunshine Coast. The unspoiled environs inspire his work. At his year-old studio Hinterland, he hand makes light fixtures from foraged beach branches, and crafts side tables that echo the crystalline shapes of the Rockies. His Tidal Flux Ottoman (co-created with his wife, illustrator Sara Gillingham, as well as fibre artist Coral Harding) takes after the humble, netted crab trap. The rope work – a mix of macramé, crochet and sailors’ knots – looks delicate but is highly durable. The cotton, wool and nylon cords are wrapped around a brass-covered, stainless-steel frame and are tied to withstand wind, rain and the roughest of seas. Tidal Flux Ottoman $3,000. hinterlanddesign.com.
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, June 12, 2014.
It’s fortunate I make my living as a writer: I’m uniquely ill-equipped to do anything else. But I recently got to play industrial designer. I took a workshop called 3D Printing for Total Beginners, hosted by Toronto’s Hot Pop Factory. In about two hours, I learned how to use 3-D modelling software, conceptualize an object and produce it on a desktop MakerBot printer.
I was eager to do the class for the same reason as many of my classmates, who came from a broad range of backgrounds, including banking, nursing, engineering and education. I wanted to play with the nascent technology, to see what I could build with a mouse and my imagination. 3-D printers and open-source design software promise to be the future. One day soon, they could transform the way we create, acquire and consume just about everything. Instead of going to the store or ordering online, we’ll print our own customized cutlery, toothbrushes, furniture – whatever – ourselves.
Post high school, Vancouver designer Peter Pierobon knew his future was in furniture (having had an epiphany while flipping through a tome of chairs and tables), but didn’t know where to learn the trade. Instead of simply signing up at a local community college, he bought a VW Westphalian (it was the early seventies) and travelled North America for 10 months looking for the perfect mentor. He found it in Wendell Castle, a renowned master craftsman equally well-versed in the artistic and engineering sides of design. Forty odd year’s later, Pierobon’s walnut side bar proves that he both learned his lessons well and continues to push himself. The form was inspired by to the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and is hand-constructed with laser-like precision – necessary when building with such complex geometries and colliding, slanted shapes. 36″ h x 15′ w x 28″ d. $19,500. Through peterpierobon.com.
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, July 18, 2013.