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Germany is known for functional, leading-edge designs rooted in a manufacturing know-how that we associate with durability and reliability. As early as 1907, artists and industrialists joined forces in the Deutscher Werkbund, a professional association meant to position the "Made in Germany" label as a benchmark for quality, by integrating the nation's rich craftsmanship traditions into the mass-production of consumer goods. This quest for an industrial aesthetics influenced decorative arts, design and architecture in the 1920s, notably within the Bauhaus movement, which continues to be a source of inspiration for today's creators.

Berlin played a key role in this multidisciplinary approach. Although the city that had become rich as Europe's biggest industrial town in the 19th century was hit hard by the Great Depression, her bubbling culture made her a force rivalling Paris in those days. After much of it was destroyed during WWII, Berlin arose from its ashes serving as the Cold War's military/political nerve centre. Many leaders either side of the Iron Curtain debated whether art should serve an ideology — pro-Red for some, pro-West for others — until an unstoppable demand for freedom took Eastern Europe by storm, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

Since then, the city once called "Athens on the Spree" has become a hub for national and international arts. Design is booming; interior design trade shows, festivals, universities, businesses, museums and magazines abound. And in November 2005, Berlin was appointed a UNESCO City of Design for its extraordinary accomplishments. At the heart of downtown, the Kaufhaus des Westens is a symbol of Berlin's resilience both as the country's capital and a cosmopolitan metropolis. The KDW store actually carries Canadian brands such as Want Les Essentiels de la Vie, whose co-founder Byron Peart often visits Germany with partner Stefan Weisgerber, director of retail at Mark Edwards Group.

When I first saw Byron and Stefan's Montreal home, I was amazed by the successful mix between Habitat 67's universal style and German influences in their interior design.

Corinne Cécilia: When in Berlin, where do you like to stay?
Stefan and Byron: We love Das Stue. It's a great hotel with an amazing spa.

CC: Where do you like to dine, or go for a drink?
S&B: There are two places we like to go to for dinner: Borchard is a rather casual restaurant, whereas Vau is more formal and has an amazing interior. We like the Soho House for drinks.

CC: Where do you like to shop?
S&B: There are so many different areas in Berlin. The best luxury store is The Corner. It's fun to head to Kreuzberg and just stroll around and find new things.

CC: What are some of your favourite places?
S&B: We always go to the Bauhaus-Archiv; it's a small museum with so many original Bauhaus pieces.

Corinne's travel tips: Immerse yourself in German design at the Bauhaus-Archiv. Until January 2015, the museum honours László Moholy-Nagy, a famous Bauhaus teacher and pioneer of multimedia and conceptual art, with the exhibition Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, the Media and the Arts.

Closer to home: In addition to offering language courses that lead to the most reputable 'German as a foreign language' diploma, the Goethe-Institute organizes a variety of cultural events every month in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. In November, programs will be largely focusing on the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

I dedicate this blog to our fellow Canadian, Prof. Dr. Heather Cameron, founder of Boxgirls Berlin e.V. and Boxgirls International.

Photo credits:
1. Photography by Svein-Magne Tunli
2. Photography by Sonny Bengtsson
3. Photography by Kaufhaus des Westens
4a. Blouson Mape en cuir, photo courtesy of Acne Studios
4b. Fourre-tout pliable Peretola en Mocha, photo courtesy of WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie
4c. Eau de parfum Gypsy Water, photo courtesy of Byredo
4d. Devanture de Want Apothecary, photo courtesy of WANT Agency Inc.
5. Photography by Das Stue Hotel
6. Photography by Soho House
7. Photography by Svein-Magne Tunli
8. Photography by Markus Hawlik, VG-Bild Kunst
9a. Floris Neusüss and Renate Heyne, colour photogram with László Moholy-Nagys "Light Prop for an
Electric Stage", 2013 (László Moholy-Nagy) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
9b. László Moholy-Nagy, Kinetic-constructive system, structure with movement tracks for play and conveyance, 1928, Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, Universität zu Köln, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
9c. László Moholy-Nagy, Construction Z VII, 1926, photography by National Gallery Washington, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
9d. László Moholy-Nagy, Construction Z I, 1922-1923, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, photography by Hartwig Klappert, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

Author: 

Corinne Cécilia

This is the view from The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica that I woke to on Day 1 of Blog Tour California (aka #BlogTourCali on social media). Recently I was lucky enough to join a group of designers and design bloggers on the inspiration-packed trip organized by Modenus, a web hub that connects designers and suppliers. The sight of palm trees, mountains and the Pacific was a suitable visual kickstart to five days of great food, wine, stunning scenery and tons of design news.

