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March/April 2009

In-depth review of interior architecture and design

Truth & beauty The artful design of René Desjardins What’s new in flooring Spain’s young design talent

March/April 2009

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March/April 2009

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COVER — 20 Hall as art gallery in Saint-Lambert residence designed by René Desjardins. Photograph by André Doyon

Contents FEATURES The RENÉ WAY — 20 In his design, one-time philosopher René Desjardins proves that truth is beauty. By Rhys Phillips



THE OFFICE THAT TIME FORGOT — 28 Toronto’s X-Design moves Panasonic Canada out of the 1970s. By Leslie C. Smith RAW TALENT — 33 At Habitat Valencia, young Spanish designers – taking part in NUDE, the exhibition also know as Nuevos Diseñadores – steal the show. By Michael Totzke CROWD CONTROL — 36 A Montreal gourmet store/restaurant’s restrained design allows the food and customers to create an ever-changing atmosphere. By Rhys Phillips

WHAT’S UP — 10 THE GOODS — 14 Flooring it Going natural is the latest trend in floorcoverings. Or at least it looks that way… By Erin Donnelly WHO’S WHO — 40 LAST WORD — 42 Socket to me Omer Arbel reinterprets the electrical outlet. By Janet Collins


March/April 2009 VOL.46 NO.2


Twelfth Annual Best Of Canada Design Competition Be part of this celebration of design excellence. For information and entry forms, visit


Martin Spreer Editor

Michael Totzke Managing Editor

Erin Donnelly Associate Editors

Janet Collins, David Lasker, Rhys Phillips, Leslie C. Smith Art Direction/Design

Ellie Robinson Lisa Zambri Advertising Sales

416-510-6766 Natalie Quammie Marketplace/Classified 416-510-5198 Circulation Manager

Beata Olechnowicz 416-442-5600, ext. 3543 Reader Services

Liz Callaghan Production

Jessica Jubb 416-510-5194 Senior Publisher

Tom Arkell Vice President of Canadian Publishing

Alex Papanou President of Business Information Group

Bruce Creighton Head Office

12 Concorde Place, Suite 800 Toronto, ON M3C 4J2 Telephone 416-442-5600 Facsimile 416-510-5140 Canadian Interiors magazine is published by Business Information Group, a division of BIG magazines LP, Tel: 416-442-5600, Fax: 416-510-6875 e-mail: website: Canadian Interiors is published seven times a year. Printed in Canada. The content of this publication is the property of Canadian Interiors and cannot be reproduced without permission from the publisher. Subscription rates Canada $30.95 per year; plastic wrapped $32.95 per year (plus taxes) U.S.A. $41.95 US per year, Overseas $46.95 US per year. Back issues Back copies are available for $10 for delivery in Canada and $15 US for delivery in U.S.A. and overseas. Please send payment to Canadian Interiors, 12 Concorde Place, Suite 800, Toronto, ON M3C 4J2 or order online For subscription and back issues inquiries please call 416-442-5600 ext.3543, e-mail:, or go to our website at: Newsstands For information on Canadian Interiors on 足newsstands in Canada, call 905-619-6565 Canadian Interiors is indexed in the Canadian Magazine Index by Micromedia ProQuest Company, Toronto ( and National Archive Publishing Company, Ann Arbor, Michigan (

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In-depth review of interior architecture and design

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The gang’s all here A magazine is only as good as its contributors. Happily for us, Canadian Interiors has four of the best in associate editors Rhys Phillips, in Ottawa; Leslie C. Smith and David Lasker, both in Toronto; and Janet Collins, in Sechelt, B.C. Let me tell you a little bit about each of them. Rhys Phillips (“The René way,” page 20, and “Crowd control,” page 36) was born and bred in Victoria, B.C., but has spent the last 31 years in the frontier capital of Ottawa. During that time, he has divided his working time between labouring passionately on employment equity enforcement with the federal government and writing extensively on architecture and interiors, as well as urban planning and furniture design. Coaching girls’ competitive soccer scores equally high on his priorities for growing old gracefully. Leslie C. Smith (“The office that time forgot,” page 28) has been a columnist, feature writer and contributing editor for a wide variety of North American publications, including a seven-year stint as The Globe and Mail’s menswear maven and more than a decade at Dogs in Canada. She discovered her passion for design many years ago, while studying at the University of Toronto. David Lasker – who produces our popular Who’s Who roundup (page 40) as well as the occasional feature – has never taken a course in writing or editing, and so considers himself a complete fraud. We consider him a Renaissance man: musician, teacher, travel writer, playwright, photographer and media-relations specialist. As for journalism, Lasker spent seven years as a Globe and Mail editor (fashion and design, architecture, classical music and fine arts) and was the editor of this magazine from 1999 to 2002. Janet Collins (“Socket to me,” page 42) demonstrated an interest in design early on: at the tender age of 6, she won a community art prize for a dollhouse she designed and constructed. Collins has written for diverse publications at home and abroad, including the Canadian Encyclopedia. When not writing, she can be found designing and creating a wide range of fibre arts. Dear reader, you’re in good hands. c I

