Filed under: STYLE FILE
By Lydia McNutt
Umbra designer Alan Wisniewski gives us the scoop on his latest products, how he broke into the world of design and where that world is headed in 2011.
You could say design was Alan Wisniewski’s calling. He knew from an early age that creating things was his thing, and lucky for him (and the rest of us décor enthusiasts) the road led him to Umbra.
This inspiring design environment encouraged the concept of “free thinking” and three years later, he’s creating some of Umbra’s most-memorable designs to date.
“My parents always told me I was a bit different growing up, taking things apart, examining them and putting them back together,” Alan recalls. But it wasn’t until his high school art teacher encouraged him to explore industrial design further that he seriously considered his hobby as a potential career. “After doing some research and talking to some people in the industry, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Getting his foot in Umbra’s door wasn’t easy, nor was it expected. “I actually heard of Umbra through my girlfriend’s mother, who is very into design,” explains Alan. “She had bought a Bungee card holder and I was amazed by the concept, esthetic and quality. From there I contacted the company persistently looking for any opportunity.”
The persistence paid off and after three years with Umbra (a time that has felt like just one, Alan notes) he is content doing what he calls his “dream job.” “What I love about our team is that the creativity is always flowing and they really encourage us to just let our minds go wild. No matter how ridiculous the idea, it can lead to something huge.” And in Alan’s case, it has!
Check out some of Alan’s favourite designs
Alan’s inspiration crosses the nature-technology divide, which keeps him on top of the trends while staying true to his style. “I find design inspiration everywhere, from nature and my surroundings to magazines, blogs and other media. My mind is always in design, even when trying to sleep. I really love to come up with new ideas and have fun doing so.”
Alan’s design philosophy is to live design every day. His career is not just 9 to 5. “My mind is always examining and thinking, looking at everyday objects and trying to reinvent them. I love what I do and take real pride in the products I design. It’s so thrilling to see an idea go from a thumbnail sketch to being in people’s homes.”
Describe your style in three words:
“Clean, simple, pure.”
Alan’s designs find the delicate balance between fashion and function – not an easy feat, and it’s also what makes them so popular. “If a product has too much of either, it may not speak to people. If a product performs its function
well and looks great doing so, I consider that a great product.”
Finish this sentence: “2011 is all about . . .”
“2011 is all about taking cues from nature in a modern way. We have much to learn from nature in how things are made and all its amazing forms and colours. Product design has come a long way in that people expect more than strict function – they want products that have personality and become things they want to use and make them smile whenever they interact with it.”
The Perch birdie collection adds a whimsical flair to everyday objects that make you smile. They were designed to capture the cute playfulness of city birds everyone can relate to and enjoy.
The Suspend mantle clock is part of the U+ studio collection and it features a floating time piece within a glass bell jar. “I think this clock really makes people take a second look and creates a magical feeling every time you look at it.”
The Handisleeve coffee sleeve is designed as an accessory to your “to-go” coffee cup. The reusable sleeve slides onto any-sized paper cup, eliminating the need to double-cup to keep your hands from being burned. The bonus is the built-in handle, which allows you to hold the cup the way you would a mug at home.
April 13, 2011
By Sara Duck
Celebrate the royal wedding by throwing a vintage-themed tea party in your home, fit for a princess!
Do you fancy yourself an Anglophile at heart? Do you love a bit of pomp and circumstance? Then no doubt you will be tuning in to see Prince William and Kate Middleton (soon to be Princess Catherine) exchange vows amongst their family, friends and the world on April 29. Get into the stately spirit by staging your own tea party celebration. Sip and nibble in style as you watch the grand procession take place from your home. With inspiration from Table Style by Liz Belton & Rebecca Tanqueray we give you the low down on making your vintage tea party come to life.
1. Choose a fresh and flirty colour theme such as pastels, pink or spring florals.
2. Set a menu. Traditional high tea consists of dainty sandwiches, petit fours and scones with clotted cream and jam. For a more updated approach throw in beautifully decorated cupcakes, French macarons and chocolate covered strawberries. Don’t forget the bubbly! Champagne is an extra special touch for your guests.
3. Serve a variety of loose-leaf tea including black, red, white and herbal.
4. Wash and prep your prettiest tea cups, tea pots, dessert plates, cake stands, cutlery and lace doilies. Go for an eclectic mis-match look to achieve the vintage vibe. If nothing in your house screams Old World tea party, ask your mom and grandmother, head to your nearest charity shop to score some cheap alternatives or invest in some special-occasion tableware.