Here’s the whole group at our first stop, a scrumptious lunch at the Miele showroom in Beverley Hills.

The dishes prepared in Miele’s high tech Combination Steam-Convection Ovens were as pleasing to the eye as to the palate. Steam cooking is fast, allowing foods to retain their colour and nutrients.

Next it was off to the West Edge Design Fair, held at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Without a doubt Tracey Hiner’s Black Crow Studios booth was an eye-popping highlight. These wallflowers sure are anything but shrinking violets!

The folks behind the web site Design Milk pulled together a stunning booth comprised of artisanal goods by makers based along the West Coast, dubbed SuperPAC (Pac for Pacific). There was so much goodness in this booth it could be its own blog post, and in fact it is. Check out the Design Milk post for more info and links.

Here’s a closer look as the luscious fibre creations of Tanya Anguiniga on the back wall of the SuperPAC booth. Definitely not your Momma’s macramé!

West Edge wasn’t my first glimpse of American Standard’s latest brand extension called DXV, but it solidified this sweetie as my favourite in the line. I like the historical design references of the Landfair faucet and it comes in the most stunning platinum nickel finish. I’ll choose a shiny nickel over a warm metal every time.

Here’s a lesson in simple but effective booth design. Doris Leslie Blau. Wow.

A glamorous modern chandelier, the Helios by Zia Priven. Lovely people, beautiful designs.

Love the mix of materials and texture in the Burlap collection from Sun Valley Bronze.

And finally, why not a $70,000 glass pool table? The folks at Calma e Gesso once again prove that the Italians know luxury.

I have so much more to share about Blog Tour California. Hope you’ll come back for the next installment.

Photo credits:
1, 3-6, 8-12. Photo by Margot Austin

2, 7. Photo by Chasen West 

Author: 

Margot Austin

Holiday party season is nearly here! I love to entertain, but I'm hardly a hostess extraordinaire. (Sending an understanding guest to the corner store to haul back a bag of ice because you forgot to refill the trays is deeply uncool.) So when celebrated New York designer Bunny Williams — by all accounts an entertaining whiz — launched a collection of party essentials for Ballard Designs, I asked her how she makes it look so easy and what she's working on next.

Kimberley Brown: What's the key to hosting a successful party?
Bunny Williams: I always try to plan for everything ahead of time so that I am able to enjoy the party along with my guests.

KB: What's your favourite way to entertain?
BW: I love to have a seated dinner, but serve the food on a long buffet so that guests can feel free to help themselves. We'll use a large dinner plate and offer our guests three or four choices of dishes. Then the table is cleared and a dessert is served on small plates. Afterwards, we'll move to the living room for coffee and tea.

KB: Your new collection for Ballard Designs includes dishes, linens and holiday decorations. What ties them all together?
BW: I always say, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to entertain. This collection comprises all you need to ready your home for guests, from tabletop items and cachepots for flowers, to a wonderfully smelling scented candle and beautiful bone or rattan holders for guest towels.

KB: Any plans to add to the collection in the future?
BW: We are already hard at work on the next collection which will debut in Spring/Summer 2015 and will include outdoor entertaining and tabletop items along with wall decor.

Pick up our December 2014 issue for more on Bunny's new line.

Photo credits:
1. Rectangular Brass Antique Cachepot, AV875
2. Campbell House Dinnerware 16 piece set, BD461
3. Grape Leaf Candy Dish, BT378
4. Bubbly Glasses, BG172

Author: 

Kimberley Brown

Bitter, sweet and potent, the Negroni is an acquired taste. Judging by the drink's skyrocketing popularity, a lot more people are acquiring it. It's a simple enough recipe to remember: equal parts gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth, stirred with ice, strained over ice and garnished with an orange twist. But to mix a perfect Negroni, one that's ice cold, perfectly balanced and silky smooth, requires the right tools, the right booze and a bit of skill. Here's how.

GIN

When it's Negroni time, leave the top-shelf gin in the liquor cabinet. The Gilbert Gottfried-like screech of Campari drowns out the subtler qualities of premium spirits. Go with a classic London dry gin such as Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire or Beefeater. I prefer the latter: its sharp citrus flavours can handle the aggressive bitterness of Mr. Gottfried.

CAMPARI

Sweet, complex and as bitter as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, Campari is an Italian liqueur infused with herbs and fruits made according to Gaspare Campari's recipe from 1860. In Canada, Campari is 26 percent alcohol, and its colour is essential to a Negroni's neon red hue that flashes, "Drink me!" Some people prefer the similar, yet lighter Aperol — it's only 11 percent alcohol — but those people would not be drinking a Negroni.

