I often wonder if designers have "Aha!" moments. Do they know when they create something special? Does time stand still while an ethereal beam of light shines down upon them? I like to think so, but perhaps a piece of art's originality is only apparent when sanctioned by critics and public acclaim.
Either way, I know for certain that as a design lover, I have moments when an object takes my breath away — be it a piece of furniture, a painting or a dress.
I still haven't made it to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York (think IDS on steroids) but I feel like it would be full of ingenuity. If I had been there this past May, these five exhibitors would have stopped me in my tracks.
This sculptural Parabola Chair — yes, chair — looks more artwork than furniture, but its real beauty lies in its functionality. Designer Carlo Aiello managed to create a seat, armrests and chair back without them resembling anything in our design repertoire. Its soft, parabolic curves form a comfy nest.
I love the bubble chandelier by Jean and Oliver Pelle of Brooklyn-based design firm Pelle. The airy clusters of glass spheres really capture the delicate, ephemeral quality of bubbles about to burst. Their Dorit Candleholders are also worth a mention. Made from imperfect, knotted wood and finished with metallic paint, they look like rough, colourful geodes.
This biologically-inspired table is a custom piece by Nervous System made with their radiolaria app. The app allows customers to play God (or designer) and create furniture, jewelry and housewares using an interactive screen that mimics genetic biology. Watch the video here.
StudioKCA's bronze Firefly chandelier is like something out of a dream. The multitude of tiny lights and fluttering shadows mimics the movement of fireflies against a dark landscape.
The Hialeah Table by Iacoli & McAllister is less conceptual than the above designs but I had to include it for the simple fact that I really wish I could take it home. It has that rare quality of being timeless yet new and I love its mix of materials — sigh.
What have you come across lately that's made you take a second look?
Workspace planner and furnishings designer Florence Knoll Bassett (known as "Shu" to her friends, for her maiden name Schust) was a design pioneer. At the pinnacle of her career in 1965, she withdrew from the design world after completing the interiors of the CBS headquarters.
Under her leadership, many modern masters created iconic pieces for Knoll, including Eero Saarinen's Tulip chairs and pedestal tables (his tables sit in front of a Knoll sofa in her Miami home), Isamu Noguchi's coffee table, Harry Bertoia's wire furniture and Richard Schultz's outdoor collection. She bucked tradition, attributing design credits and paying royalties to designers, an unusual practice in the furniture industry.
Knoll's distinctive furniture designs (her signature bench is among several of her designs still in production today) were marked by sleek silhouettes and geometries that reflected her architectural training. Knoll won four of the Museum of Modern Art's "Good Design" competitions, and the company's designs are still displayed today on MoMA's top floor.
Florence Schust was working at a New York architecture firm when Hans Knoll asked her to design an office for the U.S. Secretary of War. In 1943, Florence convinced Hans she could boost business by expanding into interior design and working with architects. After they married in 1946, she became a full business partner and together they founded Knoll Associates. When Hans died in a car accident in 1955, Florence took over the company and designed chairs, sofas, tables and casegoods. She founded Knoll textiles and designed the company's regional showrooms.
This Mad Men-esque image of a lone woman in a 1950s boardroom depicts Florence surrounded by insurance execs in dark suits scrutinizing her paste-ups. Her vision for the new office was clean and uncluttered, and the corporate boom of the 1960s provided an opportunity for her to change the way people looked at the workplace.
Florence's open-plan layouts were the ideal venue for her furniture. Because texture was a significant element in Knoll's designs, she placed swatches of fabrics on the paste-up board to reinforce her vision of stimulating, humanized interiors.
This 1961 marble-top credenza was influenced by Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building and Corbusian columns. Florence mixed woods and metals and incorporated laminates as they became more popular.
This 1954 Knoll showroom in San Francisco embodies the look she championed for modern office spaces: the lines are clean and spare, and textiles add life and vivid colour.
Outside of reception areas, Florence Knoll Bassett's classic sofa remains a staple of good design in homes, and still looks fresh despite being over 60 years old. Today, on May 24, the ground-breaking designer herself turns a magnificent 96.
