My new couch
Four years ago, when my partner and I bought our first condo, we decided not to spoil our new space with the old, worn-out Ikea futon we had in our rental apartment. We were both happy to leave the couch on the curbside when we moved, but it was a full four years before we agreed on the style and budget for the replacement. He likes Danish-made, authentic mid-century-modern furniture, whereas I like affordable.
We didn’t actively search the whole time; no relationship needs that kind of aggravation. In fact, in most of our sofa-free days (during which we still had chairs – in case it looks like we spent years lolling haplessly on the floor), we were similar to the 15 per cent of Americans who avoid visiting furniture stores with their other half because they know that they’re more likely to come home frustrated with each other than toting new decor,
Zac Posen pays extreme attention to detail. I know this to be a fact. Not from the fashion designs which brought him fame. The 38-year old New Yorker hand-crafts clothing for beautiful women — Uma Thurman, Claire Danes — to grab best-dressed headlines at the Met Gala and the Oscars. Whereas I’m a not terribly fashionable man.
Instead, I gleaned his commitment to precision when I tried to follow the chocolate chip cookies from his debut recipe book, Cooking with Zac. The first indication was that I had to brown the butter in a pan until it looked like “deep mahogany with a hazelnut scent,” he writes — a necessary extra step because “with so many cookies in the world, it’s the fine touches that count.” The second indication was that I had to hand-press the chips into the top of the dough to achieve “a polished and professional look.” Clearly, this is not a recipe for a lazy baker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.