Ever heard of someone taking warm-weather mini-break to Toronto in January? Absurd, I know, but that's exactly what I did last weekend. With snow piled up to my knees in Montreal, I boarded a train heading southwest and arrived in balmy, flake-free climes a few hours later. The reason for my jaunt: the biggest and brightest design party in Canada was kicking off its 2016 edition and I couldn't wait to jump in. Like all creative people, I go hunting for inspiration from time to time, especially in the dead of winter. The show -a sprawling, sparkling, surging, filled-to-the rafters extravaganza- did not disappoint, (I'm sure to have missed a few gems, despite my best efforts). For those of you who couldn't make it to Toronto, and for those of you who did and are looking to compare notes, here are my top picks from IDS2016:
1. Tom Dixon
A leading design star with his own wildly successful brand, this Brit was the show's guest of honour and headline speaker. If you know Dixon's work, you'll remember his use of light-reflecting materials, surprising jolts of gold leaf and unique shapes. His black-and-gold pendant light that has been copied so many times, it's now recognized around the world. In Toronto, Dixon's team set up a gorgeous installation at the entrance so it was the first thing visitors saw upon arrival. Many an Instagram pic was snapped of those hanging orbs.
If you're looking for beautiful, well-crafted brass lighting that's made in Canada and is effortlessly on-trend, check out Toronto's Lightmaker Studio. Each piece is custom-made (i.e. not for the faint-of-heart or light-of-wallet) and gorgeous. My favourites were the Branch pendant and the Zig Zag fixture intended for wall or ceiling:
There were two show-moments that seemed to particularly capture the imaginations of design-goers this year. Both highlighted very simple products with big style. The first: a line of basic-yet-beautiful chairs by Coolican and Company. What struck me most about these lightweight pieces was the exquisite craftsmanship involved. After doing a little digging I discovered Coolican's online collection to be just as beautiful as the show samples.
The second: a blink-and-miss-it booth showcasing 1925 Workbench and its custom sliding doors. The display was tiny, but so pretty and so simple. It struck a chord in me, especially juxtaposed against the busier brands surrounding it. I liked that the company's doors weren't just of the heavy barn variety but were also elegant and classic. The panes of glass further lightened the look and the choice of colour was spot on. The artwork in the booth- a perfect compliment- was by Alanna Cavanagh.
4. GUS Modern
In some ways a sofa is a sofa is a sofa. But I really loved the Margot by GUS Modern. Maybe it was the brass legs or the deep seat or the soft fabric. Or maybe I was tired at this point and craving a rest. Either way I'm going to give a shout-out to this display for the quality of it's offerings.
5. Photography at Montauk
While the overall booth design could have used a facelift (there wasn't a carpet that could have fit the whole space and covered the terrible floor underneath?), the photography was a showstopper. I almost didn't notice the sofa- which may not be a good thing at a trade show but is a great endorsement of the ad campaign. Terrific work, photographer Christoph Strube!
6. Aya Kitchen Design
Already a big-deal kitchen brand, Aya pushed it over the top this year with a super modern, super sexy space that highlighted some of the company's newest designs. I particularly loved the big wall of shelving and the counter-top elements that break all the rules. In fact, when someone asked what I saw at the show that was new and different, I talked about this one thing. That's saying something right?
And there you have it: six major ideas be inspired by or steal. Hopefully, I've given you a little taste of the show and encouraged you to attend the next one in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. If the show organizers will allow me two tiny quibbles: I really missed seeing the Ikea booth as well as the designer concept spaces for which I usually make a bee-line for. Where have they gone and what will replace them? That being said I'm glad that I went, and saw, and air-kissed and equally glad to be back in my still-snowy Montreal.