From domestic darlings to foreign-based stars, a plethora of Canuck-bred talent is being showcased at this year's show in Toronto
Oki SatoGeoff Johnson
Base: Tokyo; founded: 2005; principal: Oki Sato
Named after the Japanese word for “clay,” which founder Oki Sato chose because of its suggestion of malleability, the interdisciplinary design company Nendo is nothing if not diverse, counting an eclectic range of projects (including furniture, hanging lamps and mugs) among its prolific output. Sato’s work has garnered the Toronto-born designer, a multitasker whose advanced training in architecture colours everything he creates, a variety of accolades, from Wallpaper magazine’s Designer of the Year crown in 2012 to a spot on Newsweek’s 2006 list of the 100 Most Respected Japanese.
A lecturer at Tokyo’s prestigious Kuwasawa Design School, the 35-year-old credits his Canadian upbringing for making him as flexible – and in-demand – as he is. “Growing up in a nice, calm place like Toronto until I was 10 years old and then being thrown into the chaos of Tokyo enabled me to [appreciate] the differences,” he says. “Seeing everyday life from a different point of view allows me to come up with interesting ideas.” Among said ideas is his reinterpretation of a Japanese stone garden for this year’s IDS, where overlapping one-legged tables capped by Caesarstone will be used in place of rocks. Sato is also, appropriately enough, its International Guest of Honour, a homecoming of sorts for a hometown boy made good. – Deirdre Kelly
Heather DubbeldamMalcolm Brown
Dubbeldam Architecture + Design
Base: Toronto; founded: 2002; principal: Heather Dubbeldam
As a fourth-generation architect, Heather Dubbeldam jokes that her profession was less a calling than the result of a forceful familial nudge. Still, the founder of the growing studio that bears her name has built up her practice on her own exacting terms. Over the years, a number of Dubbeldam’s projects have involved urban infill work, which can present strict constraints. But even when she has free rein, her team of six is “always working within a context,” Dubbeldam says, noting that even the most unharnessed designs must acknowledge their surroundings.
The architect, whose current projects include a civic space for the City of Toronto and an office for an eminent cancer researcher, often achieves her desired harmony by applying innovative thinking to contemporary architecture while remaining faithful to craftsmanship and materials. Her installation for IDS, for example, riffs on the idea of a “pop-up office,” positing the notion that contemporary workspaces must be adaptable, even modular. It’s a model that Dubbeldam could very well adopt for her own firm, which is expanding at a swift clip. “We’re growing in scale, complexity – and prestige, too,” she says. “That’s a nice direction to go in.” – Amy Verner
Douglas CouplandBrian Howell
Base: Vancouver; born: 1961; projects: Novels, non-fiction, furniture, clothing, visual art
If Canada has a semiofficial polymath-atlarge, it is writer and artist Douglas Coupland, whose forays into design may be intermittent but are always memorable. Created in 2000 for Edmonton’s Pure Design, for instance, his Hockey Night in Canada side tables became immediate classics (good luck trying to get your hands on one today). His clothing collection for Roots three years ago was equally well-received.
And then there’s Coupland’s supersized sculpture, from the cleverly symbolic Monument to the War of 1812 in Toronto to his beloved Digital Orca on Vancouver’s waterfront. Although he is too young to be considered an éminence grise, Coupland has bonafide (and well-earned) guru status, his visual art and design books not only (re)interpreting Canada for Canadians but also defining our culture, with sexiness and complexity, abroad. The man also has regular surprises up his sleeve, as he’ll demonstrate at this year’s IDS, where a new project will be unveiled. – Danny Sinopoli
Anna Abbruzzo, right, and Alain Courchesne of IgloodgnMarc Rimmer
Base: Montreal; founded: 2005; principals: Anna Abbruzzo and Alain Courchesne
Experts in the creation of strong visual identities, seven-year-old Igloodgn’s founders are as much brand builders as they are interior designers. “We specialize in designing companies from top to bottom,” explains Alain Courchesne, a Sudbury, Ont. native and former runway model who trained at the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University). Adds Anna Abbruzzo, a graduate of Montreal’s Dawson College: “We believe that everyone should be as inspired by their surroundings as they are by the work they do.”
Dom Rebel Store
For their IDS debut, the Igloodgn principals (whose firm now employs seven people and last year opened an office in Shanghai) have created an idealized workplace reflecting many of the principles they have put into practice for their wide-ranging client list, which includes hoteliers, restaurateurs, retailers and spa operators. Called the Green House, the IDS space is inspired by an imaginary botanist whose atelier is as fertile as the matter he studies; “we feel [it] exemplifies an office in which the working space evokes the work itself,” says Courchesne. To furnish it, the pair tapped such labels as Cassina (for the furniture), Ceramica Bardelli (tiling), XILO1934 (flooring) and Nemo (lighting). Nowadays, “people spend 90 per cent of their lives working,” Abbruzzo says, only slightly exaggerating. “The space they work in has to be beautiful. Period.” – D.K.
