DESIGN IN CANADA: Fitting it all together

Design in Canada is alive and well.

I make it no secret that my favourite part of IDS is and always will be Studio North and Prototype. This is where you get to experience design that is less about trends and more about design thinking and process.

Prototyping a chair from Tony Round on Vimeo.

The other reason I love Studio North and Prototype is because it showcases Canadian design talent. Walking into boutique hotels, urban restos and condo model suites in this country one might think that the only options out there for interior designers are the unchallenged classics. The result – a predictable bore often referencing designers who are cold in the grave. Le Corbusier is long gone but his furniture and overpriced knockoffs are as ubiquitous as ghosts on Halloween. In a world still dominated by Mies and Eames it’s always refreshing to see interior designers and architects take a chance on artists and designers who are still alive and kicking.

When we get the opportunity to see interior designers incorporate more locally sourced art and design the results are far more interesting. One recent example of designers who did just that is the stunning Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver.“Skwachàys (pronounced skwatch-eyes) Lodge and Residence at 31 West Pender Street in Vancouver houses a fair trade gallery, boutique hotel and an urban Aboriginal artist residence. 

Owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), the facility provides 24 shelter rate apartments for Aboriginal people at risk of homelessness, and two social enterprises that support the Society’s mission and financial sustainability.

The top three floors contain 18 boutique hotel units for socially responsible travelers and Aboriginal patients travelling to Vancouver from remote areas to receive medical treatment. The hotel units have recently been transformed with the assistance of a team of artists, designers, and suppliers.

Find out more…

In Toronto we have the Gladstone Hotel. Along with rooms designed by artists the Gladstone is also regular venue for local art and design with events like Come Up To My Room, part of Toronto Design Offsite.

“Internationally recognized as Canada’s favourite Boutique Art Hotel, the Gladstone uniquely blends historical Victorian architecture with contemporary luxury, downtown culture and whole lot of art, making it an iconic Toronto hub for locals and international travelers alike.

Supporting 37 artist designed hotel rooms,  over 70 art exhibitions a year, 4 diverse event venue spaces and 2 restaurants, all on a strong values-based mandate, the Gladstone strives to foster an authentic experience for its guests and the local community.”

Find out more…

My discoveries at Toronto’s Interior Design Show.

Each designer featured below was someone I encountered at IDS 2015 who approached their design thoughtfully, thinking about how to take good design and snap it into place – simply and beautifully.


I have featured Tat Chao a couple of times on Mixed Bag Mag and have been a fan since falling in love with his up-cycled candle holders at the One of Kind Show a few years back. This year he arrived at IDS ’15 with products that flat pack well and assemble in seconds – “no glue, no screws.”

DIÈSE or “hashtag” in English “is a flower vase made from four pieces of 3mm clear acrylic and a test tube. The way the pieces are assembled will result in different shapes. No glue, no screws are necessary. Just slide the slots into each other.”

(view opening image to see how DIÈSE is configured into a hashtag)

“Part of the “NO GLUE NO SCREWS” series, TRIÈDRE is made from three pieces of laser cut acrylic and simply assembled together by sliding the slots into each other. The result is an ultra-modern and scuptural object where the content (fruits, vegetables, bread, etc) are beautifully displayed.”

Follow Tat and see more of his work:
Website –
Twitter – @tatchao
Instagram – @tatchao

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Another brilliant flat packer project is the Origami Chair by Cut and Fold (Andrea Kordos & Tony Round). One of the DesignLines loves selections this chair moves like the wings of a butterfly to flap lightly into place.

“The Origami Chair is inspired by papercraft – the idea that folding simple shapes can create amazing forms. We’ve designed the chair to be simple and beautiful. The origami chair’s nest-like shape is generous and ergonomic, while the thin baltic birch shell keeps it efficient and minimal. The facets of the shell are connected with piano hinges – this give the chair some flex for added comfort. The thin shell sits on top of an elegantly folded steel frame. It’s available in different finishes including natural wood veneer, solid-colour laminates, and leather or cowhide.”

The Origami Chair from Tony Round on Vimeo.

Follow Cut and Fold and see more of their work:
Website -
Twitter - @CutFold

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Eugene has been on Mixed Bag Mag before but as a visual artist which is how I first encountered his work at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit many moons ago as well as more recently at Manifesto’s 2012 art show (see the eagle sculpture).

But Eugene’s first love is design and he attended OCAD U’s Industrial Design program. This year he brought “Light W8″ to Prototype. An elegant idea, the light uses river rocks to displace the weight to adjust the height of the lamp. Designed for easy shipping the lamp comes apart and can be put back together will minimal effort.

Follow Eugene and see more of his work:
Website –
Twitter – @eugenepaunil
Instagram – @paunilstudio

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Geof, like Eugene and Tat, has also been on Mixed Bag Mag for a feature on IDS ’12. This year’s contribution to Prototype won him the award as well as DesignLines Magazine’s DesignLines loves badge. It’s when you are up close and personal with this chair, from the Euclid Collection, that you can see the stunning joinery and the hex motif reiterated.

“Inspired by the purity of geometric form, is a three part collection of products that fit together perfectly to create unique groupings and combinations. The forms of the hexagon, triangle and rhombus are repeated throughout the entirety of each piece, shaping the legs, profiles and joinery. The Euclid Collection is crafted from solid oak and is available in a natural or black satin finish.”