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MAR./APR. Felt, now and then For the past 15 years, felt ­ believed to be the first man-made cloth, known since at least the Neolithic period (9000 B.C.) ­ has been making a comeback. Thanks to intensive experimentation and innovation, felt has transcended its traditional uses to include everything from fashion accessories and costume design to architecture, home furnishings and product design. Fashioning Felt, a comprehensive exhibition at the Smithsonian’s CooperHewitt in New York beginning March 6, will provide a timely overview. Felt has played an important role for millennia, says Cooper-Hewitt director Paul Warwick. This exhibition will explore its origins and bring the material fully up to the present. The single most significant material for the nomadic tribes of Central Asia,


felt was used to make everything from clothing to their flexible, collapsible dwellings known as yurts. Made from a renewable resource, it is a perfect material for our own, green times. Its manufacturing is low-impact and virtually wastefree; it is made simply by matting together wool fibres with humidity and friction. The manufacturing process is readily customizable, and the finished product has a versatility rarely found in other materials: it can be made flexible and translucent or very dense and hard; it can be cut without fraying and molded into threedimensional forms. Featuring more than 70 felt works from a range of fields, the exhibition will include historic examples; showcase innovations in handmade felts; present the issue

Clockwise from left Swing Low Cradle, designed by Søren Ulrick Petersen; Little Field of Flowers carpet, designed by Studio Tord Boontje; Cell carpet, designed by Yvonne Laurysen and Erik Mantel; Felt Rocks, designed by Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen; and Bless You chair, designed and made by Louise Campbell.


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of sustainability through the re-use of waste wool and felt; and explore the recent adoption of felt by a wide variety of architects and designers, from Gaetano Pesce to Tom Dixon. Design objects on display will include Søren Ulrick Petersen’s Swing Low cradle for PP Møbler, whose cocoon-like shape muffles noise and keeps out drafts; Louise Campbell’s origami-like Bless You chair, which takes its shape from the thick, sculptural quality of the felt; Tord Boontje’s Little Field of Flowers carpet, for Nanimarquina, in which six different leaf shapes are die-cut from felt and woven into the carpet; Concept’s Cell carpet, by Yvonne Laurysen and Erik Mantel for LAMA concept; which features LEDs inserted behind the felt nodes in the carpet; and Felt Rocks, by Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen for molo, a byproduct of a process for hardening high-density industrial felts. Fashioning Felt runs at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, from March 6 to September 7.

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Teknion in Calgary

Knoll in Toronto Florence Knoll would be proud. The design of the new Knoll Toronto showroom – created by the Knoll Design Group’s Karen Stone and Kenjo Ito – follows a set of principles established by the company’s co-founder in the 1940s, when she designed the very first Knoll showroom. Above Reception area in Knoll’s new Toronto showroom in Liberty Village. Many design icons are on display, including Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair and Eero Saarinen’s Womb chair. Below Product displays showcase the best layouts for different work styles.

(The reclusive Knoll turns 92 in May.) “Her reductive aesthetic,” says Knoll regional manager (Canada/Bermuda) Greg Rapier, “incorporated light, open spaces furnished with elegant woven fabrics, furniture grouped for informal conversation and brightly coloured wall panels.” The new location, in a revitalized 19th-century industrial building in Toronto’s Liberty Village, is a stunner. Twice the size of Knoll’s old digs, the space is expansive and elegant. Perhaps its most notable characteristic is an extensive west wall, with 22 large, evenly spaced windows adding a special grace. Products on display include AutoStrata, which brings a fresh, horizontal European aesthetic to systems furniture; the Life chair, “the highest-performing ergonomic task chair in the market,” according to Rapier; and Reff wood systems furniture. Design aficionados will thrill to a presentation of the entire KnollStudio collection. Items range from iconic masterpieces by Knoll’s earliest collaborators – such as Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair and Eero Saarinen’s Tulip pedestal chair – to fresh new designs from young architects and designers from around the world.

Green is the theme of Teknion’s newly redesigned showroom in the heart of Calgary. Showcasing Teknion products designed to address the latest trends in today’s evolving workplace, the light and airy 4,700-square-foot space was planned with LEED certification guidelines in mind. Featuring such new products as the District furniture system, Marketplace worktable, Optos glass wall and Fitz task seating, the showroom was designed by Vanderbyl Design and Teknion’s in-house showroom facilities

team. Light is a key element: windows on two sides of the building provide plenty of natural light, which is an important part of an energyefficient lighting strategy; the main display area has low partition heights and glazing to allow light to penetrate the space; and Teknion’s new Finland White panel fabric has been specified across the product portfolio, as white reflects light and can contribute to creating a healthy, productive workplace. Other elements include bamboo flooring in the reception area and an organic wall created from recycled post-industrial waste. A highlight of the showroom is fashion designer Annie Thompson’s 10 “fashion sculptures” – created entirely from environmentally friendly contract furniture fabrics available only from Teknion.

In Teknion’s new Calgary showroom, low partition heights and glazing allow light to penetrate the space. Says Teknion’s Frank Defino, “Integrating sustainable design and materials has created an inspiring and healthy environment for our employees and visitors.”

For further information and tickets for Techtextil visit: Tel. 905-824-5017

Inscape in ’08 For Inscape, 2008 was a very good year. Three new products – Planna, Fronté and Scala – netted the company eight major awards. Planna is a storage-based desking and credenza system; inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater, it features a crisp intersection of horizontal and vertical planes with off-modular floating tops. Fronté is a smartly designed, movable floor-toceiling storefront system. And Scala is a panel system, architectural in look, with linear and horizontal planes. All three products won Silver at NeoCon. Planna and Fronté each took home a Good Design Award conferred by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design together with the European Centre for Architecture, Art,

Visit the leading international Techtextil show. Benefit from innovations, enhancements, global solutions, valuable contacts and knowledge exchange. International suppliers will be showcasing specific industry solutions for furniture manufacturers and interior designers as well as planners and architects from the contract sector.

