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Think unexpected materials, like a bench made with seat belts and knives made of maple

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Seven years ago, Christopher Solar gave up a career as a software developer and began teaching himself the art of furniture making. After he mastered the classics, the Ottawa-based designer got creative. His Strap Bench is strung with a colourful, almost chaotic top made from seat-belt webbing (the brightly hued kind used in custom hot rods, not your typical sedans). It’s Solar’s wink at traditional weaving techniques, done with an updated, post-industrial sense of ingenuity. And although the taut, crisscrossing pattern looks random, it’s anything but – each strap is carefully placed to ensure the right level of give and support as you sit. From $1,600 through

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When friends and industrial designers Ian Murchison and Rohan Thakar left their jobs at Research in Motion a few years ago, they wanted to work on projects that had a more organic quality. So the Carleton grads started the Federal, an Ottawa-based studio that makes tactile, nature-friendly products such as sheep’s wool earmuffs and plywood desk lamps. Even their knives have a soft side. While most tools of butchery have a menacing look, these blades are more aptly described as warm. With the exception of the honed metal edges, they are made entirely of sealed, food-safe Canadian maple – the waving grain of the wood giving them a gentle, painterly effect. Through

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As co-founder of Montreal’s award-winning Igloo Design, Anna Abbruzzo has worked on restaurant interiors, homes, websites, brand strategies and business cards. Furniture, though, was something she always wanted to try. Creating the perfect piece requires a deep knowledge of ergonomics, finesse with finicky materials and the ability to work with really tiny wheels. That’s why it took a full year (and countless iterations) to develop her first effort – an elegant trolley, the kind that was popular in the 1920s for serving tea or cocktails. The cart is both subtle and luminous, with its sleek Art Deco lines and shimmering brass finish. $4,500. For more information, contact

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People who love mid-century design often sideline their aesthetics when they have kids. Three Pears, a new family-run studio, hopes to change that. Their Bungalow Bobble Toy, for example, is both tot-friendly (with its bouncy, boingy, spring-loaded figurines) and sharply designed (the clean-lined, smartly coloured house looks equally at home on a Noguchi coffee table as in a rumpus room). And the beauty isn’t just in its looks – it’s made of sustainable, FSC-approved maple, finished with non-toxic, water-based paint and manufactured in Canada. Suitable from three or four months up. $70. 6.5” h. x 8.5” w. x 3” d. Through

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Hearts almost always have the same cutesy look – bulbous and symmetrical, ketchup-y red or cotton-candy pink. Designer Eva Milinkovic avoids the usual, cloying tendencies with her ventricle vase. The glass vessel is a token of love – it was originally made for Milinkovic’s husband and business partner, Kriston Gene – but the muscular, anatomical realness gives it an edgy sensibility. And each vase is handblown in the couple’s Windsor, Ont., studio, so they all have their own idiosyncratic bends and turns – just like real human hearts. 10”, 16” or 22” h. From $550. Through

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For most of the past decade, Toronto native Colette van den Thillart has been living in London, working as the creative director for renowned British interior designer Nicky Haslam. She recently moved back home – to helm Haslam’s first Canadian outpost – but has brought her sense of worldly glamour with her. Take the Grotto fabric. The pattern is a scanned image of flint and quartz stones incorporated into a real grotto designed for a country manor. Van den Thillart has used the plush velvet as a wall covering in her dining room, but it would look equally entrancing as a lampshade or curtains. Price upon request. Through Primavera, 160 Pears Ave., Suite 110, Toronto, 416-921-3334.Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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