The white stuff may keep soldiering on outside, but inside, Canadian designers are painting it green.
Focusing on natural materials and environmental sustainability was a common undercurrent among exhibitors of the domestically focused Studio North collection of exhibits at the 2009 Interior Design Show, which wrapped up in Toronto on Sunday.
Co-founders of Toronto’s Bookhou, John Booth and Arounna Khounnoraj, displayed their latest furniture and decorative products at the show. The pair uses wood as the primary material in their simple but non-garish pieces.
Booth said they’re not motivated by design’s eco-movement, but that the choice to use wood relates to their organic design process he said is incompatible with other, less flexible materials. “It’s like a drawing. I put a line down and I react to that line. And then I do another one … I’m interested in form and structure and how you can take a standardized process and incorporate variability into it.”
Alicia Cornwell and Tony Bevilacqua are similarly inclined toward varying the norm. The sole Studio North exhibitors from the United States are the co-founders of Boston’s Chroma Lab, which takes used furniture from second hand stores and furniture dealers and refurbishes it. But while Bookhou is concerned with composition, Chroma Lab cares about colour.
“Colour is our favourite thing,” said Cornwell. “If (a found item) has a nice shape and we think we can modernize it with colour, then that’s what we do.”
While coating a telephone table in sharp yellow or dresser with an ocean wave-like blue gradient may seem appropriate for spring and summer, Cornwell said it’s particularly necessary during darker days when grey weather spurs the blues.
“Especially like in Boston or Canada where it’s very dull for half the year and the winter kills everything green, you just need something to come home to that’s nice, warm, friendly and happy. Your house doesn’t have a season. You have to live in it all the time.”
Like Chroma Lab aims to lighten a bleak climate, the Toronto-based design team of Hilary Dennis and Katy Chan tries to illuminate eco-friendly products with their less than two-year-old line Schoolyard.
“Our patterns are really fresh and people like to see things that are environmentally friendly that aren’t only brown and made of hemp,” said Dennis.
Emphasizing nature prints like acorns and oak leaves, Schoolyard uses silk-screening on textiles and paper, creating items from tea towels and drinking glasses to pajamas and underwear with an aim of leaving the smallest environmental footprint.
“We don’t want to make more things that impact the world,” said Dennis. “We would like to create, but we just have to do it responsibly.”