furniture design

IIDEX 2015 top 10 favourites

I recently attended the IIDEX show in Toronto. I have to confess I have not often been to this show in the past. For one reason or another it has not been on my design radar. It's a mistake I corrected this year and I'll definitely take note in the future. As a newly minted freelancer I'm looking everywhere for what's new and what's next. Here are my top pics from the show.

Can you believe this is Formica?  This item represents the convergence of two design trends I see coming on strong right now. First, black marble is the new white marble. Dark marble is happening everywhere you look, from cheese boards to cocktail tables to bathroom accessories. So dramatic and bold. I love it. (see also: green marble). Second, I think we are getting over the stigma associated with surfaces that are "faux". Sophisticated designers are seeing the wider applications possible with marble and other stone lookalikes and are embracing them. I think the main reason this is happening is that simulated stone patterns are getting more and more realistic -- and the fact that they're usually easier on the materials and install budget doesn't hurt either. 

Up next in surface news is this delicious business from Octopus. It's called Octoterra and is mad up of recycled galvanized metal over a wood base material. That warm copper colour is just beautiful. The mind reals thinking of possible applications. 

While there's nothing new about this surface -- it's good old soapstone -- I must admit it was my favourite surface find by a mile. I could. not. stop. caressing. it. Actually, I had to look up a few times to make sure no one was noticing my soapstone love-in. Soapstone is a silky-smooth matte surface that's perfect for kitchen counters or sinks. That's actually a dream of mine -- someday, some kitchen in my life will have it! Most people think of it as very soft and prone to wear. But the Brazilian varieties are quite durable. While we have it right here in Canada, that variety is actually the softer type (think Inuit carvings) and isn't suitable for counters. 

The folks at Secto Design of Finland brought their A-game and a whole bunch of very cool pendants. Love the ones that are nipped in at the waist a bit -- that's a new shape in the light pendant world.

And still in lighting, this little innovator is actually a bluetooth speaker and light combined. And it's battery operated, so grab it by the handle and bring it outside with you. The Uma from the Pablo Lighting/Lightform booth is a super chic camp lantern. I like it and I need it for our screened porch in Prince Edward Island.

This installation knocked my socks off, and I see it won a Gold Innovation Award so clearly I wasn't the only one left sockless. It was in the Euro-Line Appliances booth and is called the Kompakt kitchen. Is it ever! In front of your eyes above is laundry, sink, cooktop, dishwasher and refrigerator all in the tiniest footprint. Truly amazing!

Remember I was saying something about dark marble...Well, here we go. Great coffee table from Casa Life

If I had been handing out awards, this would have won Most Beautiful Piece of Furniture. It's the Ramen chair by Marc Weersink. It was part of a special exhibit of items made from the bumper crop of ash available in Toronto now. The artistry in this piece is astounding. The curves, joinery, the way the grain is showcased -- all stunning. And the finish was silky silky smooth.

The Cavern table was also part of the ash wood feature and is made entirely out of reclaimed ash.   It seems very simple from the top view with its main feature being the highly figured ash grain. 

But closer inspection of the table reveals this interesting design where the legs meet the top. The info sheet explained that designer Mark Pylypczak was inspired by the pillar supports in a local industrial building. I had a little Oh Yes, Clever moment when I read that. I have been in countless photo studios that feature similar pillar construction. It makes for a graceful transition point when applied to a table. 

While the show did seem like booth after booth of surfaces and "hard" design elements, I was pleasantly surprised by this wallcovering featured in the Fogo Island Collection booth. If you don't know about the architectural gem that is the Fogo Island Inn then you've been living under a rock. But you don't need to go to Newfoundland to experience some of the design wonders it has to offer. The Fogo Island Collection includes furniture and assorted decorative elements that have been commissioned by the Inn but are available to purchase. This stylized acorn/oak wallpaper in a small scale print was a welcome note of softness and pretty on the show floor. I think it would be a lovely powder room, entry or nursery paper. 

Hello #BlogTourCali

This is it. Today's the day. It has been 44 days since I last saw an ocean (Atlantic) and today I am Pacific-bound. No, I'm not running away to be a surfer. But a girl can dream...

Instead, this place above is first up on the itinerary for a packed junket called #BlogTourCali. Pictured is the airplane hangar that is home to the West Edge Design Fair. Should be cool. The trip is being organized by the good folks a Modenus. I'll be joining a group of designers and design bloggers from many far-flung locales. We'll take in the design show, then head up Hwy 1 all the way to San Fran. Check this link for a peek at the itinerary. We'll be stopping for a bit of spa-ing and wine-sipping along the way. I will be sure not to order the Merlot and I will try to refrain from quoting Sideways at every opportunity (I LOVE that movie -- except for the violent beating part). 

I'll be social-mediaing the heck out of this trip so please follow me over at Twitter and Insta and join me in a prayer that my data roaming package covers all my posts. (Who's the parton saint of data roaming? Googling that next.)