VERMOUTH

Vermouth is a fortified wine that's been flavoured with an array of botanicals including roots, barks, flowers, herbs and spices. It can be sipped on its own as an aperitif, but it's more often than not used as a modifier in a huge range of cocktails.

A Negroni calls for sweet red vermouth. Fratelli Branca Carpano Antica Formula is the Dom Pérignon of said vermouth. And while Antica makes a magnificent Manhattan, its root beer-esque richness throws the balance off in a Negroni. I prefer the more affordable Martini Rosso; its slight vegetal character really ties the drink together.

STIR

A Negroni is a stirred drink. Stirring, rather than shaking, preserves clarity, and yields a cocktail silkier than a Hermès scarf. While you can do it in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, it's worth investing in a handsome mixing glass if you make a lot of Negronis. A long bar spoon comes in handy though you could MacGyver it with the handle of a large metal spoon. (Avoid wood, as you don't want your drink to taste like last week's curry.) Gently stirring the drink over ice chills the liquid while diluting the alcohol to a more palatable level. It takes around 30 to 45 seconds, but taste it to be sure.

ICE

It may seem pretentious to insist on a single two-square-inch ice cube to chill your Negroni, but this is a master class, not nursery school. You want a perfect Negroni? Buy an extra-large ice cube tray. The bigger block keeps the drink cold with minimal dilution.

TWIST

Fort the garnish, remove a 3/4" by 2" strip of orange zest with a Y-peeler, being careful to minimize the bitter, white pith. Squeeze it over the drink to release the oils then drop it in. Finally, it's Negroni time.

If you want to explore variations on the Negroni — they are seemingly endless — I direct you to The Straight Up, Nick Caruana's excellent blog that focuses on classic cocktails.

THE RECIPE

Eric's Negroni

1 oz. Beefeater London dry gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
Ice cubes
1 large ice cube
1 orange twist

Step 1: Chill a double rocks or old-fashioned glass.

Step 2: Pour gin, Campari and vermouth into a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Add enough ice to come above the liquid. Stir until the mixing glass or shaker feels ice cold, 30 to 45 seconds.

Step 3: Place large cube in chilled glass. Strain drink into glass. Pinch orange twist to release oils and drop in glass.

Photo credits:
1-2. Eric Vellend

Author: 

Eric Vellend

In 2014, Denmark is celebrating the birth centennial of two great master designers: Hans J. Wegner, whose chair designs are exhibited at the Designmuseum Denmark in Copenhagen, and Børge Mogensen, whose designs have been presented at a major exhibition at Trapholt museum of modern art and design since January.

Danish design is undoubtedly popular in Canada, and it was praised again recently, when a Danish business delegation travelled to Toronto on the occasion of a visit by the Danish Crown Prince Couple. Distinctively chic and amiable, their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark headed a delegation of 80 Danish companies and organizations exploring a potential for growth in cooperation with Canadian businesses. They represented various industries like green building and construction, food, and style.

Perfect timing for us to reconnect with Isabelle Paille, the founder of Fleurs & Confettis, a Quebec-based wedding styling company. Isabelle is passionate about Scandinavian design and knows Denmark particularly well. Let's join her on a tour to this little kingdom that is not only a leading design nation, but also considered one of the happiest people in the world.

Corinne Cécilia: When in Denmark, where do you like to stay?
Isabelle Paille: I really love the Ibsens and Front hotels, near the harbour. For my upcoming trip, I made a reservation at the Wakeup Copenhagen, a little gem that opened its doors in May.

CC: Where do you like to dine?
IP: I dream about the Noma! But meanwhile, I book a table at the Relæ, the Madsvinet or at the Meyers Deli for healthy takeout. Throughout Scandinavia, you can eat sandwiches called Smørrebrød, filled with fish and caviar, and served with a divine sauce!

CC: Where do you like to shop?
IP: Normann Copenhagen is definitely a must-see. They have furniture and design items for all tastes and prices, displayed in a department store setting. Stilleben carries small items that are both unique and 100% Danish design. Dansk Møbel Kunst has authentic Danish furniture. Illums Bolighus is my favourite store. Cmyk Kld Gallery & Butik features local art that isn't too expensive.

CC: Where do you go to relax?
IP: To the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, always. But I really enjoy strolling in the streets. Stroget is one of the longest and busiest stretches in the city. It's teeming with pleasant surprises in the realm of fashion and jewelry. You can rent a bike in Copenhagen and take a ride, pretending you live there! I also go to the Royal Library, another haven of peace; and then I have a bite at the Søren K.

