The Art of Staging

[This spare room formerly served as a place for storage, and was staged as a dining room.]

If you are wondering why our blog post output had been a little lean lately, it is because I (Rhonda) and my partner, Andrew, decided to sell our house and the move has pretty much taken over our lives.

Why are we moving? One of the hazards of touring so many inspirational spaces and meeting so many creative folks is that you want to work on your own interior expression. And while we loved our house and everything in it, we were also finding that it was just too much for two people, and the extra areas were just filling up with stuff. For all of our square footage we didn't feel like we had a lot of space.

So we decided to downsize to a co-op. While I was already purging (inspired by our Lynda's Square Foot project), I really got in the spirit of downsizing when we staged our house for selling. Staging seems like a relatively recent phenomenon in the world of real estate, but results show that it works. In fancier neighbourhoods, the listings will sometimes namedrop the designers who staged the home as a selling point!

But we're not like everybody else. After spending 13 years writing the story of our lives through our art and furnishings in this home, we now found ourselves in what felt like an exercise in erasing our history. I'd be lying if I didn't say the process brought on a bit of an identity crisis. But while we advocate feathering your nest creatively, we needed some extra help to get our home ready to appeal to as many prospective buyers as possible, and I'm certain that staging our home helped us get the best possible price for it.

Andrew and I enlisted Covet Garden's Jessica and our friend Iza (whose spaces we featured in Issues 49 and 23) of Make Good Design to help us out with the staging. The hardest part was that we had to essentially pack-up our place months before moving to get it listed in time. At first it was strange living in a place that was so spare and unfamiliar (even though Jessica and Iza tried to use as much of our own stuff as possible). But over time, the stripped-down aesthetic has grown on us.

[What was formerly Andrew's home office was set up as a kid's room.]

I want to make clear that this was not a standard staging job. Our agent told us flat-out that prospective buyers in our area would most likely want to knock down walls and redo the kitchen and bathroom, so we needed to showcase the good bones of the home without sinking a lot of money into renos or elaborate staging. Says Jessica, "Many buyers today want to make their mark on a home and plan to do extensive renos once they buy, and when staging a home, this needs to be taken into account. Our goal here was to highlight the great light in the space and suggest some more standard uses for the rooms, while using some fun, but spare furniture and accessories to appeal to creative types". Iza and Jessica pride themselves on working with all kinds of budgets and coming up with creative solutions to design problems and we were extremely pleased with what they did with very little time or money. I'd recommend contacting them if you are planning on selling your home or need some interior design help in your current space!

We were inspired by the staging process in many ways. It helped us to visualize how our treasured things could work in a different context, and, by selling off or giving away much of our furniture, clothing and bric-a-brac, we definitely feel more free to explore the future in our new home.

[The master bedroom now looks airy, bright and peaceful.]

[The paired-down living room.] 

All Photos by Jessica Reid.


We Covet: Henning Koppel

I was in New York City last week for some rest and relaxation. And since poking around thrift shops is my favourite way to de-stress, I popped into the Chelsea Goodwill and started digging through bins of flatware. And although I didn’t discover a Fabergé Egg or rare Picasso print, I was just as delighted to come across a lone fork designed by the Danish designer Henning Koppel for Georg Jensen.

The fork was part of a set called, appropriately, New York (pictured above). Created in 1963 for New York's World Fair, it’s an excellent example of the Koppel aesthetic because while it looks quite simple on first glance, closer inspection reveals subtle details such as a brushed finish and carefully curved lines that required skilled craftsmanship to carry out.

Unlike many modernist designers, Koppel considered himself an anti-functionalist. Which is not to say that his housewares, lighting and jewellery designs aren’t useful, it’s just that for him organic expression trumped mass production. By the way, this isn't my first Koppel find — I picked up the ring pictured below at a thrift shop in Toronto earlier this year.

