Pharrell Williams is perhaps best known for two things: producing ultra-catchy earworm songs like Happy, and that enormous, Mountie-esque hat he wore to the Grammys hat a few years back. But he’s also a design nut, having tried his hand at furniture with a chair called the Tank; shoes, with sneakers for both Chanel and Adidas; and fashion, including sweaters made from upcycled ocean plastics for G-Star Raw. Recently, he unveiled his largest design project to date, a two-tower condo development in Toronto, done in collaboration with architects IBI Group and interior design studio U31, called Untitled. The Globe talks to him about the difference between making music and buildings, the power of curiosity, and why diversity makes design better.
Quetzal. Photo by Arash Moallemi
On first impression, the new restaurant Quetzal, a high-end Mexican eatery in Toronto, seems conspicuously lacking in Latin American flair. The long, linear and distinctly low-ceilinged space is composed of 12 modular bays, each about two metres wide, that create alcoves for seating – plus a striking canopy over the bar-slash-kitchen. The palette has a minimalist, art gallery vibe: The bays are crafted from fibreglass-reinforced gypsum and the bar is a geometric jigsaw of lightweight Ductal concrete and Canadian maple.
The local wood species, also used for the floor and banquettes, has been left blond except for the dark-stained dining surfaces, which include a trio of two-person tables that ingeniously cantilever from the bar. “It’s our most restrained space so far,” says Pooya Baktash, a co-founder with Alex Josephson of the Toronto firm Partisans and the principal who oversaw the design. “But we still found a way to be expressive.”
The boys of Glitterboy. Photography by Quil Lemons
Glitterboy, the ongoing photo series by 20-year-old artist Quil Lemons, features portraits of young, Black men with metallic, sparkly flecks on their cheeks and foreheads. All shot against soft pink backdrops, the subjects express a range of moods and feelings. One named Jordun smiles from ear to ear, while Harley gazes coyly and Myles stares starkly at the viewer, as if to ask the question: why are you looking at me just because I’m wearing cosmetics?
The answer to that has been jarringly mixed. Lemons, who often wears glitter on his own cheeks (“it’s cool when you see it in the sun,” he says), first started posting images of Glitterboy on his Twitter and Instagram accounts in 2017. Since then, the reception has ranged from love — Vogue, Allure and i-D have all given glowing reviews — to anger.
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.
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).
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.
(Photography by Derek Shapton)
Torontonians are finally rejecting fussy Victorian architecture and going bold. In almost every neighbourhood, there’s a house or two that stands out. They’re tall, modern and boxy—the new Toronto aesthetic. Here, a look inside some of our favourites.
he people: Alireza Saeed, a structural engineer, his wife, Azi Lessani, and their two kids, five-year-old Deniz and two-year-old Doreen
The place: Tetris House, a 3,200-square-foot home near Avenue and Lawrence
A few years ago, Saeed commissioned the architect Reza Aliabadi to build a gleaming modern house in North York. It was perfect—except for the school district it was in. The family only lived there for a year before they decided to move to Avenue and Lawrence, where the kids could attend the public schools Ledbury Park and Lawrence Park Collegiate. But Saeed loved his first house so much he wanted an exact replica in his new neighbourhood, so he enlisted Aliabadi to do a repeat performance. The resulting place is 1,000 square feet smaller, but all other specs remain the same: a home office, basement guest suite, walk-in wine cave and party space, all stacked neatly on top of each other like pieces in a game of Tetris, which gives the house its name.
At 3 p.m. on a recent sunny Thursday, Bayview resident Conrad Black sits stoically at a bright white table in a bright white room. He’s in the sprawling Liberty Village offices of ZoomerMedia, which produces TV, radio, print content and more for the 45-plus crowd (“Boomers with Zip,” as their slogan goes). His gaze is fixed straight ahead, seemingly unaware of the titillating eight-foot image of Jann Arden (a blow-up of Zoomer magazine’s April 2012 cover) on the wall just behind his trim white hair.
The 69-year-old Black is wearing a simple but well-tailored navy blue suit with a silk tie knotted neatly around his staunch neck. His complexion is wan due to a cold, but congested sinuses aren’t slowing him down in the least. He is in fighting spirits.