For more timeless designs, see our gallery of Iconic Furniture A-Z.
1. The North Elevation blog
2. Florence Knoll Bench, Knoll
3. Suite 101
5. Miniature Chair Man blog
6. Knoll Low Filing Cupboard, ArchiExpo
8. All Roads Lead to Home blog
Yesterday I attended the 26th annual Through the Garden Gate Tour, hosted by the Toronto Botanical Garden. This year, the 19 privately owned gardens are scattered within Toronto's Forest Hill and South Hill neighbourhoods. As media, we had the opportunity to see five of the gardens ahead of the scheduled tour, which runs from June 8th to 9th. Visit the Toronto Botanical Garden website for advanced tickets.
The gardens were all stunning in their own way. I was particularly impressed with the mix of species within each garden. The peonies were absolutely gorgeous — some in full bloom and others ready to bloom any day. Irises were in full bloom too, and the Japanese maples added stunning spectrums of reds. The colours were endless!
I love the mix of tropical plants (Monstera) with more traditional plants, just like in this planter. The height of the Monstera plant and the jagged outline of the Coleus leaves gives the planter a edgy feel.
I also loved the walkway of Alliums in the same garden, mixed with grasses and Chinodoxa.
The garden with the greenhouse was exceptional. I didn't get a chance to speak to the owner, but I did overhear that it's not just for show — the owner is an avid gardener and starts all his plants with seeds. The greenhouse complemented the Arts & Crafts-styled house perfectly. It was obvious the owner took great pride in his garden — every aspect of the yard was attended to with care. I love that.
It must be my English roots, but I'm always drawn to Wisteria and Clematis. In the last garden we viewed, this Clematis was growing along the stone wall. It was beautifully pruned to trail along the wall just so. The soft pink was so delicate! Side note: If you're in Toronto, make a point of driving by the Korean Consulate at St. Clair and Avenue Road — the Wisteria along the iron fence is absolutely stunning.
If you don't already have plans for June 8th or 9th, call up a friend and spend a day touring these beautiful backyards. You will not be disappointed!
Browse our gallery of Gorgeous Gardens for more inspiration.
1-7. Sarah Hartill
On Tuesday night I got my Skinnygirl on with yummy cocktails and eats at the brand's summer party at the Rosewater Supper Club. Hosted by the original Skinnygirl, chef, author and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel, and eTalk's Traci Melchor, the evening benefited Dress For Success.
Skinnygirl Margarita was launched by Frankel in March 2011. The low-carb, low-cal drink became an instant success and the brand has now expanded to include seven ready-to-serve cocktails, a vodka collection and a wine collection.
Party-goers were greeted at the door with White Cranberry Cosmos, followed by the arrival of Bethenny and Traci, who treated guests to a fun Q&A about summer entertaining.
Ready-to-serve cocktails like the Skinnygirl Sangria, Peach Margarita and Mojito make summer entertaining easy. Frankel recommends sticking to classics with a twist for party food, like turkey burgers with wasabi mayo served alongside Mojito cocktails — her go-to for parties this season. The new White Cherry Vodka is a must-try, says Frankel, just add soda or serve over ice.
I'm partial to the Skinnygirl Mojito — my favourite summer drink! At only 90 calories a glass, it's a refreshing and guilt-free patio cocktail. I would still add some fresh mint to it for flavour and aroma, though.
Guests were given a tour of four cocktail tasting rooms featuring different summer entertaining tips. The White Peach Margarita room was all about home decor! Event stylist Marla Brown talked about outdoor decorating.
If you're throwing a patio party, Brown recommends setting the mood with torches, lanterns, votives, or hanging cafe lights, making sure to illuminate the walking path. Add bright colours like this turquoise and tangerine combo to your neutral furniture with vases and throw pillows, says Brown.
I could definitely spend some time lounging here with a glass of sangria! Brown also recommends bringing the indoors out. Don't be afraid to bring your indoor chairs and tables outside for your party, she says.
