Best of the City 2014: Home
267 Niagara St., 416-745-5656
Homeowners like LEDs because they reduce energy bills; designers like that their slim profile and low operating temperature make unconventional forms possible. At Lightform’s showroom on Niagara, boundary-pushing options range from an Ares light shaped like a giant bulb to a polished aluminum bar by Philippe Starck. The most arresting of the lot: designer Ron Gilad’s series of ring-shaped tubes, which appear to pierce the walls like hooped earrings.
A year ago, Tanya Kelly, who has worked in restaurants for most of her adult life, noticed that chefs’ aprons lacked a certain made-in-Canada badassery. So she created the Blunt Roll, a heavy denim and leather apron that doubles as a knife roll for chefs to pack up their tools after a night of work. They’re made by hand in a Toronto studio and have been snapped up by cooks in many of the city’s top kitchens, including Bar Isabel, Enoteca Sociale and Beast. $140.
4635 Burgoyne St., Suites 12 and 14, 905-238-2700
Digital printing techniques have brought bold wallpaper out of the groovy ’70s and into hipper homes across the city. At NewWall, a showroom in Mississauga, the roster includes trompe l’oeil photos, lush florals, faded cityscapes and abstract washes of colour. The company can also make custom murals from any digital file. These are more than just glorified posters—designs are printed onto textured substrates (faux leather, canvas, even Velcro) that you’ll want to run your hands all over. Starting at $600 for a 41-square-foot mural.
Jardin de Ville
44 Sherbourne St., 416-363-8323
Plancha means “metal plate” in Spanish, and that’s basically what it is: an incredibly hot griddle that’s been the backbone of Spain’s alfresco cooking for centuries. While some chefs just use a slab of slate on a barbecue, we like Eno’s cast iron version because it’s small enough for condo balconies and hooks up directly to a building’s natural gas line. The enamelled surface cooks perfect lobster tails, salmon or vegetables with no burning or sticking. And since foods commingle on the same flat-top grill, the flavours grow deeper with every ingredient you throw on. $800.
In 2014, just about anything—locks, lights, thermostats—can be automated, Internet-enabled and controlled with your smartphone or tablet. Jeff Gosselin of Cloud 9 AV creates George Jetson–esque home systems for the city’s top architects (Heather Dubbeldam) and their society clients (he recently networked shoe heiress Sonja Bata’s Yorkville condo). Home theatres are particularly popular: hi-def projectors, surround sound and theatre lighting can all be controlled to the desired pixels, decibels and lumens by iPhone (instead of six clunky remotes). Gosselin’s office monitors each system remotely and will automatically send a technician if a problem persists—a nice upgrade from Rogers’ hold music. Prices available upon request.
Pistil Flowers (100 King St. W., concourse level, 416-367-1200) now sells kokedama, a Japanese-style arrangement where the plant’s roots are encased in spongy moss instead of a pot ($35–$85). They make for mod hanging gardens—as do the baskets at the Stem Flower Market (1418 Dundas St. W., 647-352-7836). Owner Lisa Gentle sources unusual specimens like string of pearls succulents (which resemble garlands of peas) and burro’s tail (which look like something Dr. Seuss invented). A few blocks south, Dynasty (1086½ Queen St. W.) stocks 12-foot cacti that add drama to any space. Michael Leach and Andrea Leigh would know: they decorated movie sets for years before opening their shop.
380 King St. E., 416-363-2996
The bright weave of Dedon’s Fedro lounger evokes the stripped webbing of a classic lawn chair. But that’s where the resemblance ends. The elegantly curved seat sits on two lightweight aluminum runners in place of legs, creating a surprisingly ergonomic perch for gentle rocking. Bonus: they’re as stackable as spoons, making for easy storage in the off-season. $720.
Wardrobe designer Brenda Izen offers the city’s most effective cure for Pinterest-induced closet envy. A former architect, she specializes in storage both highly functional and extravagant—her closets often feature crystal chandeliers, leather-wrapped doorknobs and zebra-wood millwork. When she meets a client, she first identifies fashion fetishes—shoes, bags, Hermès scarves—to showcase with spot lighting, then catalogues and measures the clothes to devise an intricate, custom-tailored system of drawers, hang bars and racks. When your wardrobe expands, so does the closet: Izen builds moveable pieces to accommodate new splurges. $800 per foot.
191 Weston Rd., 647-591-8166
Whether you ride a fixie, racer or vintage Dutchie, Noah Rosen will custom-paint the frame so it stands out on the city’s bike-infested streets. He uses car-grade paint for maximum chip-resistance, adorning the frames with matte colours, pinstripes, florals or plaids. The showstoppers are his solid chrome and copper-dipped frames. The metal adds a bit of weight, but it’s a small sacrifice for that gleaming finish. From $625.
Founders Oisin Hanrahan and Umang Dua call their app the Uber of home maintenance. Log in and you can instantly book one of dozens of services—everything from home cleaning to plumbing to fence building. Earlier this year, Handybook expanded its service to Toronto, recruiting a network of cleaners, builders and tradespeople. Each freelancer is vetted through the company’s background checks and interviews. If you don’t like the results, Handybook covers the costs.
Colette van den Thillart
In a design era dominated by Junction Flea kitsch, Colette van den Thillart’s opulent decor is a happy anomaly. Van den Thillart spent a decade as the creative director for the British firm Nicky Haslam in London, where she designed sumptuous spaces for Cartier and Charles, Earl of Spencer (Diana’s brother). She recently moved back home to Toronto to run Haslam’s first Canadian branch. Her designs mine the aesthetic grandiosity of Downton Abbey, with antique furniture, ornate mouldings and outrageous upholstery—she once sheathed an entire room in rows of scalloped fringe. Prices available upon request.
For oenophiles who want to flaunt their Burgundy crus and Tuscan brunellos, a custom wine cellar from Robert Cameron is just the thing. Cameron—a triple-threat interior designer, certified sommelier and MBA in wine and spirits marketing—creates storage rooms that emphasize design as much as they do temperature and humidity. For a 470-bottle cellar in the Annex, he imported wenge wood from Africa for the champagne wall and created a system of aircraft suspension cables instead of shelves. Another cellar in Rosedale glows with quartz walls, marble floors and LED lights. Only serious collectors need apply—Cameron’s custom jobs start at $50,000.
344 Westmoreland Ave. N., 647-342-0091
Ornate Jane Austen–era wingback armchairs are a nightmare to reupholster: it takes expert hands to swathe the fabric around the ornamental arms and flaring three-sided headrests. Sewing pro Andrea Ford of Re:Style Studio offers two options for chair rejuvenation. The first is her small, hands-on workshop, in which DIYers spend two weekends learning to recover the curves and swerves on their heirlooms. The second (much easier) way is for her to do the whole job herself, saving you hours of time and keeping your sanity, and manicure, intact. From $460 for workshop; from $600 for reupholstery services.
Draw Me a Sheep
This online baby boutique is the kind of place where design bloggers and mommy bloggers find common ground. For $3,500, owners Paula Velez and Lina Marin offer a custom nursery design package that includes a crib, a changing table, a rocker, bedding, wall coverings and hand-made light fixtures. The resulting rooms are adorned with brightly papered walls, vintage accents and furnishings, cheery framed prints and pastel quilts—they’re almost cuter than the kids who sleep in them.