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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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.

The Comeback: Art Deco

Tomas Alonso's silver tea service (photo by Craig Dillon)

Tomas Alonso’s silver tea service (photo by Craig Dillon)

Although Art Deco reached its apex of influence during the Interwar period, its rich colours, bold geometries and lavish materials (such as sterling silver and ebony) have never really disappeared from fashion.

It is, essentially, timeless. But every once and a while, our collective fascination with the movement’s decor and architecture reaches a new fever pitch. Like right now. The resurgence is the direct result of Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby (the sixth such adaption of the 1925 novel, which comes out this Friday). Suddenly, everyone wants an air of the Jazz Age, in their clothes (think shimmering flapper skirts) and in their decor.

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Coveted: Ryan Taylor’s Babylon Pendant

Ryan's Taylor's luminous hanging garden

Ryan’s Taylor’s luminous hanging garden

A few years ago, designer Ryan Taylor’s kitchen was startling to look more like a greenhouse than a cook space. He loved having ferns, herbs and succulents around, but had run out of places to put them. So, Toronto-based Taylor decided to create a new type of planter. His hanging Babylon pendant is a resplendent way to add herbage without losing square feet. The white aluminum casing is particularly elegant. The shape is inspired by an upside flower bloom and echoes mod, ‘60s style. Plants aren’t included, but anything that can grow in shallow soil, like small orchids, moss and cacti, would do well. For anti green thumbs, the trough might make a smart place to hide keys, cards and wallets. Babylon pendant. $425. Through oniprojects.com.

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

Couture Drapes: Handmade Fashion Doesn’t Just Walk the Runway

Camal Pirbhai at his downtown Toronto studio

Camal Pirbhai at his downtown Toronto studio. Photo by J.P. Moczulski

Like all couturiers, Camal Pirbhai mainly works for a small group of elite, demanding clients. He’s often asked to sign agreements stating that his design is exclusive, original and top secret. He isn’t allowed to show pictures, sketches or fabric samples of many of his projects to anyone. Even talking about the designs is off limits to ensure that an heiress or scion doesn’t have the same look as their friends.

But unlike Gaultier and Galliano, Pirbhai doesn’t apply his deft touch to evening wear and ball gowns. He makes drapes – the regal kind that transform a mere living room into an aristocratic salon or parlour. Almost everything – perfectly spaced pleats, pillowy tufts, delicate rosettes – is hand-stitched. Even the hardware is handmade. He designs his own rods, brackets and finials and has them custom-fabricated by carpenters, metal workers and glass blowers.

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A Conversation with Design Master Giulio Cappellini

Giulio Cappellini at his Milan Showroom

Giulio Cappellini at his Milan Showroom

Even if you’ve never heard of Giulio Cappellini, or the eponymous design studio he’s run for three decades, chances are you’ve seen some of the furniture maker’s quizzically shaped, brightly hued tables, couches and cabinetry.

If not in top style mags like Elle Decor, Dwell and Architectural Digest, then on display at prestigious museums like the V&A in London, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris and New York’s MoMA.

Part of what has made the 59-year-old so successful is a singular ability for discovering, developing and collaborating with untapped talent: much lauded stars like Marcel Wanders, Jasper Morrison and Tom Dixon all got their first big breaks by working with the Milanese master.

When Cappellini was in Toronto recently to give a lecture at the Design Exchange, we caught up with him to talk about his sense of colour, humour and how he finds his bright young things.

You’ve got a knack for spotting fresh talent. How do you do it?

I travel a lot. I visit universities and schools. I meet a lot of people. Sometimes I just see a rough prototype or a sketch. Or sometimes I meet someone and I just think that this person can work well with Cappellini. The feeling I get for the person is very important, because sometimes it takes years between the first prototype and the final design. And I never just want to make one piece with a designer. So we need to build a strong relationship.

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The Comeback: Cut Glass Gets a Modern Update

Cumbria Crystal's Bottle Vase

Cumbria Crystal’s Bottle Vases

During the Victorian era, hand-blown, intricately patterned glass was a stylish sign of wealth. European aristocrats and American tycoons used it to transform their salons into jewel boxes, lining the rooms with gleaming vases, goblets and treys.

But, similar to carriage making and shoe cobbling, the craft fell out of favour in the early 20th century, when more modern, steam-lined luxuries came into fashion. In the US, there were over 1,000 studios working with cut glass during the 1800s. By 1908, there were only 100.

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