Chef Lauren Mozer, founder of Toronto's Elle Cuisine, passed on tips for summer entertaining with recipes that are big on flavour and small on prep time. Keep it simple and light, always use fresh ingredients and pay attention to presentation, which accounts for 75% of any food experience, says Mozer.
These chicken satays were marinated in Skinnygirl White Wine and served with a red pepper chimichurri — yum!
I'll be lounging on a patio in Vancouver this weekend, Skinnygirl Mojito in hand, if anyone asks. Cheers!
1-8. Chloe Berge
Superstar Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, founder of Moooi, touches down in Toronto this Friday, May 3rd, to unveil his latest designs for Klaus, the exclusive Canadian dealer of Moooi furnishings. On May 4th, he will speak at the Hair of the Dog Brunch hosted by the Design Exchange from 11 to 1:30 p.m.
Wanders is a product and interior designer who shot to fame with his knotted chair design for Droog in 2006. Since forming Moooi in 2001, he has gone on to design products for Ålessi, Christofle, B&B Italia and Target, and very hip architectural projects and interiors. We asked Wanders about some of his latest endeavors, and reveal some of his new Moooi offerings at Klaus.
House & Home: You have said that product designers should make fantasies real, and your designs and interiors — particularly the trippy South Beach Mondrian — really illustrate this philosophy. Where do you think your whimsical sense of play stems from?
Marcel Wanders: If you want to give people a new experience, you have to kind of surprise them with something they have never seen, it gives them a sense of euphoria. Whimsical things are unexpected, you understand them as being very fun and beautiful, but I think the idea of fantasy should be meaningful. I don't feel fantasy plays an important role in a lot of design, and I think it should. I am trying to put fantasy on a higher level in my work.
H&H: You're a judge for the upcoming DX emerging designer contest. What kinds of things do you look for when assessing a young designer's work?
MW: It's difficult because you get only a little part of the story of design. I try to understand the reasoning behind the work, and why people are doing something. Ultimately, I don't love to criticize someone else's work, I want to support and excite these people.
H&H: You set up a program at Moooi to teach designers about business. Why is mentoring young designers in this area important to you?
MW: We have a young designer program to give feedback from professionals in — and outside — of the design world. I don't know if I am a role model but I think everyone in the universe is either an example or warning, it's up to us to choose which we will be. Designers working within the industry convince companies to invest, produce and sell their ideas, to make sure that people working in the company will still have a job tomorrow. It's a responsibility for a designer. If you aren't interested in listening to what companies need, then do a different job.
H&H: You've made a shift from product design to large-scale projects like commercial spaces and hotels (the Miami Mondrian is shown above). Is that a natural progression from product design?
MW: For me it's kind of a logical step, I don't want to do the same type of thing over and over again. Design is the study of relationships more than anything else. It's always interesting to see the relationship of objects to their surroundings; I am exploring this within the interior designs I am doing.
If you've never bought art before, it can be hard to know where to begin. Some of the best advice I've heard is to forget about expert opinion and buy what moves you. Now a new art event may just give you a chance to support a cause that moves you, too.
Buy Art Not Kids (B.A.N.K.) is a new charity art auction in support of Ratanak International, a Canadian organization aimed at rescuing and rehabilitating victims of child sex trafficking in Cambodia.
Artist Rachelle Kearns, whose piece Joy in the Wilderness is pictured above, was inspired to create the event after learning about the plight of Cambodian children through her friend Lisa Cheong, who left a Bay Street finance job to work with Ratanak, sharing the stories of sex-trade victims through her blog. Kearns and her husband, Steve, were "heartbroken" by what they read in Cheong's blog. "The idea popped in my head, 'I can do something about this,'" says Kearns, who was determined to use her love of the arts and community of friends to help Ratanak give young people a way out of the sex trade, and the support to build new lives.
Thanks to a committee of 13 women comprised mostly of other moms on her street, the inaugural B.A.N.K. auction will take place Thursday, April 18th. The event is hosted by Erica Ehm, of MuchMusic fame, now publisher of the popular website Yummy Mummy Club.