Born in Copenhagen in 1914, Koppel trained as a painter and a sculptor. Koppel’s family was Jewish and because Denmark was occupied by Germany during WWII, he moved to Sweden. To make ends meet while living in exile, he often traded art for food. He also sold a group of paintings to a pewter shop that offered to teach him how to work with metal. Here he started making small jewellery items that caught the eye of Anders Holstrup-Pedersen, the head of Georg Jensen’s jewellery department.

After the war, Koppel returned to Denmark, where he later joined Georg Jensen’ hollowware division, creating space age candelabras, pitchers and utensils that were a bold break from Jensen’s art nouveau traditions. He then moved into cutlery, where he also broke with tradition by working with non-silver materials such as stainless steel and wood. His only mass-produced for Orskov was made of melamine.


And while his work was often copied, his attention to detail wasn't as replicable. Which is why that despite the fact that many of his designs are still in production, original pieces are so collectible today. Until his death in 1981, Koppel continued to experiment with different mediums to bring his concepts to life. He designed distinctive clocks and watches for Jensen, delicate porcelain plates for Royal Copenhagen, glass wares for Kastrup and Orrefors and lamps (like the 1970s-era Bubi pendant pictured above) for Louis Poulsen.


Art for All at the Textile Museum of Canada

Last week we finally got a chance to check out the Textile Museum of Canada's latest exhibition, Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol. The show features a captivating collection of fabrics and fashions designed by some of the most versatile artists from the modern movement. We're talking big names such as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Barabra Hepworth and Sonia Delaunay.

Artists of the early 20th century were keen to experiment with new mediums and functions. This means that most of the monsters of modernism were not afraid to work with commercially and mass produced materials such as fabrics. What's wonderful about this show is that it lets us rediscover these artists with new eyes.

For example, how inspiring is it to see Andy Warhol's playful butterflies printed on a huge bolt of fabric (as pictured above)? Or Picasso's primitive fish swimming across a dress by American designer Claire McCardell (below)

Not only did we get an education in the Modernist esthetic, we were also inspired by the idea that art is something that should be enjoyed every day — that even utilitarian items (like the Barbara Hepworth designed linen placemat pictured below) can bring more beauty into our lives. And that art needn;t be precious.

Of course, we fell into a bit of an internet K-Hole after the show, scouring eBay and Etsy for Picasso scarves and John Piper curtains hoping to recreate our visit to the Textile Museum.



Best of Etsy: Man Handmade

,[1. Jens Quistgaard for Dansk teak ice bucket from The Lapis Lazuli; 2. Liberty fabric bow tie from Speicher Bow Toe Company; 3. Teak armchair from BBespoke; 4. Spa Kit from Elucx; 5. Hidden message tie bar from Tag You're It Jewelry; 6. Three pocket leather card holder from Grams28; 7. Vintage Panama hat from Pinkys of Saratoga; 8. Car play mat shirt from Bkykid.]

Father's Day is this Sunday and we wanted to salute the men in our lives with a comprehensive Etsy gift guide. And although it might be a little late to shop online, we hope our collection of cool things for cool dudes will serve as year-round gift-giving inspiration.

We also like to remind you that Covet Garden has a whole slew of Etsy Treasuries to introduce you to great handmade and vintage vendors or just sort through collections by category. It's like having the Covet Garden team act as your personal shopper!


Alexander the Great

[Alexander Girard by Kiera Coffee and Todd Oldham]

I have long been a fan of American designer Alexander Girard's typography, his iconic sun graphics and his whimsical wooden people. But it wasn't until I came across this beautiful book did I understand the entire breadth of his design work.

This 672 page tome published by Ammo Books covers all aspects of his design career from brand identity work to fabric design and furniture design to interiors. Co-author and Girard fan Todd Oldham went through the entire Girard archive to uncover designs that had never before been published. 

This book now lives on my coffee table in the living room and is a source of delight and inspiration every time I go through it and discover something amazing and new to me about this prolific and versatile mid-20th century designer.

The book is a bit of an investment, but is well worth the cost because it is such an exhaustive collection of his work. The news gets better: Ammo is publishing a popular edition of the book in a smaller size this fall and it can be pre-ordered here for a fraction of the price.