When friends and industrial designers Ian Murchison and Rohan Thakar left their jobs at Research in Motion a few years ago, they wanted to work on projects that had a more organic quality. So the Carleton grads started the Federal, an Ottawa-based studio that makes tactile, nature-friendly products such as sheep’s wool earmuffs and plywood desk lamps. Even their knives have a soft side. While most tools of butchery have a menacing look, these blades are more aptly described as warm. With the exception of the honed metal edges, they are made entirely of sealed, food-safe Canadian maple – the waving grain of the wood giving them a gentle, painterly effect. Through thefederal.co.
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 14, 2013.
Seven years ago, Christopher Solar gave up a career as a software developer and began teaching himself the art of furniture making. After he mastered the classics, the Ottawa-based designer got creative. His Strap Bench is strung with a colourful, almost chaotic top made from seat-belt webbing (the brightly hued kind used in custom hot rods, not your typical sedans). It’s Solar’s wink at traditional weaving techniques, done with an updated, post-industrial sense of ingenuity. And although the taut, crisscrossing pattern looks random, it’s anything but – each strap is carefully placed to ensure the right level of give and support as you sit. From $1,600 through christophersolar.com.
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, March 7, 2013.
Felt is old school. The cloth – usually made of matted, compressed wool or rayon fibres – is the stuff of granddads’ fedoras and grannies’ crafting kits. But its roots go deeper, back thousands of years, when Asiatic tribes developed the textile for clothing, blankets and to insulate their yurts.
Today, many of us use felt unknowingly – as the lining in a car bra, the scuff protector on chair legs. It’s a practical material, but its aesthetic qualities – fuzzy, earthy, a bit Muppet-like – can seem a little fusty.
Recently though, interior designers, architects and furniture makers have been using the age-old material in bold new ways, turning it into something rich, dramatic and luxurious.
As a movement, surrealism is most often associated with highbrow arts like painting, literature and film (the macabre image of ants pouring out of a wounded hand, from Luis Buñuel’s seminal movie Un Chien Andalou, is as unsettling today as it would have been when it was first shown in 1929). But it also lends itself well to more commonplace fixations like industrial design and home decor.
After all, in the original, 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism, poet Andre Breton pointed to man’s general disaffection for the “objects he has been led to use, objects that his nonchalance has brought his way.” And one of the delights of surrealism is the way it electrifies the unremarkable with its strange colours, dream-like sense of possibility and irreverence for rules. The violin, for example, will forever be more beautiful because May Ray likened it to a ladies nude back with his 1924 photograph, Le Violon d’Ingres.
As co-founder of Montreal’s award-winning Igloo Design, Anna Abbruzzo has worked on restaurant interiors, homes, websites, brand strategies and business cards. Furniture, though, was something she always wanted to try. Creating the perfect piece requires a deep knowledge of ergonomics, finesse with finicky materials and the ability to work with really tiny wheels. That’s why it took a full year (and countless iterations) to develop her first effort – an elegant trolley, the kind that was popular in the 1920s for serving tea or cocktails. The cart is both subtle and luminous, with its sleek Art Deco lines and shimmering brass finish. $4,500. For more information, contact email@example.com.
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, January 17, 2013.
After graduating from Sheridan College’s furniture design program this year, Tomas Rojcik has been living and working in Toronto’s slowly gentrifying Junction neighbourhood. But the rugged beauty of northern Ontario, where his family camped when he was growing up, is what captivates his imagination. His first major production piece, Pendant 45, is minimal and modern, yet reflects the outdoor summertime ritual of campfires. The ash wood casings have been sandblasted and painted black to look like charred kindling, while the glowing LED light strips evoke smouldering embers. From $1,850. Through Caviar20.com. Photo by Ivy Lin.
This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, November 29, 2012.
The Place: A 5-bedroom, $675,000 Victorian in Toronto’s west end. It has 2 kitchens, so it’s either a live-in/rent-out property or the home of a food-hoarding over eater. I wonder what kind of house it would be for me: a way to boost my income, or my waist size? Actually, why not both? I could use all the rent money to buy fancy snacks, like prosciutto…and chocolate-covered prosciutto. It’s win-win-win, because then I could use the rent money to get lipo when I’m too heavy to breath. Yay.
Thanks to a combination of factors — a deep-rooted fear of debt, my poor choice of career paths and an over-inflated real estate market — It’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll never be able to afford a house in Toronto. And if I did buy, it would likely be a bachelor condo the size of a hamster cage on the fringes of civilization (heaven forbid, somewhere north of the 401). I’m picturing a life where I’m too poor to hang curtains or buy any furniture, yet too stressed by my massive mortgage payments and claustrophobic digs to even care. So while I can’t buy a house, I’ve decided to torture myself with indulge in fantasy real estate — basically, from time to time, I’m going to be picking the places that I’d like to buy, and blogging about how I would decorate them to make them my own.
The Place:15 Crocker Ave., a two-bedroom, $519,000 Victorian townhouse near Trinity Bellwoods. It’s around the corner from Nadège Patisserie, which means I would get happily fat eating too many butter croissants and gin-and-tonic marshmallows. Overall, I like the neighbourhood and think this would be a fun fixer project.