Follow Geof and see more of his work:

Website -

Facebook - /geoframsaydesign
Twitter - @geoframsay


It’s a great time to consider Canadian and Indigenous designers and artists. There is more than enough talent here and it can feel good to invest your dollars in the business of someone you can actually speak with – whose blood is still warm in their veins. Knoll won’t shut down if a few Urbanites forego purchasing Saarinen’s design cliche of a table for their condo but as a buyer making that kind of decision may be enough to keep the next Ray Eames in business.

Cut and Fold at IDS15 from Tony Tound on Vimeo.

Above images of the Interior Design Show by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. All other images provided by each designer.

MATERIAL GIRLS: Quebec Designers Basma Osama & Marie-Jose Gustave Romance Their Media

Large grouping of white bowls and plates

When one of my favourite Quebec Designers, Tat Chao, introduced me to the work of Basma Osama (Ceramik B.) and Marie-José Gustave I was struck by how loyal they both were to their material of choice. These women are faithful to their muse!

Basma’s silky white work is easy on the eyes. Her bowls,cups and dishes evoke a handsome elegance which I am sure makes the food caressed inside look all the more tantalizing. But the real stunner is her piece The Letter No. 1. Assembled with over 1000 pieces of hand-thrown porcelain it is without comparison!

Small organically shaped white porcelain shapes placed into 3 panels of wood hanging on a wall

“Inspired from a handwritten personal letter, Letter No. 1 carries a language that goes beyond visual perception. The elements of this language aim to reach, to call out to the reader and invite interaction. Emotions and thoughts come through two simultaneous rhythms: a linear rhythm, punctuated by spaces that allow the content of this letter to physically place itself. And the rhythm of curves, unique to each element, give each sign its meaning, as words often do. The shapes of these organic elements, coming out of the wooden support, act as the conveyors of meaning. The support, made of local walnut wood, supports the text and underlines it as a language sign.”

Close up of small white porcelain shapes placed into holes in wood like pegs
Small organically shaped white porcelain shapes placed into 3 panels of wood hanging on a wall

Basma was lead to  porcelain because of a need to “work with a refined type of clay” as well as desire to “submit to its whimsical character.” Her loyalty to porcelain? “Because I love it! I meticulously craft it and work on its texture, and it gives it back, every time!” Her muse is as faithful to her as she is to it!

When asked what is special about this material as opposed to other materials she has worked with she replies “I like its texture, its density, its colour, the way it behaves in the kiln…and the way it reasserts how humble I have to remain when I use it.”

And when I inquire if there is a romance she has with the material she emphatically answers “Yes, a huge one! One of many years, many events, many stories and I would not exchange it for any other clay!”

White plates, bowls and saucers
Upclose image of corrogated cardboard wrapped and stitched together in a pillar form

Beautifully blurring craft and design.

Marie-José Gustave’s objects and furniture merge design with craft. She says that she has always been inspired by and has a passion for craft. This led her to master in clothing production as well as to develop a skill set that includes sewing, knitting, and weaving along with paper molding. But her love affair with cardboard came from a more practical encounter. Upon moving to Quebec from France and wondering what to do with all the boxes that remained as evidence of her transition she began to experiment with the material that had now taken up residency in her new home. The boxes never left and instead motivated her to create what is now a strong body of work that shows the beauty of this humble material.

Pillars of cardboard sticted together and hanging in store window

I have always adored the textural richness of cardboard. I have used it in my own art practice so it makes sense that I would gravitate to Marie-José‘s work but what I found fresh was the way she manipulated the cardboard. That is what ultimately seduced me. She has taken this material to another level and has prototyped a new way of thinking about cardboard as a valid choice of material for decor and design. “I love the challenge of diverting the material to make it soft and flexible, find its transparency, shape it the way I want.” She definitely has a lover’s touch!

Above images provided by artists Basma Osama and Marie-José Gustave. Image of Marie-José by Stéphanie Lamy.

See Basma and Marie-José‘s work Thursday through until Sunday at Toronto’s Interior Design Show. They are located in the Studio North Section (Booth SN20) and are featured as part of a collective of Quebec Designers QC DESIGN.

Images of QC Design at IDS’ Studio North by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

SPINNING TOPS: Tat Chao & Tahir Mahmood @ IDS

Woman holding colourful spinning tops cupped in her hands
Gelareh with small painted spinning tops. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

Stop spinning in all directions – where to find the best tops in Toronto!

This post is inspired by Gelareh Saadatpajouh, Program Coordinator of Toronto Design Offsite and her love of spinning tops.

I re-discovered my love of these tiny and transportable works of art / design. And I know where you can find some well-crafted tops. Designer Tat Chao does beautiful ones in up-cycled glass stemware and Tahir Mahmood in wood. And both designers will be at the Interior Design Show this year.

Man spinning glass tops made from up-cycled stemware with frosted finish
Glass spinning tops by design Tat Chao . Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Wooden spinning top with natural wood and pink and green painted areasCollection of colourful wooden spinning tops
Above images of wooden spinning tops by Tahir Mahmood (images from
Woman playing with spinning tops on a tableGelareh with small painted spinning tops. Image by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

For more information on IDS visit or follow on Facebook & twitter @IDSToronto & #IDS13.

Logo for IDS the Interior Design Show