Design and Urban Studies. IIDEX/NeoCon awards went to Scala (Silver) and Fronté (Bronze). Finally, Planna was named as one of Interior Design magazine’s Best of Year products. “The success we achieved in 2008 in designing and creating award-winning products surpassed our expectations,” says Inscape’s Sharad Mathur. “With the distinct competitive advantages of these new products, we feel we’re poised for a great 2009.”

DU: 20.02.2009

the innovation interchange

Above Planna storage-based casegoods system. Left Fronté movable storefront system. Below Scala panel system.

51989-002 • Messe • Techtextil • HOMETECH • Canadian Interiors • 86x254 mm/A • CMYK • CD-ROM • jk: 19.02.2009

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The Goods




Flooring it


Going natural is the latest trend in floorcoverings. Or at least it looks that way… – By Erin Donnelly

1-New traditions The top-selling Grand Illusions line of laminate flooring, from Armstrong, has just been expanded. Several domestic exotic wood designs have been added to the range of 5-inch individual boards that imitate traditional hardwood installation. The carefully selected traditional species options include Southern Hickory, Heartwood Walnut, Eastern Oak and Canadian Maple. 2-Cherry on top Tarkett Residential has added more than 35 new designs and patterns to its FiberFloor resilient flooring collection. The new offerings feature distinctive textures and colours, authentic-looking wood grains, earthy stones, and rustic tiles with appetizing names like Dasylva Stone Caramel, Bancroft Mocha and Elegant Cherry. The new additions bring the number of 14 CANADIAN INTERIORS MARCH/APRIL 2009

FiberFloor products up to over 200, all of which are constructed with the five-layer Tarkett FiberFloor Protection System.

3-Knock on wood TerraWood is a new product just introduced by Torlys Smart Floors. This patented all-wood flooring is FSC-certified, eco-engineered and formaldehyde free. Ideal for high-traffic areas, TerraWood is fade-resistant and extremely durable, with a finish that is harder than many conventional hard woods. The collection offers 16 domestic and exotic species, in styles such as Whistler Oak and Kinablu Teak.

4-Suit up Fashion and fine tailoring provided the inspiration for Milliken’s new Suitable collection of modular carpets. The collec-

tion offers the look of a woven fabric in a carpet, in two complementary designs that mix lustres and textures. The Leno Weave has a structured geometry and a slightly open, woven affect, while Woven Thread resembles a bamboo blind, with a jaspé slubby thread interwoven, appearing and disappearing.

Green thinking has evolved What was once a quiet evolution has become a revolutionary force. Your desire for sustainable design has helped redefine the meaning of green. Since we began making nora® rubber flooring over 50 years ago, we’ve evolved with you. Your concern for the environment continues to create new standards for designing in harmony with nature. It is why we continually explore ways to blend the best of technology with greener thinking.

1968 Social environmental movements take hold.

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1978 Earth Day brings awareness to Earth’s need for continual care.

1988 1,000 communities in America initiate curbside recycling.

1998 EPA launches voluntary programs for energy, water, indoor air quality, waste and smart growth.

2008 U.S. Green Building Council member organizations grow to 15,000.

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The Goods


1 1 2

3 5

1-Seasonal GO Resilient, Canadian distributor of Karndean, has introduced Oak Royale to its artselect line of luxury vinyl flooring. The new product imitates the grains and patterns of natural wood, in a wide plank that replicates the sizes most popular in antique wood flooring. Angled edges and uneven surfaces further enhance the natural look and feel. Oak Royale is offered in four palettes: Spring, featuring blond looks; Summer, in golden tones; Autumn, with warm, elegant cherry hues; and Winter, in striking chocolate shades.

2-Made in the Shade Three new broadloom products - Tint, Tone and Gradient - have been added to Shaw Contract Group’s newest collection, Shade. These flexible patterns deliver texture and coordinate with the Shade tile products. 16 CANADIAN INTERIORS MARCH/APRIL 2009

Gradient broadloom is available in 30 colors and is manufactured with Shaw Industries Eco Solution Q nylon.

3-Adaptation The theme of the new Marmoleum Global 3 collection from Forbo is “designing the future.” The series is meant to adapt to the current trend toward open, light, flexible and ecologically responsible buildings, and is made from natural, raw materials, from annually renewable resources. Global 3 is available in two new designs, Marmoleum Striato and Walton Cirrus, both of which feature the Topshield finish, for ease of maintenance. 4-Playing marbles Mesto Configurations from Johnsonite is a unique family of rubber planks and tiles. Available in eight marbleized palettes,

each features three tones: a base with separate lighter and darker tones of that colour, creating the varied look of a natural material. Tiles are in 6-by-6 and 12-by12-inch sizes and planks are in 6-by-24 and 12-by-24-inches. Other sizes, between 2-by-2 and 24-by-24-inches, are also available by special order. 5-Silver is gold Silverwood’s Karelia Hardwood in White Oak offers the warm comfort of nature in a sleek, winter-inspired aesthetic. A matte oil finish provides a flexible look that works with modern or more traditional aesthetics. The Finnish-manufactured, engineered, three-strip wood flooring is constructed from three parallel wood strips and is sold in 7.4-by-89.2-inch planks.