B.A.N.K. takes place at Toronto's Havergal College. "We had the idea to partner with a girls' private school to connect girls of privilege to the situation in Cambodia," says Kearns. "It's a somewhat difficult topic and I was very impressed with the school's courage in that regard. The girls in the school are really elevating themselves and becoming more involved."
The auction is co-curated by Kearns and artist Marjolyn vanderHart, whose piece Pathfinder is pictured above. The two set out to find established artists to donate pieces, first creating A-, B- and C-lists of desired contributors they hoped would donate pieces. "We wanted art that was inspirational in one way or another. We were looking for artists that we felt aided the viewer in looking differently at things, or celebrating an aspect of life. We definitely wanted uplifting pieces and were looking for a positivity in the work. Everybody on our A-list said 'Yes.'"
There are 31 pieces by established Canadian artists for the event's live auction. But what makes this event unique is that there will also be 37 pieces by senior art students at Havergal available through a silent auction, putting art on offer at a variety of price points. "Most of the art auctions that I know of are somewhat inaccessible to the average person who might want to take a stand against child sex trafficking," says Kearns. "Our idea was to make this art auction a little more accessible to someone who might not necessarily attend art auctions on a regular basis."
Nava Waxman, who recently participated in the Verge Art Fair in Miami, is contributing her encaustic piece, Figure and Bird, above, to the event. Some other artists of note include Michael Levin, whose work is included in Hasselblad's upcoming 2013 coffee table book titled Victor, and Emily Filler, an up-and-comer who has burst onto the Montreal and Quebec scene with great success.
Asked about the light shed on human trafficking through a recent Toronto Star investigation into sex tourism, Kearns says, "It feels like there's a groundswell of support and awareness happening across Canada."
She hopes that support is reflected with attendance at the B.A.N.K. auction. For tickets, visit the B.A.N.K. website here.
Wednesday morning began with a press breakfast of mini pancakes and strawberry kale smoothies at Toronto's One of a Kind Show, which runs until March 31st at the Direct Energy Centre.
More than 450 Canadian artisans are represented at the show, many of them exhibiting for the first time. Also debuting is a new curated Etsy section, where sellers from the popular online marketplace are showcasing their designs in person.
While the spring edition is smaller than the holiday event, there are plenty of gorgeous designs to be found. Alongside established favourites like Bookhou, Porcelaines Bousquet, Jenna Rose and Tissage Magely Weaving, a few emerging designers caught my eye. Here are my top picks:
In case you haven't noticed, wood charcuterie and cutting boards are the latest way to add I-cook-and-I'm-cool style to your kitchen. Just prop a few up on your counters and you've got the look. Swaine St. Woodworking from Halifax also offers products to keep your boards looking good. I liked the rounded bottles and labels. Plus, everything looks better with a sprig of rosemary.
Yusuke Akai makes pretty pastel vases and cake stands that are perfect for Easter, but I was more excited about her oven-safe ceramic cookware that looks like cast iron. These would make the trip from oven to table with aplomb.
It's impossible to walk by Edith Bourgault's booth without stopping to look. Her blue and white ceramics — so classic and summery — look extra enticing in the all-black space. If you have a cottage or just want the look of one, this should be your first stop at the show.
This Montreal studio describes itself as a "slow design" laboratory, making items by hand from local and reclaimed wood and other materials. Its bag of little wood houses offers a domestic alternative to Muji's popular mini wood cityscapes. Green thumbs will also like their apple box-style colour-blocked planters.
5. Nick Chase
I saved the best for last. The glass leaf vases by Nick Chase strike just the right balance between modern and organic, and have a distinctly Canadian feel. They're priced from $200 to $1,000 and would make a perfect gift for any occasion: wedding, housewarming, cottage host thank-you. Nick also makes glass terrariums, which are landscaped by a friend of his in Toronto. I'll take one of each, please!
Browse my picks from last year's spring show.
