Looking back on the stores, designers and trends that made the news during a few of our earliest years as a publication
Fifteen years ago, our sister magazine Azure identified a growing appetite in Toronto for the sort of furniture it featured on its glossy pages. Our publisher regularly fielded queries, and not just from aficionados. Designlines was launched in 2001 to answer those questions. This is part four of our retrospective. For more trips down memory lane, check out parts one, two, three and five.
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2010: All the Right Connections
This year kicks off with a big change: DL grows from pocketable digest to tabloid-sized and saddle-stitched (oh, and I’m made Editor). And, personally, I feel it’s this year that DL clinches its dedication to the local design scene, by binding in an inhouse-produced guide to the Interior Design Show and by introducing the first of which would become not just an annual feature but a themed issue. Dubbed This Creative City (click here to see the most recent one), the purpose of this editorial was to expose and celebrate design talents – in various disciplines – that this city is gifted with. Among the furniture, glass and ceramic artists we profiled that year we also included fashion designer Dean Hutchinson, now of a’bout, and we profiled painter Kim Dorland [ii.] and his canvases covered with palette knife–thick oil.
We take great pride in how we present Toronto’s creatives and I think that’s why we get the up-close access that we do. We always have a great time on set with local talent, and are sometimes surprised at the candor. In 2010, we were a bit star struck by the opportunity to photograph celebrated illustrator Gary Taxali [iii.], but look at the access the artist granted us – we got to tour his home and see his prized drawing board!
And a lot of the relationships established that year continue. In the Guide issue, we featured the work of architect Mazen El-Abdallah of Mazen Studio. He had just struck off on his own back then but it was pretty clear while touring his converted tailor shop in Riverdale that his residential design would be worth keeping an eye on. And we did: just look at this recent Rosedale project. In both features we captured his attention to detail but at that first shoot with him, we snapped him giving the space a final once-over. This made the cover (thanks for being a good sport, Mazen!) and illustrates the sort of relationships DL prides itself on: comfortable, respectful and collaborative. Works for us: in 2011 we become a quarterly and begin our support and coverage of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival (including our beloved and now annual DL Loves tags campaign).
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2011: Come Together
The 2011 Spring issue is still one of my favourites, and I promise it’s not because I was on the cover. This issue visually reminds me of the energy we put in to each one: feet running, hands dirty, get the story, get the shots. So, while we were photographing the newly re-opened Kiosk, I sat on fine furniture, in jeans and skate shoes, to capture a vignette I was sure had cover potential. The story there simply: a regular design lover feeling at home in design heaven. We got that shot in about 10 minutes (thanks Finn O’Hara!) and for me it captures DL‘s inclusive spirit.
With being a relatively small magazine comes a really small budget. It never fails to amaze me how well our more creative features turn out, considering it’s always fewer than a handful of us on set (including the photographer) and little to no money to work with. But again, it’s that all-in attitude that makes all the difference. For example, look at our 2011 Guide issue. The theme this time was walking the neighbourhoods, hitting the pavement and so shoes were the main motif. Each of the eight neighbourhoods opened with a big photo of the shoes you might find on a shopper in that particular neighbourhood [i.], but it was myself, Henry Tyminski (the art director) and Naomi Finlay (the photographer) squeezing into the shoes and posing for the shots. For the Fall issue I thought, “designer bedding!” [ii.] and the team all took turns modelling (and nodding off) to get the shots.
Other remarkable feats of collaboration that year: Shooting the home of Barton Myers‘ with the help of Living Arts Design, whom had sensitively updated the interior; mapping the movements of art collective General Idea with the help of Akimbo‘s Terence Dick, the AGO and AA Bronson [iii.] himself (OMG!); photographing artist Micah Lexier in his Queen West apartment (thanks Micah, for the quick costume changes!); and racing around like crazy people to photograph a huge, incredible Kohn Shnier home in Forest Hill in under three hours! Phew!
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2012: Groovy, baby
So by now the trifecta – myself, photographer Naomi Finlay, and art director Henry Tyminski – has solidified. And we would work well together for another four years to come. Perhaps the National Magazine Award we’d just won was the foreshadowing? I clearly remember a remark Henry, once made, after I commented on a particularly easy production period. “At some point, you have to stop running around like Homer Simpson,” he said, waving his arms like flags.
The workload had increased but the budget and body count had not. So how had we found our stride? A determination to work smarter: only bring Toronto work that can compete at an international scale to the table. Tough love but we did and continue to do it.
That year we introduced a number of design talents that continue to excite and thrive well beyond Toronto. In terms of profiles, I have to say the story we ran on Chloé and Parris Gordon (now of Beaufille) [i.] remains a favourite. The idea was to reveal the goings on at a fashion shoot, let the talent speak for itself. Not only is this duo still killing it, but Chloé’s boyfriend, Sid Neigum, is too. Also that year we featured David Pontarini [ii.], co-principal of Hariri Pontarini Architects, at the ground-breaking of One Bloor, a project that is now nearly finished and drawing global applause. We also featured residential projects by such award-winning and widely recognized firms as WilliamsonChong, KPMB and Atelier Kastelic Buffey. Another highlight was touring the personal space of dentist-art collector Kenneth Montague [iii.]. His loft, customized by architect David Peterson, is also the headquarters of Wedge Curatorial Projects, a world-class and world-travelling assemblage of artworks exploring such themes as community, culture and identity. A number of his photographs are being shown now at a Scotiabank Contact Photo Festival exhibit. We put in a tall order and the talent in this city always delivers.