The Goods




1-Forest friendly Amtico International’s newest line, Tropical Woods, provides an alternative to endangered woods that have been harvested to near extinction. The line includes four patterns – Brazilian Rosewood, Merbau, Tigerwood and Caramel Bamboo – that mimic exotic rainforest species in a high-performance, low-VOC, GreenGuard-certified, lowmaintenance product. The five-layer planks are in 4.5-by-36 and 6-by-36-inch sizes. 2-Three in ONE Tandus’s Manufactured Landscapes Collection’s patent-pending, multi-tile system proposes new ideas about the application of modular carpet. The concept packages three 24-by-24-inch tiles together, designed to be installed as one, with seven subtle texture, pattern, relief lustre and 18 CANADIAN INTERIORS MARCH/APRIL 2009

weave changes tufted into the single substrate. The 12 colourways can be installed in a directional or random method. 3-Mix and match Nora systems, Inc. has just recolourized its popular norament 925 grano line, expanding the floor covering’s colour range from 20 to 32 new colours. The colours coordinate with other nora floorcoverings, making it easy to incorporate several products within one project. Norament grano is also Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified and contributes to healthier indoor air. 4-Soul mates InterfaceFLOR has introduced the Resoul Collection, made up of four new styles influenced by the imagery and motifs of Gothic-inspired fashion and visual art.


Paramour features a tattoo-inspired pattern; Valentine’s is noted for elaborate detailing; Maven is bold and contrasting; and Lover balances the collection with a chunky, linear pattern. All are manufactured with post-consumer yarn harvested through InterfaceFLOR’s ReEntry 2.0 recycling program.


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The René way In his design, one-time philosopher René Desjardins proves that truth is beauty. —By Rhys Phillips

René Desjardins is philosophical about his self-styled “zigzag” career over 25 years as one of Montreal’s top interior designers. But then again, that is exactly what you might expect of someone whose career started as a fully certified philosopher. His classical education at the École des Beaux-Arts was followed by a Master’s degree in Philosophy from his hometown’s Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. His first, albeit short, career was teaching the philosophy of aesthetics at the university. But he soon tired of that. “The students just weren’t interested or curious enough and, more importantly, they lacked the mastery of the precise language required to do philosophy,” chuckles the outgoing designer. This led to the first “zig,” a stint starting in 1980 as a jewelry designer with his own successful boutique in Trois-Rivières. A less successful expansion to Montreal, however, ushered in the next “zag.” While closing down his self-designed Montreal boutique, a friend cajoled Desjardins into helping her finish her new Westmount house. When the house scored significant media coverage, new commissions flowed in to the rather surprised fledgling designer. A stint in the Université du Québec à Montréal’s design program, Desjardins confesses, proved less useful than summer construction work with his

engineer father and the influences of an artist mother. “I am also a horse rider and trainer,” he says, “and the art of training a horse, of controlling its movements and cadence has taught me more about making space than school.” Still, when the Quebec Association of Interior Designers subsequently invited him into the official design fraternity in 1989, he felt a comforting sense of legitimacy. What really separates designers, he believes, is the ability to explain successfully what a client might otherwise might not appreciate or even see as “beautiful.” But what is beautiful in a philosophical sense, he continues, is not the shallow artifice of the decorative but the ability to express what is good, and what is good is that which is unified into the truth. “What is ‘real,’ that is truth,” he says. A chair must be functional and comfortable to be true and thus beautiful. Similarly, a specific style is never “the truth” because each design must respect the location, the building and the space in which it takes place, while at the same time responding to the specific needs of those who use or live in the space. “I have no idea how to make them beautiful,” he confesses, “ but I can design projects that have purpose, that meet their function and are not capricious.” If pressed, however, Desjardins finds his mentors in the rationality and spareness of the Bauhaus classics – Mies Van

Refinement and rationality are hallmarks of the Desjardins style, as evident in living rooms in Westmount (this photo) and Montreal (above left). Desjardins likens the red bookshelves in a Hérouxville cottage (above right) to “explosive laughter in a conversation that has become too serious.”


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de Rohe and Breuer, as well as Le Corbusier – although a strong preference for natural materials signals his intent to go his own way. “I like what one author wrote, which translates roughly as ‘What is perfect about the desert is that nothing more can be taken away,’ ” he says. Design

is thus as much about taking things out as putting things in. As a designer, Desjardins is wary of falling into a rut, whether it is a signature style or simply recycling the same ideas. “Currently, I am interested in the paradox between spareness and rusticity; between

warm if harsh materials and very clean lines,” he says. “I love the tension of the paradox; therefore, I am not much interested in the monochromatic world. Tension between things, in the Marxian sense of the dialectic, produces an imbalance and out of this comes a new equilibrium.” MARCH/APRIL 2009 CANADIAN INTERIORS 21

Children & art Desjardins has built a client base with some major players in Montreal’s business and cultural communities. One of his favourite projects, however, was the makeover and expansion of a 1960s bungalow in Saint-Lambert, on Montreal Island’s south shore. The clients, a young professional couple with two infant children, mandated wall space for an impressive and expanding art collection, a large open kitchen/living room space for entertaining and an unfussy environment ideal for kids. Working with architect Marc Julian, the design team gutted the bungalow and raised its roof to create a large open space, glazed to the yard. This voluminous public realm is anchored by a totemic two-sided fireplace of stacked slate. Two single-storey wings were added to create a skewed, U-shape plan. An angled wing containing garages and a racquetball court is separated from the house by a striking glass-enclosed causeway. An oversized corridor – with glazed bays onto the garden – marks the private bedroom wing; this generous space also serves as the house’s main art gallery. The Saint-Lambert residence is spare without being sterile, allowing the art, fireplace and inside/outside relationship with the garden to provide visual animation. Detailing is meticulous, with mechanical elements carefully concealed. Even the light fixtures for the gallery, by André Pallai’s Eklipse, can be pulled back into the ceiling. In the bedroom, the deep rich tones of Brazilian ipe, one of Desjardins’s favourite woods, adds sumptuous texture. 22 CANADIAN INTERIORS MARCH/APRIL 2009

Photos by André Doyon

Guests at the restored Saint-Lambert bungalow are greeted by an oversized slate chimney; open at both sides, it provides vistas to the living room and garden beyond. A corridor in the private wing of the house (right) serves as a gallery.


