Le rocher très percé at the International Garden Festival. Photo by Martin Bond
Recently, before I made a 12-hour drive east from Toronto to Grand-Métis, Que., I was warned by several people that cell signal would be scarce. The tiny village – population 237 – sits at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and has many amenities for summer tourists, including clapboard cottages and quaint inns along the coast (the Centre d’art Marcel Gagnon is a nice auberge). But a surfeit of cell towers isn’t one of them.
Rather than being a point of frustration, though, the lack of digital connectivity is something that the area’s main attraction, the enchanting Reford Gardens, seems to be revelling in. There is no WiFi in the park (whose French name is the Jardins de Métis), all the better to appreciate the groves of purple lilacs and fields of blue poppies.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.