Meanwhile, here are a few items I'm keeping my eyes peeled for at the festival:

This thing, my friends, delivers the coffee beverage of your dreams with just a few touches to your smart device. Of course it does. Leave it to the Danes. It's the Scanomat Top Brewer.

Sexy lighting is pretty much a guarantee at a design fair. These look interesting, but will they pass the Margot's Lighting Must List. The list consists of one item: must actually emit a decent amount of light. You'd be surprised how much fancy modern lighting is actually rather useless in the function department. These look promising. They are Tripp Lights by Pelle.

It's like the love child of a Scandi safari chair and a normcore American plastic woven patio chair of days gone by. I want to give it the sit test. It's the Rod & Weave Chair by Eric Trine. I bet it makes that great creaky leather sound.

And yes, a toilet. But not just any toilet. This is the very handsome Fitzgerald from my friends at DXV, a new brand from American Standard. I met this collection at the Interior Design here in Toronto in January. At that time I didn't need a new toilet. But since moving into #AustinSuite I've been thinking the bathroom may be next on the makeover list. (after a suitable interval to receover from the stressy ickiness of our kitchen reno) Thing is, the existing toilet is perfectly excellent in function. It's just that it has the aestethic appeal of an orthopedic shoe. Also, how the lackadaisical clearner in me yearns for the ease of a skirted trapway. (PS, after you check out the DXV site, join me in a little chuckle over the fact that this company refers to its design collections as "movements". Tee hee: "Movements". Get it? I like to think that someone there has a cute sense of humour. But maybe I just need to grow up.)

And lastly, I'm playing this on repeat to power through my to do list before departure. It's "We Come Running" by Youngblood Hawke and The West Los Angeles Children's Choir. Please enjoy:



less, but better


Hello friends. Dropping by to tell you the big news. Some of you may have gleaned from some of my social media posts that change is afoot for the Austins. No, we aren't moving to Tweed or PEI, as some have asked, but yes, we are moving. We are very excited to be embarking on the new adventure of making a home for ourselves and our small dog in a condominium on the West side of the city in the Swansea neighbourhood. (I'm quite superstitious about numbers and names and love the sound and feel of Swansea. Hopefully the reality will measure up.)

After the questions about where and what the place is like (more on that in future posts), most leap right into Why? Today I quickly answered that question with "This winter." Shoveling, cleaning cars of snow, shepherding our home though a potentially damaging (though thankfully not) ice was a tough one. But the fact is, we've been talking about this for quite some time. Long before this winter. It's part midlife crisis, partly the realization of what really matters after having experienced health crises and loss, partly just time for a new property adventure.

We are in the thick of it now. Prepping a house for sale ain't an easy breezy reality show. It's hard work, and it's a rollercoaster of emotions. There is no magic crew of people that sweep in to tart things up and boost your selling price by thousands. It's the two of us and a helpful neighbour or friend pitching in here and there to make this pretty little jewel shine. I really really love this house. Leaving it will be difficult. But I'm very sure this is the right time and the right thing to do. I'm very excited about what lies ahead. Here's a fun fact: the new condo is actually larger in square footage than the main floor of our house. That said, the basement here doubles that livable space and, take my word for it -- it's FULL of stuff. Or at least it was until last weekend when we did our first push to declutter and sort and purge and edit and organize and pack. 

I can't wait to tell you more about the new place. I redesigned the entire kitchen and priced it out before we even put in our offer, since a complete overhaul was a must in my books. Another fun fact: I will be replicating the IKEA Applåd kitchen from this house for the new place with just a few tweaks that make it right for time and place. I'll fill you in on all the plans, but right now I'm obsessing about what type of faucet to go for. In the runing are: 

1. keep it simple, modern, low profile and in a timeless finish like chrome.

2. matte black. mmmmm, matte black. yum. but too trendy? 

3. something sexy in polished nickel -- all time fave finish. Forever. Always. (BTW, shared today at an industry lunch that brushed or satin nickel are on my NO NEVER list. Loathe those. Partly because normcore. Partly just, ewwww. No. Never. Ever. Not for me.)

4. an old salvaged faucet in copper or brass with heaps of patina. This is the only way I'd go into the warm metals for a faucet -- authentic, old, beat to hell. Could be very cool with an über modern kitchen. Husband is not convinced...

Meanwhile, to wrap up, here's a note about the title of this post:

I stole it from one of the people whose work I have been studying to help with this transition. "Weniger, aber besser" is a guiding principal of German designer Dieter Rams. Do you know is work? Yes you do. I didn't even know until I started researching it that I actually own some of it (and if you own any Apple device you own some of his aesthetic. It is widely agreed that Apple designers borrowed from his vision and it doesn't take a design genius to see the parallels.)

