Trendsetting the Table
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Trendsetting the Table

Studio Job’s fantastic, much-hyped “Alice in Wonderland” set (and our dream kitchen) at IDS 09. Photo by Paige Dzenis.

In the hustle and skelter of Toronto’s (unofficial) Design Week—comprised of a massive IDS 09 and its younger alt-bro of a show, Come Up to My Room at the Gladstone, plus MADE’s Radiant Dark and a smattering of smaller exhibits and excuses to party—playing favourites is work. How to choose from the million-and-one objects and projections of desire proffered by our city’s proliferation of designing minds? It’s trickier still when you’re dazzled and confused by Swarovski installations or Castor in-jokes, to get to the point of purchase. It’s one thing to admire, another to sanely advise someone else to buy.
This year, we found ourselves compelled by simpler things, upcycled ideas, and contented marriages of form and multi-function. Our vision of design in ’09 narrowed still further when we realized most of these items would serve best in the kitchen. Or maybe we just read one too many “eating in is the new eating out” articles in the Style Sections of the world this weekend.
Either way, here we are. From a fork board to porcelain bowls—not that kind—to a drinking-glass chandelier, check out what local designers are bringing to the dinner table.

Photo of Thout’s “Forked Up” courtesy of Thout.

At Thout‘s opening party (recession or no recession, the architectural and product design firm has taken over the art gallery formerly known as Omy, painted it floor-to-ceiling in spaghetti-sauce red, and flung open their doors), a funny scene played on repeat. Guests, crowding to get their hands on free bottles of ale or homemade chocolate chip cookies, would find themselves stabbed in the back. They’d turn around scowling, only to smile at the sight of “Forked Up”: a wall-mounted board into which forks stick (and stay, with the help of magnets) at all angles. It’s cool, utilitarian, and a perfect example of the unfussy conceptualism that’s earned Thout so many cult followers. Count us in—and pass those cookies.

Photo of Chroma Lab’s “Pink Block Clock” courtesy of Chroma Lab.

We thought the Interior Design Show‘s Studio North exhibit was exclusively for Canadian designers, but in falling in love with (and, as a natural follow-up of falling in love, Googling) Chroma Lab, we discovered the designing duo is Boston-based. No matter! We’re hyping them anyway because every kitchen needs a cheerful teller of mealtimes, and Chroma is clock-a-block with them. The graphic may be an illusion, but the price tag’s real: at just $75, proof that boutique-y design doesn’t have to cost you a day’s work.

Jay Heo’s bookshelf. Photo by Pete Forde.

We love the plethora of student work exhibited at IDS every year, but if we have to see one more chair that’s so “concept-y” you can’t even sit on it, we’re going to break something. And not pay for it. So it was a relief to see this neat little something-else, by Jay Heo of Sheridan College. It’s a bookshelf. On which you can actually place books. Cookbooks, we hope, since those are too often stashed away in cupboards (and also because this is supposed to be about kitchens). We think this skyline-inspired shelf would illuminate them nicely.

Photo of Coe&Wait0’s “Bird Bowls” courtesy of Coe&Waito.

Don’t shit on porcelain: the material may be a mere derivative of clay, inexpensive to buy and common in bathrooms, but when treated (or untreated) just right, it makes for lovely, pure, and simple objects. CUTMR exhibitors Coe&Waito so charmed us with their ceramics that we searched for their shoppable website at the first opportunity. Turns out these bird bowls are totally giftable, at $52 for the smaller and $64 for the larger. And they’re so adorable, we’d almost shed a tear for the chicken in our chicken noodle soup.

Photo of Propellor’s chandelier courtesy of MADE.

The star of Radiant Dark, this fantastic chandelier is for the loftiest eat-ins only. Done by Propellor Design, a Vancouver-based trio, it gives the impression that those crazy multi-disciplinarians took an industrial kitchen sink filled with vintage drinking ware, turned the contents upside down, and strung it up. This makes it our second-favourite (re)source of light ever, second only to the burned-out-bulb installation that hangs in Castor’s Oddfellows (yes, this is our umpteenth Castor mention on Torontoist; no, it’s probably not our last).