Millennials Are Buying Cottages (Seriously)

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Like many people in their late 20s and early 30s, Heather Payne and her husband, Shawn Konopinsky, are bright, ambitious and successful – but they don’t own the place where they live with their one-year-old baby. Instead, they own a cottage.

For the past five years, they have rented their apartment in the downtown Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale, joining the 50 per cent of millennials who are still renting their homes by age 30, according to the 2016 census data, compared with the 45 per cent of boomers who hadn’t bought their place by the same age.

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Paper Vases: Aesthetically Edgy, Morally Sound

Pepe Heykoop's paper vase project. Photo by Annemarijne Bax

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.

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Coveted: Chari Cohen’s Match Strikers

Chari Cohen's match striker

Chari Cohen’s match striker

Ceramicist Chari Cohen always admired the elegance of her mother-in-law’s Shabbat dinner table, laid as it was with stately silver candlesticks and a white tablecloth. She always thought the scene was slightly marred, however, when a basic box of matches would be set next to the finery (more so when a burnt-out match would be placed on the rim of one of the candlesticks). To fix the picture, Cohen – who first learned her trade at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia – created her own line of match strikers. Every mini sculpture has a pot to keep the unlit matches, ridges to lay the charred remains on and a bumpy glaze to strike against. Each piece echoes the artist’s love of Canada’s landscape (she’s originally from Alberta and now lives in Toronto). Rocky outcrops, prairie fields and riverbeds are reflected in the shapes and colours of the clay. From $45 to $75. Through charicohen.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, April 17, 2014.

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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Coveted: Geof Ramsay’s Steps Seat

Geof Ramsay's Steps sat

Geof Ramsay’s Steps sat

Geof Ramsay is a modern Maritimes designer. He was raised in Moncton and lives in Halifax, but learned his craft in Detroit, Ottawa and Amsterdam before setting up his eponymous studio in 2009. His witty Steps seat reflects both his East Coast roots and international influences. The piece is a play on people’s tendency to sit where they’re supposed to step – something that happens on front stoops and in foyers around the world. The actual construction of his mini stair – which is proportioned to act as a bench, footstool and side table in one – was inspired by what you’d find under the carpet or tiling of a typical Canadian home. The treads and risers are made of construction-grade plywood and supported by a simple stringer. The only thing missing is a banister rail to toss a winter coat and hat over. From $1,350. Through geoframsay.com

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, November 7, 2013.

Slow Furniture: Heidi Earnshaw Takes Her Time for Timeless Quality

Heidi Earnshaw in her downtown Toronto studio

Heidi Earnshaw in her downtown Toronto studio (Michelle Siu)

As a reaction to mass manufacturing, the burgeoning slow furniture movement is a painstakingly careful, anachronistically plodding way to produce chairs, desks and credenzas. Everything is made using time-honoured carpentry techniques, out of elemental materials, without computer-guided machines and routers.

Acclaimed, Toronto-based Heidi Earnshaw is an advocate of the trend. Her designs have the subtlety of a Robert Frost poem and have been recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Awards.

Next month, she’ll be participating in IIDEX, Canada’s national design and architecture expo in Toronto.

Here, Earnshaw talks about her roots as a chainsaw artist, the miracles of vinegar and the importance of taking things slow.

A lot of people are unfamiliar with the term slow furniture. What does it mean to you?

Slow furniture is basically an offshoot of the slow food movement, which started in Italy in the 1980s as a reaction to the first McDonald’s opening in Rome. For me, it’s about creating furniture in a thoughtful and environmentally sustainable way while supporting local economies and using local resources.

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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.