1-11. Kimberley Brown
The gardens of landscape architect Mario Nievera transport us to another world in his gorgeous new coffee table book, Forever Green (2012 Pointed Leaf Press), whether they belong to a historic, lush Palm Beach estate, shingled Cape Cod beachfront cottage or windy Manhattan rooftop.
Growing up in Glencoe, Illinois, Mario rode his bike hunting for roads marked "private, residents only" so he could see the amazing properties at the end, complete with walled courtyards, rose gardens and allées of apple trees. Now he and business partner Keith Williams create those features for carriage-trade clients across the globe, including the Caribbean and Shanghai. As summer approaches, we start contemplating the promise of our own gardens, and I spoke to Mario about his luxe, orderly vision.
H&H: You were influenced by The Preppy Handbook, Love Story, Frank Lloyd Wright, Green Acres, and Sunset Boulevard. How does this all come into play when you design a garden space?
Mario Nievera: There's always some kind of romance, intrigue, fun and drama in our landscapes. In books, TV shows or movies, there's a feeling of progression and a finale. Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture was very much a part of the land. We always try to help architects ground their magnificent structures to the earth.
H&H: You and Keith Williams have collaborated on some very impressive vacation homes. What's the most common request among your high-end clientele for their gardens?
MN: "Tailored" and "balanced" are the big asks. That doesn't mean formal or uptight, it's just that many of our clients are quite cerebral, so some sort of order is really important — even if the garden is deliberately designed as a jungle.
H&H: The bulk of your work is based in Florida, but you have clients with homes in the northeast too: that's a big difference in climate, soil and plants. Which region do you prefer to landscape and why?
MN: It's a toss up! When it's snowing in the northeast, I'm very happy to be in Florida. Our goal is to create landscapes that are life-changing for our clients — we like to think we can create memories wherever they live.
H&H: What's a good rule of thumb when choosing plants for blustery northern rooftops?
MN: Pretend you're on a mountaintop: there are dry winds, lots of sun, freezing temperatures and not a lot of soil at your feet. If you find a plant that can survive those conditions, you can have it on a rooftop.
H&H: What big trends are you seeing in garden design?
MN: Planters made from a fusion of materials [the faux bois planters to the left are Mario's design]; fire pits and outdoor fireplaces; great looking outdoor kitchens and lots of bar and counter-height seating.
H&H: If you don't have a huge, lovely estate, how do you create a feeling of grandeur in a garden?
MN: Scale! A magnificent urn on a pedestal situated outside a balcony and framed by square planters with evergreen topiaries will create much needed and unexpected drama in a drab view.
H&H: What's your favourite plant?
MN: Today I'm very happy with different varieties of southern magnolia (magnolia grandiflolia). I love stewartia for its bark and summer blooms, and I'm all about Phoenix robelinis (common Pygmy date).
See more enviable outdoor spaces in our Inspiring Backyards photo gallery.
I attended my first Korhani Home runway presentation at World MasterCard Fashion Week on Wednesday night — what a fun show! Catch my coverage of the new collection here. Before things got started, I was lucky enough to squeeze in an interview with the company's lovely creative director, Kirsten Korhani.
With a background in fashion, Kirsten has become famous in the industry for translating cutting-edge fashion trends into stylish home furnishings. I chatted with her about what inspired the F/W '13 collection, this year's hottest trends and what she thinks the biggest style faux-pas is:
Kirsten Korhani after the Korhani Home runway show Wednesday night.
You started out in fashion — how did you make the transition into interior design?
In Germany, where I'm from, I had my own fashion agency. Then I got married and moved to Toronto and my husband owned the Korhani Home company. I thought, home and fashion are melding together, so if you dress very fashionably in everyday life why don't you make your home the same way? You change your clothes by season, why not change your carpets and accessories by season as well?
How does apparel influence your home furnishings design? Can you explain that process?
I would say fashion inspires me to be a little more edgy, taking chances and trying different colours out together that maybe you wouldn't see in a typical home. Like in one of our [new] collections we have black and white combined with neon colours. That's not very normal for home decor.
