There are certain charms that North Americans hope for when visiting a Western European town or city: café-lined squares, gingerbread buildings, cobblestonedstreets that twist and turn in every direction.
Arriving in Rotterdam, then, can be unsatisfying, at least at first. Glass-and-steel skyscrapers shoot up from wide, razor-straight, car-filled boulevards. On the surface, everything looks distressingly familiar.
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.
The Hanger chair by Umbra Shift and Philippe Malouin
Until recently, Umbra, the Toronto-based, cheap-and-cheerful housewares producer (a bit like Ikea, only more plastics than particleboards), held a very specific place in mind. It was the brand that made my first, grown-up, moving-out-of-mom’s-house garbage can – the Garbo, designed by Karim Rashid, which I got on my way to university. In my late teens, I thought its plump, futuristic curves were cool (especially as mine was a silvery-blue colour). And it was cheap – likely less than a movie ticket, which is probably why almost everyone else I knew had one, too. So for me, Umbra will always conjure memories of my freshman room – decorated, as it was, on a dime. Something to remember fondly, if not to repeat.
Sarah Eldershaw’s DIY shoes
Thanks to the growing Maker Movement, more people are enthusiastic about reclaiming once foreign-made, mass-produced consumables. Whether it’s something old school such as macramé plant hangers, or cutting edge and technical such as computer hardware, DIYers are becoming more prevalent. Not to mention profitable. According to a recent Economist article, Brooklyn-based Etsy, for example, generated sales of more than $1-billion (U.S.) in 2013, the vast majority of which was driven by small, part-time, at-home producers (of which there are over one million worldwide).
Pepe Heykoop’s paper vase project. Photo by Annemarijne Bax
It’s a familiar, often unfortunate equation: a designer (industrial, fashion etc.) from a wealthy country has a trend-setting idea, manufacturers it for pennies in an impoverished country and then sells it for a premium without sharing the riches with the labourers who made it.
Dutch designer Pepe Heykoop is trying to create a new paradigm. His paper-vase project is both aesthetically edgy and morally sound. It was recently shown at the largest furniture fair in the world, Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Italy, where the influential design blog Dezeen called it a “a runaway success.” The business model for the vases is helping raise a community in Mumbai out of severe poverty.
Photo c/o Yarn Bomb Yukon and Tyler Kuhn
To many people, knitting might just be as anachronistic as an episode of Downton Abbey. And maybe it is. (It’s certainly been around longer than Maggie Smith.)
As fusty as knitting may be, the craft is cool again. It’s been embraced by just about everyone, from athletes and movie stars to urban hipsters and biology geeks.
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.