We Covet: Russell Spanner

[Russell Spanner chair from Debbie and Peter's place in Issue 40]

We can’t stop thinking about all of the amazing examples of Canadian-made furniture in Peter and Debbie’s home in our December issue — especially their birch plywood and canvas chair made by Canadian design icon Russell Spanner.

In his essay for the 1990 restrospective A Spanner in the Works: The Furniture of Russell Spanner, 1950-1953 at the Power Plant, artist and writer Robert Fones describes Spanner’s work thusly: “The chairs combined the dynamism of Futurism with a cartoon-like anthropomorphism. And yet they were as solidly built and as straightforward in their simplicity as the public-school furniture I recalled from my childhood.” In short, these mid-century designs have real presence and personality.

[Catalina chair from Inabstracto]

The Spanner story is equally irresistible: At some point young Russell was an amateur wrestler (some say he tested the durability of his pieces by tossing them around). His family owned a Toronto-based woodworking and furniture manufacturing concern called Spanner Products Ltd. (which was built on the site of his grandfather’s old taxidermy business). He started out as a foreman at the factory, taking night courses in furniture design at Ryerson. 

In 1945, Spanner became interested in the possibilities of post war design and started making furniture using curved, unadorned forms and thin birch plywood as gifts for friends. When his father passed the reigns of the company over to his sons, Spanner began manufacturing under the name Ruspan originals. The bold angles of his designs caught on with the sophisticated Mad Men set and were picked up by the Eaton’s and Simpson’s department store chains.

[desk from Artmyth Vintage]

As the decade progressed, the furniture became less boxy and more streamlined. Spanner’s work was selling like hot cakes and getting lots of buzz in magazines, so the company took out a bank loan and moved to a new building. This and sibling squabbles led to Spanner Products going into receivership in 1959. In 1961 Russell went to work for Ontario Store Fixtures, designing and building showcases.

Spanner’s dining sets and lounge chairs are highly collectible today for two reasons. Their confident yet simple forms are still exciting to see today and they are solidly built. If you are lucky, you can still pick up examples on Craigslist or Kijiji.


Guest Post: The Leslieville Flea on Storage Solutions

[upcycled general store bin unit from Todd and Caitlin's home in issue 35. photography by Ashley Capp]

It’s a brand new year, which always leads to reflection on the past and to looking forward to what the future holds.

Here at the Leslieville Flea we look back at what a fantastic and fun year we had, launching the Flea in June 2013, and watching it grow. 2014 is off to a great start with an amazing new space, The Fermenting Cellar, in the Distillery District!

Along with looking forward to new possibilities, many of us make New Year’s resolutions for the coming year.  One popular resolution is to get more organized and to streamline one's life and your space. Starting the year off right by having a place for everything, and everything in its place, can help you move forward and not be distracted by the clutter we accumulate over the months. Cluttered spaces leads to cluttered minds, so let’s get organized!

The best storage fixtures are those that hold your belongings and do double duty as functional and attractive pieces in your home. You can find all sorts of items to help you file, stack, store and generally hide away all those things you need to have around but don’t necessarily want to see.

[Image from Son of a Woodcutter]

[Image from L&A Vintage]

Vintage metal file cabinets are fantastic for all those receipts and paperwork…and they look great!  Wood crates add character to a space while helping you stash away your clutter.

[Image from Old Soul Resale]

Looking for upcycled furniture that is loaded with storage and style? A must have!

[from Bragg & Bee

Vintage suitcases hold items but also can function as end or side tables.

You don’t have to give up style for function. And of course, finding great looking storage pieces is as easy as a trip to The Leslieville Flea on Sunday January 19th from 10am-5pm and pick up some great pieces…and store it in style!

We here at Covet Garden are happy as clams to have Chris Roberts and Brigid Elmy, founders of the Leslieville Flea, as guest bloggers. Visit their blog for regular news and style ideas. And and keep checking this space for more of their insights on incorporating vintage and handmade finds into your decor.


The Best of Etsy: 2014 Trends

[tea towel calendar by Avril Loretti]

Because we are working ahead on future issues of Covet Garden, we thought we prognosticate a little and pick out a few of the themes we've seen showing up in our featured spaces. We've gone to Etsy to create a an ongoing visual list of some our favourite emerging trends, but here are the highpoints:

1. Saturated Hues  As demonstrated by Melissa's place in Covet Garden Home, rich hits of colour can really revive a space. We dig Melissa's favourite, turquoise, but we are also enamoured of mustards, blushes and peridots.