Philippe Malouin Design
Base: London; founded: 2010; principal: Philippe Malouin
Don’t let Philippe Malouin’s rugged good looks fool you: There is true grit and real talent underneath the handsome veneer. Named Designer of the Future by W Hotels last year, the former Montrealer now living in England has amassed an impressive CV since moving to Europe to study at design schools in France and the Netherlands.
A stint in Tom Dixon’s studio was followed by the establishment of his own much-sought-out practice, through which he has created everything from lighting to furniture, all gallery-grade. According to Marcus Fairs, the founder of online magazine Dezeen, for which Malouin outfitted offices, “he hasn’t settled into a style, so he’s able to jump around from project to project.” Get ready to see and read a lot more about this Canuck chameleon. – D.S.
Base: New York; founded: 2000; principal: Christiane Lemieux
Raised in Ottawa by her Toronto-born parents, Manhattan-based designer Christiane Lemieux is the founder and creative director of DwellStudio, the popular home-furnishings brand that she launched five years after moving to New York to study fashion. “A lot of fashion is surface design,” says Lemieux, whose work experience includes gigs with Isaac Mizrahi, Gap and the home-decor brand Portico. “When I left to form my own company, it was still in the field of surface design, but in the form of textiles for the home, including furniture and upholstery.”
Recently, Dwell opened its first retail store, on Wooster Street in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood. In 2010, Lemieux published her first book, Undecorate , its provocative title becoming a cultural catchphrase and ultimately defining a small movement. “People no longer design their homes,” says Lemieux, a mother of two young children whose husband, commercial real estate agent and Toronto native Joshua Young, helps her run her business. Rather, “they tweak them, adding and taking away items over a period of time, making design more of a lifestyle pursuit.” This democratization of design, a by-product of the Internet age, is an idea that Lemieux will pursue further at IDS, where she will sign copies of her book and submit to a live onstage interview. – D.K.
Sisters Mania, left, and Laurie Bedikian are half of Samare.Marc Rimmer
Bases: Montreal and Milan; founded: 2008; principals: Mania Bedikian, Laurie Bedikian, Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte and Patrick Meirim de Barros
Samare Studio gets its name from the French word for those wingshaped tags that house the seeds of maple trees. It’s an appropriately Canadian reference point for a design firm that has all but redefined what Canadiana is. Made up of graduates of the University of Montreal, Samare was established following a trip the quartet took to the Milan Furniture Fair, where they saw the potential in a line that combined heritage and craft in a contemporary way. “We spent a lot of time discussing where the future of design might lie and what highend design is all about,” recalls Mania Bedikian, an architect. Samare’s first collection, called Awadare, juxtaposed traditional Native weaving with coated-steel frames in a range of vibrant colours.
More recently, the team has designed fur-covered seating as a twist on an old fur-trade legend. “Even though they incorporate historical Canadian elements, we can put these anywhere in the world and they will stand alone,” says Laurie Bedikian, whose focus is product design. “The appeal was universal,” Mania says of the woven series. “People had abstract readings; it had resonance in different ways.” In its IDS space, the team is planning to show how the high-tech brainstorming they regularly engage in (a necessity, as Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte is based in Milan) can be realized in a low-tech way. “The whole point,” says Laurie of their overall vision, “is to make things that are simple, efficient and aesthetically pleasing, so that people, ultimately, can relate.” – A.V.
From left: Tony Round, Sarah Knight, Andrea Kordos and Joe KnightMalcolm Brown
Base: Toronto; founded: 2012; principals: Joe Knight, Andrea Kordos, Tony Round, Sarah Knight
In an indication of the speed with which black– LAB has built its reputation, this year’s IDS coincides with the young firm’s first anniversary. Its installation for the show’s How Do You Work? program involves, as partner Joe Knight puts it, “building things from scratch” and “being inventive in how we define a [work]space.” (He, Andrea Kordos and Tony Round are the three architects among the partners; Sarah Knight is the only non-architect and oversees the firm’s business side.) For an example of its inventiveness, clients need only look to black– LAB’s own Toronto office, a clean-lined yet richly detailed space complete with an aerial map composed of 43,964 golf tees.
Sometimes, “it’s difficult to draw the line between creating and playing,” Kordos says, alluding to the team’s working method. Joe describes it thusly: “We look for prompts to give us direction; it’s not about taking a site and applying generic things. It can sometimes be organic, sometimes rectilinear. But it’s purely a response to environmental conditions and it’s a constantly moving target.” Speaking of movement, the coming year promises to be a busy one for blackLAB; the firm is about to oversee the construction of several large residential projects in Toronto and beyond, testing the partners’ sense of whimsy. “If we’re as enthusiastic in five years as we are now,” Round concludes, “we’ll be doing well.” – A.V.