5. Use a crisp white or cream tablecloth to set the table. Freshly pressed is a must!
6. Use floral arrangements for a pretty table presentation. Choose a couple different blooms such as roses and peonies and place them in vintage silver teapots, creamer and milk sets or china jugs throughout the table.
7. DIY is a great way to bring a personalized touch to a table setting without spending a lot of money. For instance you could wrap thick ribbon around your napkins to hold cutlery in place and garnish with a floral sprig. For an extra-special touch write their name in calligraphy on the ribbon and use it as a place setting.
8. Make your tea party lively! The main attraction will of course be the wedding but in between commercial breaks you could play a fun game of royal trivia (do your research before hand and come up with some juicy questions). Don’t forget to send the winner home with a fabulous prize, such as a pretty box of Harney & Sons tea. Visit harney.com
April 8, 2011
By Sara Duck
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a very cool show as part of Toronto’s LG Fashion Week. Canadian company Korhani Home–well known for its fabulous rugs and home products, staged a catwalk presentation to showcase its incredible designs. While a bevy of beauties paraded down the runway, all eyes were on what the models were wearing: rugs which had been creatively cut and sewn together to resemble clothing, and chic clothing at that, portrayed in a variety of styles. The show-stopper included a distinct vintage vibe with a model in ‘50s style dress, hair swept up and a touch of animal print cruising the catwalk with two adorable (and well groomed) poodles. Kudos to creative directors and owners Kirsten Korhani and Moji Korhani for blending décor with fashion, which go together so well.
April 6, 2011
By Sara Duck
I love the modern take on ’90s neon. It’s bright, fun and energetic for your home.
Marais A Chair Perforated in Plum. $450 US. Visit dwr.com
Vintage Chic Frames by FHE. $10-$15. Visit blacks.ca
Milk Glass Vases. $35-$40. Visit pier1.ca
April 4, 2011
Glen Peloso and Carpet One Floor & Home have teamed up again to give you the second edition of Glen’s Picks – some of his fave products. Meet and greet Glen at Creative Carpet One in Markham on Saturday April 16 at 1 p.m.! Glen will be presenting the Glen’s Picks products and will be answering your flooring design questions.
190 Bullock Dr., Markham
Visit carpetone.com and glenpelosointeriors.com for more info.
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Are you tired of forgetting to pack your reusable bags? Clip on one of these cute rosebud Niftii Eco Bags from Bowring onto your purse or backpack and you’re set! $3. Available in assorted styles. Visit bowring.com
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DID YOU KNOW?
The Power Plant is proud to announce the inaugural BMO Free Wednesday Evenings program, offering FREE gallery admission from 5-8 p.m. every Wednesday!
The Power Plant at Harbourfront Centre, 231 Queens Quay West
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Bombay is offering a $200 gift card when you buy any three pieces from the Essex Bedroom Collection (a minimum of $1,000 purchase required). Visit bombay.ca to find a location near you.
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The first Annual Greater Niagara Region Home & Garden Show will be sprouting up at the new Scotiabank Convention Centre from April 8-10, 2011. The show will feature everything from gardens a landscapes; home improvement; the latest trends in kitchen and bath; Green living ideas; home interiors and accessories; windows and doors; pools and spas; travel and leisure; healthy living; an art, gift and gourmet centre; an interactive kids zone; and live cooking demonstrations.
6380 Fallsview Blvd., Suite 202, Niagara Falls
March 28, 2011
Are you at a loss for decorating and designing due to your home’s floor plans? Pre-book your free 20-min. design consultation with Belinda Albo at Zilli Home Interiors.
When:Saturday, March 26 from 1 to 5 p.m.
Where: 672 Chrislea Rd., Woodbridge
Call 289-268-0020 for details.
March 25, 2011
By Lydia McNutt
Pure – the eco-friendly brainchild of lead designer and manufacturer Ami McKay – can be called “pure genius.” This collection of custom furnishings artfully blends style and sustainability in one fell swoop. And it’s not the bare-bones minimal pieces you might expect from a line so heavily focused on saving the environment. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Through Pure, McKay illustrates that not only is guilt-free indulgence possible, but it’s within easy reach.
You may recognize this designer as the founder of Vancouver-based Ami McKay Design, but McKay’s name has moved beyond her native British Columbia. She has appeared as host of HGTV’s Makeover Wish, and most recently, you may have seen McKay while flipping through the pages of O At Home magazine – and we all know what happens to items that get the Oprah “stamp of approval.”
