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Designer Jean-Michel Gauvreau makes furniture that ages well

kate hutchinson The Globe and Mail

Even a purist like 32-year-old Jean-Michel Gauvreau, who founded Montreal-based Gau Designs & Concepts when he was just 21, believes the very things that appeal to the modernist can become cold and sterile without humans in mind. "Since the beginning, I have very much been interested in the notion of human interaction with space and furniture," says Gauvreau, a multidisciplinary designer who specializes in products and interiors. "I like challenging the way people use tables, seats and sinks. I want them to see them as interactive more than just functional objects."

A graduate of Concordia University, Gauvreau has been concentrating since 2005 on ecological housing solutions for residential and commercial clients ranging from developers to prefab builders. "People are starting to understand that good design makes life easier, happier and a lot more in sync with our modern needs," Gauvreau say. "My design philosophy is learning how to keep things simple, effective and making sure they age well."

For some of his architecture projects, Gauvreau often gets to design custom furniture or objects to complement the space. Past examples include an illuminated bench that won the Award of Excellence at the 2005 Montreal International Interior Design Show.

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"Good design is often the result of having forged a really strong relationship with the customer," Gauvreau says. "This feeds the design process amazingly well, ultimately shaping a unique, personal and passionately targeted project."

That emphasis on human relationships will be on display this year at the IDS, where Gauvreau is one of seven Canadian architects and designers invited to "rethink" Corian, a man-made material typically used in kitchens as countertops. Gauvreau's contribution is a minimalist console table with a curved surface: "Just to curve the material was quite challenging," he says. "Very minimal and thin, the table is a conversation piece when placed inside, but can also serve as a cool rain collector for the modern planter that comes with it."

As for future projects, Gauvreau says he's working on both a TV show concept and a pop-up/online store.

"As with every new project, we hope to get a lot of support and positive response from everyone," says Gauvreau, his eye ever fixed on other people.

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