Addition & subtraction Bos, author of the sometimes raw Fido and Honda commercials, is one of the top publicity agencies in Montreal. Since 1995, Desjardins has designed and expanded the agency’s downtown office, even picking up an Institute of Design Montréal Award in 2003. The mandate for Bos’s new 45,000square-foot head office on the Lachine canal required the adaptive reuse of a historic, six-storey industrial brick building that originally served as a storage facility for Dominion Textiles. A new, single-storey wing was also inserted into the structure. Both elements were completed with architect Luc Lapointe. Bos’s chairman, Michel Ostiguy – Desjardins reports – respects and trusts the designer. A man, perhaps ironically, of few words, Ostiguy wanted to retain the hard, almost rough-edged image of the existing office because it symbolized the firm’s reputation for directness. He wanted, “No frills, no bull, direct,” summarizes Desjardins. The design team’s response was to start subtracting, stripping away the superfluous layers within the old storage box, with its constraining eight-foot ceilings further compacted by the massive wood beams required to bear the weight of the yard. A voluminous twostorey space was carved out of the original first two floors, while the remaining floors


Photos By Marc Cramer

For the Bos ad agency in Montreal, Desjardins stripped away superfluous layers within a historic warehouse to create a spectacular space. Within a shell of textured brick and old B.C. fir, sleek glass defines conference rooms and offices. Desjardins also designed the desks and conference tables.

were combined into double-height spaces with mezzanine levels. Tension is established by playing the rough and heavy feel of the textured brick walls, the old B.C. fir of the ceilings and floors and the heavy wood structural beams against the sleek transparent minimalism of glass partitions that define conference rooms and offices. The glass partitions are carried over into the new wing; in contrast to the original building, its spaces are light and bright, with its relatively delicate and exposed steel structure painted white like the walls. In contrast, the floors are again dark ipe wood. Unifying the complex are desks and conference tables designed by Desjardins specifically to be as raw and direct as the spaces they occupy. Waxed, cold-rolled steel plates backed by plywood to soften noise are combined to create a very simple, functional form without artifice.


Art & nature Recently, Desjardins bought 50 acres in the Eastern Townships, in what he calls a “Tuscan-image” landscape. With rolling topology climbing away from a river and cut by a meandering stream, the Highwater landscape is intended for development as five-acre properties. This is not about speculative development – “I will be my own client; and I will not construct houses for someone,” the designer says – but he does want a certain aesthetic homogeneity, although certainly not a developer’s cut-and-paste banality. The idea, working with two young architects, is to develop simple modular blocks that can then be arranged to step “ecologically” down the slope in harmony with the topology. It is the landscape that will compose the architecture, says Desjardins. Roofs will be green, a forest engineer is developing an organic, less disruptive site plan, and one of his staff is obtaining LEED certification. Almost certainly, the houses will exhibit a spareness that will rely on the landscape to be the primary animator. cI


Modular blocks tread lightly on the landscape in Desjardins’s plan for a new development.

The office that time forgot Toronto’s X-Design moves Panasonic Canada out of the 1970s. —By Leslie C. Smith

The custom-made desk, stylish visitor chairs and a flat-screen sample of Panasonic’s wares make the new reception area truly inviting. The office’s renovated exterior (inset) features an overhang clad in ipe wood.

Photography by Ben Rahn/A-Frame

What time is the right time to schedule an upgrade to your corporate style? For Panasonic Canada, the answer appears to be about once every 30 years. The company’s headquarters, located just off Highway 401, on the border between Toronto proper and Mississauga, was built sometime in the 1970s – and hadn’t been updated since then. When Cathy Knott, partner in X-Design, was called in to discuss Panasonic’s projected renewal, she found herself facing a block-shaped concrete building whose interior was, frankly, a period piece. Here is the before picture: a poorly lit space with mingy brown leather chairs, dark industrial carpeting and a “nurse’s station” reception desk, all dominated by what was most likely the piéce de resistence back in its day, a diarrhea-shaded ornamental tile wall. Oddly prominent for a high-tech electronics manufacturer was a cheesy low-tech announcement board – one of those ridged affairs that takes inserted plastic letters. The after picture began developing with Knott’s facelift of the exterior (which her design team had privately dubbed the “Concrete Critter”). Off came the old, heavy grey portico that blocked most of MARCH/APRIL 2009 CANADIAN INTERIORS 29

the entrance light, and on went a new, abbreviated overhang that is now clad, like the upper half of the entire building, in a warm band of ipe wood. That same banding has been added to a later-built, western extension of the company complex, along with a lower wall of FluidForm manufactured stone, thereby creating a coherent horizontal whole rather reminiscent of Danish modern design. Snuggled between the two conjoined buildings is a little contemplation garden with twin stone benches, S-shaped flowerbeds and a small stone Buddhist incense burner, a nod to the company’s oriental origins. “We wanted to mimic the Japanese roots throughout,” says Knott, making particular reference to the water feature wall that now greets visitors in the main reception area. Cool liquid flows down clear acrylic pressed over sheaves of bamboo shoots, and trickles onto grey rounded river stones at the base. Very calming, very Zen. Natural materials carry on the theme throughout the newly minted interior – basalt stone tile flooring, more ipe wood on the walls, woven bamboo planters, and shoji-style doors behind the desk, as well as leading to the new, improved boardroom. There, a slick Krug Virtu table stands on smoked oak engineered flooring (“So nice to have wood flooring in a boardroom,” Knott comments) with overhead lights neatly hung in a row, shaded by umber fabric squares from Absolux. Fittingly, for a global leader in television set manufacturing, a 60-inch plasma screen looms above the credenza by the far wall. Back in the main lobby, past the Noguchi table, the Hans Wegner chairs “that have a beautiful, low modernist feel to them” and the Japanese water wall (which fronts a remodelled guest washroom), we stop for a moment at the reception counter. “Are you the designer?” its occupant askes in an appropriate undertone. “I just love my new desk.” She strokes its creamy white Corian top, her eyes lifting to the large, red resin vase slotting into a cut-out, filled with four feet of twisty brown twigs. After more than 30 years, it was high time something was done to revitalize the company’s faded working environment. Aside from the plus of presenting an appropriate corporate face, there is also