[round ottoman from Foutu Tissu] 

2. Velvety Textures  Speaking of rich, we love how a luxurious touch of velvet adds new dimension to classic ikat prints and contemporary geometric patterns.

[velvet mid-century modern armchair from the Vintedge Co.] 

3. Crochet, Macramé and Weaving  Spoiler alert! In one of our upcoming issues, we take a tour of the home of a textile expert. So our collective eye is more attuned to how interesting handmade details are. We're seeing more macrame, weaving and crochet showing up in wall hangings, table and bed runners and even jewellery, even a delicate necklace from pilosale.

[psychedlic wall hanging from cspiteri ]

4. Beautiful Brutalism  In our February issue, our featured space is inhabited by a couple that appreciates what they call ugly beautiful—pieces inspired by the mid-century movement called brutalism. We like the dynamic feel of objects from this era, and how they can add extra energy to industrial, eclectic and modern spaces.

[mid-century candle holders from Eclectivist]

5. Upcycled Lighting  In our current issue, we love how homeowners Melanie and Joe have so many upcycled light fixtures. Using vintage elements make a practical object like a lamp work with well-loved items but with a modern sense of style and humour.

[upcycled lamp from It's A Lamp]

6. Bright and Shiny  We've noticed a lot of cased glass lamps and vases and laquered finishes popping up on our real-life newsfeed. For example, Stephanie's glossy coffee table in Covet Garden Home, shows how a sleek surface can revive older, fussier furniture. And a shiny piece always provides a nice contrast to softer textures such as wood or a matte wall colour.

[vintage takahashi lacquer salt and pepper shakers from House of Seance]


Sponsor Love: We Heart Hoopla!

[Robin Itotani and Shannon Fitzpatrick of Hoopla]

Having just rung in the New Year, parties are on our mind. And just as we admire creativity in our featured homes, we also can’t resist inventive embellishment at a special event.

Which is why when we wanted to make a standout display for selling copies of Covet Garden Home at the Leslieville Flea last December, we asked Shannon Fitzpatrick and Robin Itotani of Hoopla Event Design & Styling to help us out. And today we have asked them to share their thoughts and ideas about the direction of event design with you!

“As you know from your Leslieville Flea set up,” says Robin, “we are obsessed with interesting backdrops and flanking them with any type of beautiful garlands.” Our relationship with Hoopla started way back in 2011. We first met Shannon since before Covet Garden even began through her blog What’s Up Whimsy. She was also a guest blogger for us, scouring Craigslist and Kijiji for amazing finds.


As for Shannon and Robin, they met through their husbands. “They are childhood best friends,” says Robin. “We realized a couple of years ago that every time we got together we would get caught up in a whirlwind of conversations about work, what we wanted to do ‘In the future’ and swapping DIY and creative ideas. It just made sense for us to go into business together.”

We'll let the pictures do the talking when it comes to describing Hoopla's spirited and distinctive approach to creating a special space that also conveys the personality of the folks behind the event. In 2013 alone they created an Etsy Pop Up Shop at the Bay, created photo booths and table settings for BlogPodium and designed a whole bunch of beautiful weddings.

For anybody who is planning a big day this year, here are Hoopla's  trend thoughts and ideas:

• This year it's all about back to basics for us. Anything that’s inspired by Mother Nature is really coming into play. Lots of plants, lots of moss and lots of trees.

• Over embellishment!  More is more and 2014 is go big or go home for Hoopla!

• Material elements include wood and all different types of metal, including nickel, copper and brass.

• As for colours we are loving the more royal colours like emerald greens, navy blues, greys, bronze, silvers, golds and pewter with some hits of mints and peaches to soften things up!  Think royal family living the forest.


Issue 41 is Now Live!

[cover photo by Valerie Wilcox]


Happy New Year! Let's ease into 2014 with peek into the charming home of  Melanie, Joe and Nicolas’ bright and cheery little house. This beautiful home in Toronto’s Brockton Village is in many ways the epitome of a nest—a distinctive place assembled to house family. This creative couple's space is full of stuff that was made or repurposed by Melanie and Joe. We're totally inspired by their DIY spirit but we also love how practical they use their space.