McKay’s quest for sustainability started with her refusal to choose between environmental responsibility and her innate sense of style. “Designing is integral to who I am,” she explains. “Everything I’ve done in my life has led me to where I am now, from costume design to interior design. Having the ability to creatively visualize – whether it’s a room or an object – uses the same design principles.”
McKay has been faithful to the “healthy homes” movement for years, and before the Pure endeavor, was already knee-deep in furniture design.
McKay’s transition from designing interiors to designing furniture has been, in her words, seamless. “Creating healthy, sustainable furniture is a natural progression from healthy, sustainable interiors. It is the culmination of material selection, research and vision.”
When asked why she took the eco-friendly route for her new furniture collection, McKay’s answer is simple. “It’s just who I am,” she says. “If I’m going to create something and put it out into the world, I want it to be something of substance. Healthy homes and sustainable practices are the principles I choose for myself and my family, so why would I settle for anything less for Pure?”
The sustainable path wasn’t without its obstacles. In designing furniture to satisfy the eco-conscious, health-conscious, style-conscious and comfort-conscious consumer all at the same time, McKay’s biggest hurdle, she admits, is consumer awareness of the health risks posed by conventional furniture laden with toxins.
Inspired by the Earth in more ways than one, the collection’s Fire, Water, Earth and Air lines are all custom built and can be personalized with your choice of fabric, colour and McKay’s signature embroidery.
Pure has been a labour of love for McKay. And fittingly, choosing a favourite Pure piece is almost like deciding which of your children you love best, she says. “I have Fire and Water pieces in my office. I love the fluid Water lines, and I love that I can put my embroidery on the elegant Fire pieces! Truthfully, I think there is a perfect place for every piece.”
Just how pure is Pure?
• Pure pieces are stuffed with material made from the seed pods of rainforest-dwelling trees
• Upholstery is made from organic wool
• Rather than the traditional petrolium-based materials used to keep the spring in your sofas, Pure uses biodegradable and recyclable jute for its webbing
• The legs and frame are constructed of locally harvested wood and are finished with linseed oil
• Water-based glue and recycled staples hold it all together
• The pieces are assembled in Canada, reducing emissions and energy associated with transportation
To learn more about Ami McKay, visit her online at amimckaydesign.com For details on Pure, visit the website at purebyamimckay.com
March 17, 2011
By Laura Malloy
Masco Canada revealed some of the latest technology in baths at the IDS. Axor Urquiola: the result of a five-year collaboration between Axor and acclaimed Italian designer Patricia Urquiola, features beautiful tubs, washbasins, faucets, shower systems and accessories.
Live Clean body lotions are 98 per cent plant ingredients, non greasy and fast absorbing, hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested, and enriched with certified organic botanicals. We love the Fresh Water!
$7. Available across Canada at Shopper’s Drug Mart and Pharmaprix. Visit live-clean.com
This Manhattan vanity from Roman Bath Centre, made of CARB-compliant solid poplars and cherry veneer, exudes timelessness and practicality with a white carrara stone counter, under-mount sink and two drawers. Available in three colours and two sizes.
883 Caledonia Rd. | 416-787-1219 | Visit romanbathcentre.com
March 7, 2011
By Sara Duck
Hoorah, spring is just around the corner! It has been a particularly blustery winter and I plan on embracing the fresh new season with beautiful bright décor items for the home. I’m starting with a new set of decorative cushions for the living room in a feminine floral motif. It’s a simple and economical solution for changing up the look in any space.
Embroidered Floral Pillow. $20. Visit homesense.ca
Savannah Poppy Cushion. $20. Visit danicaimports.com
Felt Roses Pillow. $50. Visit pier1.ca
Marbella Cushion. $17. Visit bouclair.com
March 3, 2011
You may not be able to renovate your entire kitchen this year, but these are some of our fave must-haves for the kitchen.
Counter-Depth French Door Refrigerator with IQ-Touch
controls. $4,000. Visit electroluxappliances.ca
Belmont Kitchen Island. $599. Visit crateandbarrel.ca
Tea-And-Crumpets Apron. $44. Visit anthropologie.com
Classic Round Dutch Oven, 5.5-Qt. by Le Creuset. $340. Visit
Five-Qt. Die-Cast Stand Mixer. $400. Visit breville.ca
Full Choice Two Slice Toaster. $25. Visit presidentschoice.ca
February 14, 2011