If you had to describe the Korhani Home aesthetic in three words, what would they be?
I would say it's sophisticated, elegant, but at the same time, fun.
What inspired the collection we're going to see tonight?
We have three trends. The first is Nocturnal. It's the year of the moon this year so it's a very dark palette. Very grey, pale moonlight and burgundy shades. Since in winter you're cocooning anyway, why not bring the midnight and darkness into your home? That's one of my favourite themes.
The second theme is Allure. It's about Marlene Dietrich and the German film stars in the older days. We showed in Berlin, so that was inspired from my travelling. It's all very elegant, dusty rose, rose gold and beiges. What I like a lot is that there's still an Art Deco influence. We did Gatsby for summer and I think that's a trend that's here to stay for a long time, especially in the home.
The last one is Celebricity/VIP Only that takes us to the nightclubs around the world. You have the black and whites combined with the new neons. That's a very fun, young theme.
What do you think is hot for 2013 in home decor and design?
For fall, especially for home, I think it's the neon accents. It's something very new. Black and white with neon was never seen before in homes so I think that's probably the most fashion-forward collection that we're presenting.
How do you make trends timeless in the home?
Certain trends do not always go away right away — they stay. It's a timeless thing but with every season, with a little bit of a change, you can make it new again. It's about reinterpreting things. A trend is not suddenly there and then vanishes, you can build up on things like that. Like our Gatsby summer collection was an Art Deco-inspired theme. Keep that and just take something new from the new collection and combine it.
There are certain classic pieces that stand the test of time in fashion and interiors. What would be the home decor equivalent of the little black dress?
I would say a grey and black carpet. You can throw a couple new pillows with that and it looks really fresh. So that's a major piece that you can't go wrong with.
Is there any major design faux-pas that you see in people's homes?
They just choose a brown or beige carpet (laughs). Because area rugs I find are the new art. Mix and match. Don't be afraid to put something colourful under your couch. Just don't be too safe.
What is the best piece of design advice you've ever been given?
Believe in yourself. Do what you think the trend is, not what others tell you. Just believe in your own self and doing what you need to do, even if someone else says it's crazy.
Kirsten and I backstage. She commented that I was ahead of the trend with my neon belt!
Fashion enthusiasts from across the country gathered under the tents at David Pecaut Square last night for the unveiling of the Korhani home F/W 2013 collection at World MasterCard Fashion Week. The Canadian home furnishings company creates trendsetting designs, using their carpets to construct one-of-a-kind runway looks.
Korhani is known for their theatrical shows, and last night was no exception. Guests gathered in a dimly lit tent flooded with the sound of thunder and rainfall. The moody atmosphere set the tone for the dramatic fashions that overtook the runway.
The collection was composed of three different trends: Nocturnal, Allure and Celebricity/VIP Only.
Inspired by 2013, the year of the moon, Nocturnal transported guests into a dark fantasy. Sumptuous fabrics in deep burgundy and grey were accented with pale moonlight shades. Black crows were perched in wild grey and black bouffant hairstyles and on birdcages carried like purses.
Think velvet jewel-tone cushions and home accessories with a cool, sophisticated colour palette.
The Allure trend presented a very different feel inspired by old world Art Deco glamour. Models wore dusty rose, gold and nude designs with 1920s silhouettes reminiscent of Hollywood's golden age.
We can expect to see home furnishings with an antique feel, highlighted by geometric patterns and gold accents, in stores this fall.
Neon colours and bold prints in the Celebricity/VIP Only collection lit up the runway. This vibrant, playful trend draws inspiration from exclusive nightclubs in the world's party capitals.
White and black paired with pops of neon infuse a home with an electric, youthful energy.
The dynamic aesthetic of all three collections made for a stunning show and offered an imaginative, daring antidote to a world of white and beige decor.
I spoke with the company's creative director, Kirsten Korhani, before the show. Read my Q&A for more insight into the collection and the woman behind the brand.
1-9: George Pimentel