Warm wood browns with accents of cream create a space that is at once both masculine and inviting. Pocket sliding “shoji” doors between the lobby and boardroom make the latter area amazingly quiet. Ipe wood cladding and benches “extend” through from exterior to interior, like mirror images of each other, while the water feature wall adds to the sense of calm reflection.

improved employee morale to consider. But this was only Phase One of Panasonic Canada’s great upgrade and so far, the receptionist has been the only real beneficiary of X-Design’s expertise. Moving past her desk, we sneak a peek through the central security door. Six feet of the corridor beyond has been gussied up to match the main lobby’s decor, so that a visitor just glimpsing the space as the door opens and shuts receives an impression of continuous stylishness. Alas, such is not the case. The facade gives way on either side to depressing stretches of low acoustic tile ceilings, grubby white walls and mottled blue linoleum floors. What the actual work area looks like is best left to the imagination. Phase Two, when it comes, probably couldn’t come soon enough. cI



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raw talent at Habitat Valencia, young Spanish designers – taking part in nuDe, the exhibition also known as nuevos Diseñadores – steal the show. — by Michael Totzke

It’s a really big show, Habitat Valencia, and one of the city’s major attractions. (ah Valencia: palm trees and paella, art deco and a Gothic dome, café con leche and Calatrava.) Three fairs in one – furniture, lighting and home textiles – it runs annually at Feria Valencia, one of the world’s top fairgrounds, at the end of September. This year’s edition brought together 1,300 companies, 450 of which were from outside Spain (mainly Italy). almost 85,000 people visited over five days. at Habitat Valencia’s heart, literally and figuratively, is the nuDe (or nuevos Diseñadores) exhibition, Spain’s premiere showcase of new design talent from across the country: arranged in a cross-shaped layout, it marks the intersection of the fairgrounds’ four main halls; and the finished pieces and prototypes offer design at its freshest and freest. This past September, 30 young designers took part in the seventh annual nuDe. I wish I could show all of their work. but, alas, there’s room only for a plucky seven.

January/February 2009 CanaDIan INTERIORS 33 MARCH/APRIL 2009 CANADIAN INTERIORS 33




1a 1 — LA MAMBA STUDIO The young creative team from Valencia – whose motto is “Looking for imaginative solutions & new materials usages” – made its debut at NUDE with not one but three stands. The first featured Blou (a), an award-winning table meant to be used at cocktail parties and events (the user “inserts” his or her plate into one of the sculptural object’s slots), Inspired by the waves of the sea and Mediterranean culture, it’s made of LG Hi-Macs acrylic solid surfaces. The second stand showcased a furniture collection called “Four Stories,” made in cooperation with Panelate, a manufacturer of MD decorative panels, with the support of the Didlab Group. Cocotile (b), a playful table-container with three compartments, is meant to evoke a reptile. Finally, the third stand featured Drombo (c), a surprisingly comfy armchair and sofa covered in ceramic mesh, the result of a collaboration with ceramics company Dune Direction.


2 — NADADORA In its short life, this three-year-old Valenciabased studio has won a host of awards. Bootleg (a) is a collection of vases that takes its name from the European synonym for “mashup,” which refers to songs constructed from pieces of other compositions. (We North Americans define “bootleg” as a recording distributed without the artist’s permission). Nadadora makes use of ceramics companies’ old molds, modifying and mixing them to create something new. Solana (b) is a chair of elegant simplicity, constructed of steel tube and polyethylene textile.

4 — EBUALÀ Founded in 2003, this Valencia-based design trio – Lluïsa Morató, Marcos Martínex and Javier Herrero – works on industrial and graphic design projects. Air Chairs is a collection made up of a wide range of seats, tables and accessories for both the contract and home markets, produced by Exporium. All pieces are made of steel tube and synthetic fibre, making them highly durable. Colours include pistachio, fuchsia and grey blended with white.

3 — RAQUEL MORENO LÓPEZ At NUDE, the Madrid-born designer presented a research project that looks at materials through five products. “The idea is to knit together a variety of materials, de-contextualizing them, bestowing them in the process a new surprising character,” says López. The Rafaela Lamp (a) weaves together the lamp’s own wire: “Electricity is responsible for everything here, a tangled form of electricity that shapes the light produced.” Papelera (b) is a wastepaper basket made from woven wastepaper. “The name involves a play on words in Spanish,” she explains, “where the word for wastepaper basket (‘papelera’) can also be construed as ‘era papel’ – ‘was paper.’ ”




1c 1b

34 CanaDIan INTERIORS January/February 2009 34 CANADIAN INTERIORS MARCH/APRIL 2009


6b 5 — FRESKU STUDIO Peio Atxalandabaso is the creative director of this Bilbao-based design agency. “I carry out research about scenes from daily life,” he says, “providing my own personal interpretation through the creation of objects.” Case in point is the polyvinyl Blahblahblah Lamp, which “has a speech balloon shape and feels like chatting.” It can be made to order in any colour and size, with the client’s choice of word(s).


