Coveted: Chari Cohen’s Match Strikers

Chari Cohen's match striker

Chari Cohen’s match striker

Ceramicist Chari Cohen always admired the elegance of her mother-in-law’s Shabbat dinner table, laid as it was with stately silver candlesticks and a white tablecloth. She always thought the scene was slightly marred, however, when a basic box of matches would be set next to the finery (more so when a burnt-out match would be placed on the rim of one of the candlesticks). To fix the picture, Cohen – who first learned her trade at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia – created her own line of match strikers. Every mini sculpture has a pot to keep the unlit matches, ridges to lay the charred remains on and a bumpy glaze to strike against. Each piece echoes the artist’s love of Canada’s landscape (she’s originally from Alberta and now lives in Toronto). Rocky outcrops, prairie fields and riverbeds are reflected in the shapes and colours of the clay. From $45 to $75. Through charicohen.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, April 17, 2014.

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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: Geof Ramsay’s Steps Seat

Geof Ramsay's Steps sat

Geof Ramsay’s Steps sat

Geof Ramsay is a modern Maritimes designer. He was raised in Moncton and lives in Halifax, but learned his craft in Detroit, Ottawa and Amsterdam before setting up his eponymous studio in 2009. His witty Steps seat reflects both his East Coast roots and international influences. The piece is a play on people’s tendency to sit where they’re supposed to step – something that happens on front stoops and in foyers around the world. The actual construction of his mini stair – which is proportioned to act as a bench, footstool and side table in one – was inspired by what you’d find under the carpet or tiling of a typical Canadian home. The treads and risers are made of construction-grade plywood and supported by a simple stringer. The only thing missing is a banister rail to toss a winter coat and hat over. From $1,350. Through geoframsay.com

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

Slow Furniture: Heidi Earnshaw Takes Her Time for Timeless Quality

Heidi Earnshaw in her downtown Toronto studio

Heidi Earnshaw in her downtown Toronto studio (Michelle Siu)

As a reaction to mass manufacturing, the burgeoning slow furniture movement is a painstakingly careful, anachronistically plodding way to produce chairs, desks and credenzas. Everything is made using time-honoured carpentry techniques, out of elemental materials, without computer-guided machines and routers.

Acclaimed, Toronto-based Heidi Earnshaw is an advocate of the trend. Her designs have the subtlety of a Robert Frost poem and have been recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Awards.

Next month, she’ll be participating in IIDEX, Canada’s national design and architecture expo in Toronto.

Here, Earnshaw talks about her roots as a chainsaw artist, the miracles of vinegar and the importance of taking things slow.

A lot of people are unfamiliar with the term slow furniture. What does it mean to you?

Slow furniture is basically an offshoot of the slow food movement, which started in Italy in the 1980s as a reaction to the first McDonald’s opening in Rome. For me, it’s about creating furniture in a thoughtful and environmentally sustainable way while supporting local economies and using local resources.

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Coveted: Zoë Mowat’s Arbor Jewellery Stand

A jewellery stand inspired by birds

A jewellery stand inspired by birds

When an Australian bowerbird wants to attract a mate, it surrounds itself with eye-catching, often glinting things like shells, feathers and scarps of metals. Humans, of course, have a similar mating ritual: adorning bling. Which is why Montreal-based designer Zoë Mowat, after reading about the birds in National Geographic, was inspired to create her Arbor jewellery stand. Fittingly, the piece is replete with clever yet subtle aviary references. The shallow dishes for rings and earrings could just as easily be perches or feeders for plumed creatures. And when the sleek, hand-lathed walnut bar is hung with bangles, bracelets and amulets, it starts to look like a branch covered in simmering, sparkly leaves. Arbor Jewelley Stand. Price upon request. Through zoemowat.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, July 4, 2013.