How Knitting Got Its Groove Back

Photo c/o Yarn Bomb Yukon and Tyler Kuhn

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.

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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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Great Spaces: Four of Toronto’s Boldest, Boxiest New Homes

(Photography by Derek Shapton)

(Photography by Derek Shapton)

Torontonians are finally rejecting fussy Victorian architecture and going bold. In almost every neighbourhood, there’s a house or two that stands out. They’re tall, modern and boxy—the new Toronto aesthetic. Here, a look inside some of our favourites.

great-spaces-bold-toronto-avenue-and-lawrence-intro

he people: Alireza Saeed, a structural engineer, his wife, Azi Lessani, and their two kids, five-year-old Deniz and two-year-old Doreen
The place: Tetris House, a 3,200-square-foot home near Avenue and Lawrence

A few years ago, Saeed commissioned the architect Reza Aliabadi to build a gleaming modern house in North York. It was perfect—except for the school district it was in. The family only lived there for a year before they decided to move to Avenue and Lawrence, where the kids could attend the public schools Ledbury Park and Lawrence Park Collegiate. But Saeed loved his first house so much he wanted an exact replica in his new neighbourhood, so he enlisted Aliabadi to do a repeat performance. The resulting place is 1,000 square feet smaller, but all other specs remain the same: a home office, basement guest suite, walk-in wine cave and party space, all stacked neatly on top of each other like pieces in a game of Tetris, which gives the house its name.

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How New Home Designs Aim to do More with (Way) Less Space

Bunkie designed by Evan Bare, Nathan Buhler and Jorge Torres

Bunkie designed by Evan Bare, Nathan Buhler and Jorge Torres

There are many, perfectly rational, even admirable reasons why we should all eschew the quintessential, American-style dream of living in a honking big house on a honking big lot. On a basic level, larger houses are more expensive to build, buy and keep up. They also tend to be energy hogs. Then there’s the cleaning – the more rooms there are, the more dust there is to bust.

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Coveted: Françoise Turner-Larcade’s Fragmented Mirror

Françoise Turner-Larcade's Fragmented mirror

Françoise Turner-Larcade’s Fragmented mirror

Before Françoise Turner-Larcade moved from Paris to Toronto in 2000 to marry her Canadian boyfriend, she was a jewellery designer with a boutique on Avenue George V. The change in location inspired an artistic change in direction. Instead of crafting bobbles for the body, the French native decided to create jewel-like home decor. Her Fragmented Mirrors series has the shimmer of a sterling necklace studded with precious stones. The casing is made from raw steel—which has a warm, slightly weathered patina—and inset with clear, coloured and grey reflective glass. Each section of the mirror is set into the frame at a different depth, so that every panel reflects light and motion in different, unique way. $4,000–$9,000. Through roselandgallery.com, sales@avenue-road.com and contact@roselandgallery.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, October 17, 2013.

Five Ways to Take Your Basement from Grotto to Glorious

Timothy Mitanidis and Claudia Bader's basement. Andrew Snow Photography

Timothy Mitanidis and Claudia Bader’s basement. Andrew Snow Photography

There’s something undeniably odious about the word basement. It unfailingly conjures up a spine-shivering image of something drafty, claustrophobic and dark. But subterranean living spaces offer an important opportunity to accommodate Canada’s shifting housing needs. They work well as in-law suites for downsizers, income rentals for empty nesters or extra sleeping quarters for families who’ve outgrown their current house but can’t afford a larger one in the country’s ever inflating real estate market. And, with the right eye for aesthetics, a basement apartment can be bright, airy and beautiful. It just takes the right lighting, wall finishes and window wells. Here, five tips from top design professionals on how to turn an underground grotto into something glorious. Continue reading

Hive Mentality: New Homes for Nature’s Great Pollinators

Elevator B designed by students in Buffalo, New York

A bee hotel designed by students in Buffalo, New York

Every year, the AZ Awards, organized by Canadian design magazine Azure, celebrate cutting-edge architecture and interior design from around the world. The expected all-white buildings and futuristic furniture got nods at the most recent ceremony in downtown Toronto, but the $5,000 top prize was given to something decidedly more unusual: a man-made beehive erected on a derelict industrial site in Buffalo, N.Y.

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Coveted: Molo’s Matcha Bowl

Molo's matcha bowl

Molo’s matcha bowl

In all of our lives, there are short, daily rituals that become so routine that they are almost done unconsciously: a habitual, early morning jolt of coffee, for example, which is chugged for its caffeine rather than savoured for its flavours. To designers Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen—who run an award-winning studio in Vancouver called Molo—these humble habits are made memorable when undertaken with a sublimely beautiful object. Their Float Matcha bowl was inspired by a trip to Kyoto, after Forsythe and MacAllen sipped the namesake beverage—a high quality, antioxidant rich form of green tea—in a traditional teahouse along the Shirakawa Canal. The vessel can, of course, be used for the Japanese energy booster, but is proportioned equally well for lattes, soups, cereals or sorbets—everyday foods which look otherworldly in the seemingly weightless, ethereal glass cylinder. Float Matcha Bowl. 470ml. Approx. $100. Through molostore.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, July 11, 2013.

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.

7 Ways to Rock Your Home With Marble

The Bust Chair

The Bust Chair

Marble is to geology what Cher is to the entertainment industry: hard and soft at the same time with an endless capacity for reinvention and an unquestionable ability to dazzle.

The only difference is that marble has been beloved for a few (thousand) years longer — even if both the stone and the singer look strangely ageless. Continue reading