6 — COVITACA Founded by 25-year-old Covadonga Carreño Álvarez , this creative studio based in Murcia, Spain, develops interior, graphic and industrial projects. “I like simple objects, but they have to say something,” Álvarez says. “They must speak for themselves about their purpose and function. Among the fanciful items she showed are Mybags (a), a series of lampshades made from crocheted plastic bags. Siamesas (b) are “chairs born to live together. Where would Laurel by without Hardy?” she asks. “They could be separate, but then they wouldn’t be the same. They need each other to show off.” Made of lacquered wood and aluminum, the chairs are bound together by a cotton rope.

7 — OBJ. STUDIO This Valencia-based studio was recently formed by Javier Taberner and Nacho Povedo, who, in a charmingly “right” English translation, consider themselves “two young designers with concerns entering show business.” Capri (a) is a light and easy chair made of stainless steel and rattan. Sábado y Domingo (b) makes something beautiful of concrete and cork – in the form of low tables.



January/February 2009 CanaDIan INTERIORS 35 MARCH/APRIL 2009 CANADIAN INTERIORS 35

Crowd control A Montreal gourmet food store/restaurant’s restrained design allows the food and customers to create an ever-changing atmosphere. —By Rhys Phillips


Photography by Marc Cramer

Architect Natalie Dionne sips Shiraz over a lunch served on a simple, straight-lined table of strong-grained, African Shedua wood. The table is one of several she designed for Le Cartet, a combination gourmet food store, catering service and

restaurant located on Montreal’s McGill Street. The elevated noise level in the newly redesigned restaurant is typical of a successful bistro packed with a lunchtime crowd of techies and artists drawn from nearby Cité Multimedia, the Old Town and

surrounding upscale lofts. “As you can see,” she says, “everything in the space is very simple, very white and black because it is the people who are the colour, the animation and the form.” A little while later, however, with the


Up front, the gourmet grocery section features brightly coloured products on minimalist shelving. At the rear, in the dining area, clusters of bulbs bathe abundant white surfaces in an amber glow.

crowd considerably thinned out, it is possible to appreciate the admirable restraint Dionne has shown in converting the old commercial shop from a rather dark cavern into a relatively luminous space washed with natural light. At the same time, careful detailing and raw materials have been combined with retained structural elements to ensure a subtle but richly textured environment. Le Cartet is on a section of McGill dividing Montreal’s Old Town from its equally historic industrial district of Faubourg des Récollets to the west. The area’s new professional employment base has spawned the transformation of historic warehouses and factories into upscale residential lofts as well as the construction of new loft buildings along 38 CANADIAN INTERIORS MARCH/APRIL 2009

the district’s narrow, intimate streets. The emergence of a lively live/work community has been recently solidified by the wholesale makeover of McGill and the continued emergence of urbane design stores, restaurants and specialty shops. McGill’s surviving urban fabric includes delightfully bombastic Beaux-Arts buildings along its east flank, but also, on the west side, narrow 19th-century commercial blocks. The latter boast three-part elevations, comprised of glazed ground levels perched on solid stone foundations, topped by brick middle sections and finished off with prominent cornices. Varying heights give the streetscape a pleasantly scaled sawtooth profile. Most of the long, rectangular showroom units extend from McGill through to Rue Soeurs-Grises.

Le Cartet occupies the raised ground level of one of these voluminous commercial spaces, which Dionne likens to those of New York’s Soho district. Its plan is a simple rectangle measuring approximately 100 feet from its McGill entrance to its equally transparent “backdoor” on SoeursGrises. Its already impressive 14-foot-high ceiling is exaggerated by a relatively narrow 26-foot width. Dionne first stripped the space to its essential volume. On the south side, a white painted brick wall is broken only by a massive galvanized door that once slid upward on an angle. Five massive timber columns march down the middle of the original space and support equally impressive beams that split out at each end to create tuning fork-shaped beams that support the facades. Gener-

ous glazing at each extremity has been retained. “The architecture,” she says, “is spare, sleek and monochromatic; its intent is to highlight or even exaggerate the exceptional volume of the space.” Up front, the gourmet grocery section stretches across the width of the space with brightly coloured products displayed on minimalist shelving that takes its cue from the restored hardwood maple floor. Behind this space, she inserted a series of flat, powerfully textured vertical planes that stretch fully to the rear. Initially, hot-rolled steel plates form a gritty upper and lower frame for the service vestibule, divided by a solid maple counter. The steel plates become raw datum lines when they emerge as a wall, cleaved by a narrow maple bar and a narrow ribbon window,

visually connecting the kitchen with the dining area. The window then morphs into a surface of slick, white glass tiles before an exit vestibule emerges at the back. “The result of this architectural intervention” Dionne says, “is a dominating, textured frame for the action, a background for the movement on both sides.” The furnishings, as well as the architectural elements, expressly play up the idea of smooth, flat surfaces. In support of this intended aesthetic, the sheets of black steel were folded, not welded, and fixed with no apparent hardware, the wooden shelves were assembled using a concealed anchoring system, and finishes are smooth and matte. “Seeming to float free of the walls and floor, these elements are [perhaps counter-intuitively] light and ephem-

eral while the smooth, shiny glass tiles add a dreamy aspect to the composition,” the architect concludes. At night, clusters of naked bulbs with orange filaments, suspended from knots of black electrical wire, bathe the abundant white surfaces in an amber glow. Le Cartet works not just because of what Dionne has done but also by what she has chosen not to do. Simple and restrained, the resulting space allows its customers, the food and the displayed products room to breathe and to become the true animators of interest. cI


Who’s Who

Teknion showroom opening Teknion launched its new Calgary showroom in high style. 1—Canadian fashion designer Annie Thompson and Frank Delfino, Teknion president of worldwide markets, flanked by models sporting Thompson outfits. 2—Thom Greving, Gibbs Cage Architects; and Lance Carlson, president and CEO of the Alberta College of Art and Design.