Here's our Dieter Rams original. We received a Braun Aromaster coffee maker as a wedding gift. Love it. 

In 1976 Dieter Rams made a speech in New York urging designers and consumers to take responsibilty for a world of finite resources. Here's the killer quote that I've been mulling over:

“I imagine our current situation will cause future generations to shudder at the thoughtlessness in the way in which we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk.”

You can download the whole speech in a pdf link on the Vitsoe site.

And if you need any more convincing of the enduring brilliance of Dieter Rams, here he is in his own home with his wife Ingeborg Kracht-Rams. I mean, come on. Could these two be any cooler?? No. They could not. See more of their house here. I may need to propose to Kevin that we henceforth clothe ourselves only in grey, white and black.

So, stay tuned for more news here, on the Twitter and Insta. And if you know anyone who's looking for a darling bungalow with the coziest real wood-burning fireplace, have them contact our lovely realtor, Peter Lamy.

more daybed love

Just wanted to drop by to draw your attention to these two cuties. I won't wax on again about my longstanding love affair with the daybed, but if you are unfamiliar you can hop over to this post to get up to speed. 

First up is this fantastic piece from West Elm. It's part of the Parsons line of furniture -- which is all genius. The styling here is very pretty as well (except for those lame cushions on the floor on the left -- what's up with those? How come nobody in creative said -- what's up with those, let's photoshop them out.) But I digress. I could also see this done up with some pretty block prints. the lovely Chatri quilt and sham combo from John Robshaw. And speaking of block print quilts I've got a little beef with West Elm over its discontinuation of almost all of its print quilts. Makes me sad. If you are quick you'll still find some for sale on the web site.

And here's the Parsons daybed all naked so you can see the bonus -- a trundle bed. Yay, so perfect! 

And then there's this excellent piece, the Jamie daybed, from West Elm's sibling PB Teen. I don't mind revealing that it's a bit of a favourite secret source. No need for kids or teens in your life to find good stuff there. The task lighting, carpets and some of the bedding all have appeal beyond the teen demographic. Mind you, the styling here definitely says "teen".

It's much easier to imagine the possibilities of this thing -- and to see its virtues more clearly -- when it's stripped back. Love that it has a back (so much better if you need it to do double duty as a sofa) and because it's upholstered and slipcovered it looks a bit more substantial than the WE version. This one comes in full (shown) or twin size. 

For the record, one of my favourite daybeds seen in editorial:

This is the NYC studio of Ellen O'Neill. The daybed is upholstered in a muted toile but what I really love is the undoneness of this styling. We in the print biz can't often get away with this sort of thing. But O'Neill is a styling superstar. Trust me, if you consume design you've seen her work often and her own homes even more. I tip my hat to her, to photographer Thomas Loof and to House Beautiful for this wonderful editorial. You can see the rest of it here

PS. Just in case you were wondering, this is not a sponsored post. No posts here are sponsored, ever. I take no advertising and I write what I like. That's all.



devyn, i love you

Ole' Resto has done some whack stuff over the last couple of years. But this lovely, the Devyn Tufted Daybed, is making up for all that. A daybed never has to work too hard to win me over. Current number in the Austin personal inventory: five. Yes, that's right, five! Admittedly one is in storage. Four of our daybeds are on full active duty. Why do I love a daybed?

1. It's a sofa AND a bed.

2. More comfortable to sleep (or sit) on than most pull out sofas.

3. Endless opportunities for pillow design and styling.

4. Amazing for kids' rooms (since they are also great to hang out and laze around on).

5. Perf. for a home office that needs to accommodate occasional overnighters.

6. So cozy for a family room/TV room, since everyone can snuggle up (and so much more chic than a sectional).

7. Little known fact: also perfect as spot for packing suitcases: enough room to open the suitcase and layout all the clothes you need around it so you can make your final packing decisions.

Devyn is all these things and so much more thanks to the luscious tufting, the swooping arms that make it wing chair-like (another of my loves), and it comes in Sand linen and Fog velvet -- yum and yum. And last but not least, please take a moment to enjoy the unbelievable styling of those bed linens! We are def having a loose styling moment when it comes to beds. The keen creative squad at RH were no doubt trying to make this thing seem a little more 'tween/teen by styling it louche and relaxed (hello headphones). It's dreamy. When I transform one of our daybeds into sleeping mode I usually skip the putting onof sheets and such. Instead, I either fold a large queen duvet in half lengthwise like a luxurious sleeping bag or I just put one full duvet on the bottom and one on top and then add sleeping pillows. It's way less fuss to make and then to wisk away the next day.

Imagine how different Devyn would look with snug-fitting plum velvet mattress cover and a mess of velvet cushions. Or tweeds and tartans. Or ombré linens. Or a tumble of kilim and suzani cushions...honestly, the possibilities! (see no. 3 above).

RH, welcome back. All is forgiven (well, maybe not quite ALL...but close).