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Toronto Designers Heat Up NYC

We catch up with the local talent showcasing their latest and greatest during Manhattan’s annual design festival

By Eric Mutrie

Even in a heat wave, New York pulses with energy. For proof, look no further than the revved-up cyclists who were doing wheelies in 30-degree sunshine outside British designer Tom Dixon’s Friday night block party in SoHo. As our introduction to this year’s NYCxDesign festivities, the bash’s unofficial entertainment proved to be a fitting preview of the spectacles to come in the days ahead.

Indeed, while the evening’s extreme temperatures didn’t last, the spirited swagger displayed by those bikers was also evident in the work of the designers exhibiting at the International Contemporary Furniture Festival (ICFF), WantedDesign and Sight Unseen Offsite. The material combinations, silhouettes and craftsmanship on display all conveyed the easy confidence of pros who have long since graduated from training wheels. The best part: many of those pro designers had just flown in from Toronto.

The stature of the weekend’s other attendees – industry powerhouses Michael Anastassiades, Lee Broom and Patricia Urquiola were all in town to fête their latest creations – made it particularly exciting to see so many fresh local talents make their own sizable splash in the Big Apple.

Anony Studio’s Christian Lo and David Ryan were the first familiar faces we encountered, exhibiting as part of WantedDesign’s Launch Pad program dedicated to up-and-coming talents. Launched at this January’s Interior Design Show, the studio’s polished brass Ohm pendants, disc-like Horizon wall sconces and aluminum Dawn tube light draped with smoked grey plexiglass panels all hung in fine form in Manhattan. Anony is already at work expanding upon the well-received trio – they’re currently fabricating a custom fixture for the soon-to-open Broadview Hotel. The dramatic showpiece will cluster cylindrical black pendants with sharply pointed bases.

Our next stop was to an exhibition organized by the editors of online magazine Sight Unseen, which commands a cult following among design junkies. In keeping with the website’s favourite aesthetic, the show was packed with pastel colour palettes (So. Much. Millennial pink.) and geometric forms that evoked the Memphis movement of the ’80s. One of the standouts was Toronto ceramicist Alissa Coe’s collaboration with New York designer Lera Moiseeva. The duo’s minimalist Lu table lamp slots a white slip-cast porcelain dome shade into a black-stained cylindrical porcelain base. It’s the latest from a designer who’s been extra-busy this year – just last week, we were admiring Coe’s new collection of sculptural vases at Toronto floral shop Flúr.

Sunday marked the start of the weekend’s main attraction – the ICFF convention at the Javits Centre, where an especially strong showing from TO creatives ensured our corner of the world didn’t get lost amongst the global mix of exhibitors. In fact, thanks to Hollis + Morris, Canadian design downright shone. The studio’s just-launched Rise wall light was nominated for Best Sconce at the NYCxDesign Awards. The light, which combines a white oak or walnut front plate and brass or copper back plate, is shown above alongside the studio’s (totally tubular!) looped Link pendant and ever-popular Oldtown stools.

Shelter Bay was another shining star at ICFF. Three rows of the studio’s Union pendants demonstrated the many combinations of shades, cages and cord colours that the gleaming light is available in. Designer duo Rob Southcott and Sarah Cooper also showed off a new accessory: the Connect candelabra. Launching this summer in lustrous copper, aluminum and black metallic finishes, the centrepiece has the same slick style and clean curves as the studio’s shades. Best of all, it packs flat for easy storage, and can be arranged in a variety of configurations to suit different table arrangements.

Nearby, a handful of our favourite woodworkers were clustered underneath a loud and proud “Canada” banner that undid any lingering homesickness. New additions to designer Peter Coolican’s collection of skilfully handcrafted Shaker-style furniture included Euclid, a curved floor mirror, plus a handsome peg rail shelving system designed to hold hats, coats, and even Coolican & Company’s own corded Madison chairs. Kroft was also representing Ontario carpentry, showcasing his versatile Stir series of dining tables, benches and side tables with popsicle stick-shaped legs. A new white oil finish offered a fresh option for Hamptons-bound visitors looking to furnish their beach houses.

And even though they weren’t in town for design week, MSDS’s fingerprints could be seen everywhere. The studio was behind two products launching at ICFF. The first, a birdcage-esque stool envisioned for homewares company Good Thing (founded by once-and-future-Torontonian Jamie Wolfond), is ready to do triple duty as step ladder, seat and side table. The second is Strip, a metallic tape dispenser for Umbra Shift that reduces the long handle of an industrial-style packing tape gun to a simple, lollipop-like stick. Other new additions to Umbra’s Shift collection came courtesy of Toronto’s Tom Chung, who served up industrial-style salad spoons, and the brand’s in-house design team, which envisioned a wireframe magazine rack (long live print media!) that doubles as a record stand. If only the latter were hitting the market before July – it would be a perfect spot to store all of the thick press kits we picked up on the show floor.

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