’twas the season


—By David Lasker

Interior Design Show Opening-Night Party Recession? What recession? The economy’s in fine shape, to judge from the crowd and exhibits at the Interior Design Show’s opening-night party at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, in Toronto.








1—Brian Richards, VP Canada, Robert Allen Group, fabric sponsor at the House & Home Media Pavilion; Jennifer Brouwer, Décor by Jennifer, designer of the pavilion space; and Margaret Dietsche, director of sales, Canada, Robert Allen Group. 2—The most striking-looking object at the show was Vertebrae, a surprisingly comfortable sofa made of Dupont’s Corian and designed by Bregman+Hamann Architects. Bob Westcott of Parry Sound-based RJW Enterprises the fabricator, sits with Dupont’s Nancy Wiskel, commercial segment manager, and Glen Roberts, business director, Canada. 3—In another space at the House & Home Media Pavilion: Darek Myszko, husband of Louise Macdonald; Uno Hoffman, painter of the background canvas; Louise Macdonald, designer of the space; and Ottawa interior designer Ulya Jensen of HGTV’s Home to Flip. 4—Ben van Berkel, principal architect and co-founder of Amsterdam’s UNStudio; MMPI Canada VP Shauna Levy and her father, Steven, MMPI senior VP and GM (MMPI Canada manages IDS); and Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel of Belgium’s Studio Job. 5—Peller Estates, the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery, spun icewine–flavoured cotton candy. 6—At Taylor Hannah Architect’s concept space: the firm’s Amber Wignall, Andrew Kaye, a glam Dee Dee Taylor Hannah and Rob Hannah.




Knoll showroom launch Knoll welcomed the A&D community to its new showroom in an industrial loft in Toronto’s hip, emerging King Liberty Village district.



CHR 474 CDN Interior_WingChair_FNL:_


12:21 PM

1—Interior designer Alison Logue gets comfy in Knoll’s mid-century classic Womb chair by Eero Saarinen. 2—Jessica McConnell, Renee Maarse and Jaymie Cooper of IBI Group Interiors. 3—Straticom’s Lisa Dyck; HOK’s Annie Bergeron, Carly Durrant, Clarissa Lam and Maria Tran. 4—Interior designers Roger and Susan Mole of Mole White Associates; Greg Rapier, Knoll regional manager, Canada; Larry Sadinsky and Yvonne Campbell of BH Design Consultants.

Page 1


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Last Word

Socket to me Omer Arbel reinterprets the electrical outlet. —By Janet Collins

Consider the lowly electric receptacle. For decades it has languished on the walls of buildings, desperately trying to be inconspicuous yet failing miserably at the task. Not anymore. The wall accessory/necessity has finally been elevated to something of a design element thanks to Omer Arbel of Vancouverbased Bocci design studio. The 22 Series he created is gaining a lot of attention, largely because once something is plugged into it, the outlet is virtually invisible. “I find outlets very sexy!” says Arbel. “Why are outlets any less sexy than chandeliers, fixtures, shades, furniture? It’s this kind of thinking that’s lead us to the ubiquitous and horrendous cover plate system that’s been the only available option for who knows how long.” The 22 device is actually a free-floating power outlet that enables power receptacles, on/off switches, telephone and data connections, etc,. to be mounted flush with drywall or millwork. The mounting plate, once wired, is embedded into the drywall.


The plugs, with the help of a proprietary tool, are then pulled flush with the wall. The result: once an electrical cord is plugged into the outlet, the outlet vanishes from sight. A clean, uncluttered design has never been more easily achieved. Inspiration for the nifty device came via a dream in which Arbel envisioned an outlet with the only visible parts being the holes for the plugs prongs. “Over time, and due to rigorous development in response to UL and CSA requirements, we learned that we had to live with a circular outline around the holes as well,” concedes Arbel. “[That’s] too bad – but not a disaster – and certainly a vast improvement over a visible and protruding cover plate.” The 22 Series is already in use in a number of high-end contemporary houses in the Vancouver area and in that city’s Monte Clark Gallery. The units are currently available at InForm Interiors in Vancouver and Kiosk in Toronto, as well as through Omer Arbel Office Inc. Until now, Arbel has been best known

for his furniture and lighting design. A graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, he has created several designs that garnered awards such as a D&AD (Yellow Pencil) Award; he has also been short-listed for the iF Product Design Award in Hannover, Germany, and for the Blueprint 100% Design Best Newcomer award in London, England. Arbel’s impressive body of work also earned a much-coveted BC Creative Achievement Award. What’s currently on his drawing board? “An upholstered bench and lounge chair which re-propose the relationship between fabric and foam,” says Arbel. “And two new chandeliers, and an ongoing project called ‘Homage to Tokyo’. ” For more information about the 22 Series or Omer Arbel’s other work, visit c I

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Canadian Interiors: March/April 2009 Edition  

An in-depth review of interior architecture and design.