CC: What are some of your favourite places?
IP: My first stop is the Designmuseum. The House of Finn Juhl is also a wonderful place: the architect's home still has some original furniture. I also love the Arken Museum of Modern Art and the Louisiana Museum. Museums are like a retreat for me; they provide me with both inspiration and a sense of calm — a rare combination!

CC: Your best sources for interior decorating and design?
IP: In fact, I keep discovering new places each time I visit. And since I am a fan of antique stores and bazaars, here are two places out of my golden address book: the Gammel Strand Flea Market, in the summer, is particularly great for household items and porcelain; and Loppemarked Israels Plads, further out of the city and more modest, is the oldest flea market. There you can find design items and furniture.

Corinne's travel tip: To mix business with pleasure, visit Denmark when international design professionals and the general public mingle to explore new style trends: the Copenhagen Fashion Week takes place twice a year, in February and August. Closer to home, don't miss the 16th Biennale in Montreal (November 17-22, 2014), a cultural event featuring Nordic artists, including a dance show by Danish choreographer Palle Granhøj.

Read more travel blog posts here.

Photo credits:
1. Trapholt, Photo Syddansk Turisme, through Visit Denmark
2a. Photography by Birgitta Wolfgang for By Nord
2b. The Crown Prince Couple in Toronto, photography by Robert McGee
2c. Selected Femme
3a. Randers + Radius
3b. Muuto
3c. Savannah Wild
4. Photography by Kim Wyon, through Visit Denmark
5. Noma, photography by Ditte Isager, through Visit Denmark
6a. Normann, photography by Ditte Isager, through Visit Denmark
6b. TrueStuff
7. The Black Diamond, Royal Library, photography by Jørgen, through Visit Denmark
8a. Design Museum Denmark, photography by Kim Wyon, through Visit Denmark
8b. Design Museum Denmark, photography by Kim Wyon, through Visit Denmark
8c. Design Museum Denmark, photography by Kim Wyon, through Visit Denmark
9. Flea market at Gammel Strand, photography by Cees van Roeden, through Visit Denmark
10a. Savannah Wild
10b. Whiite
10c. Carré Jewellery
10d. Minimum

Author: 

Corinne Cécilia

My first brush with the architectural style known as Brutalism occurred at this building. I spent many many hours at John P. Robarts library at the University of Toronto, poring over original journals for my thesis "British Travellers in France During the Revolutionary Era". The building was commonly referred to as Fort Book, but comparisons were also made to a peacock or Viking ship. The latter seemed apt to me as I often felt like a prisoner trapped in the hull. Good times.

You'd be forgiven if you assumed the term 'Brutalism' was a derivative of the word brutal. After all, take another look at that building. It's a brute. In fact, Brutalism originates from the French béton brut, or "raw concrete", a term that describes the material used to clad these buildings. Brutalism was reviled by many. Haters gonna hate, including Prince Charles.

But you know how sometimes the coolest thing to do is embrace the thing most people think is ugly? Well, that and a good dose of nostalgia, are behind a new appreciation of Brutalism.

In the decorative arts, the style is realized in rough hammered bronze, oxidized brass with jagged edges and bulky wooden case goods decorated in geometric designs. A recent trip to New York to tour the 1st Dibs gallery at the New York Design Center confirmed that Brutalism is definitely happening. Here are some finds.

This 1970s wall sculpture by Silas Seandel called "Sunspots" was tagged at $20,000.

I didn't catch the price on this mirror, but I predict you will be seeing modern reproductions of this type of item more and more in the coming year or so.

Brutalist lighting takes statement lighting to another level. I love this 1966 chandelier by Tom Greene, $5,200. Do you love it or hate it?

Here's another Tom Greene design, $3,800. This one reminds me of a wasp nest.

The 1st Dibs bricks and mortar location doesn't lend itself to displays of larger furniture pieces, so I clicked over to the site and found this interesting piece. It's a cerused oak credenza made by The Lane Furniture Company in the 1960s. This block front design is a reference to the Cityscape line by Paul Evans. I must say it also makes me think, hmmm, I wonder if you could DIY a plain credenza by adding blocks of wood and then staining it all black?

And for reference sake, here is a pair of wall-mounted cabinets by Paul Evans featuring the geometric Cityscape design. I'm pretty much in love with these. Just need $13,500.

What do you think of Brutalism? Love? Hate?

Photo credits:
1. Flickr.com
2-5. Margot Austin
6. 1st Dibs
7. 1st Dibs

Author: 

Margot Austin

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