Friday
Jun062014

We Covet: Robsjohn-Gibbings and George Nakashima for Widdicomb

[Image, Naomi Finlay]

In the current issue of Covet Garden, Paul’s house is chock-full of amazing art and furnishings. We always ask our featured householders what their favourite pieces are, and the answer is usually something along the lines of “asking me that is like asking me to choose my favourite child.”

Paul did narrow it down a little, telling us that the George Nakashima couch and the T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings coffee table in his living room were “sort of my pride and joy on the furnishings front.”  Both of these pieces were created for the Widdicomb Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1858, in the 1950s and ’60s, the company was instrumental in introducing modern design ideas to the North American public.

[Nakashima for Widdicomb sofa via Downtown Gallery]

British-born architect and furniture maker Robsjohn-Gibbings actually worked as head designer for Widdicomb in the 1940s and ’50s.

Even though his tastes ran toward Greek classicism, his elegant, uncluttered aesthetic was sympathetic to ideas coming out of Scandinavia —Robsjohn-Gibbings’ works for Widdicomb famously featured warm blond wood and tapered, functional shapes. Paul’s low-slung coffee table with its inset caning is a perfect example of a piece from this period.

[Nakashima Origins for Widdicomb Chair via Modernism]

[T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings for Widdicomb Dining Table via Viyet]

Robsjohn-Gibbings left Widdicomb and America to live in Greece. George Nakashima who produced the “Origins Group” for the firm took up his forward furniture approach the late 1950s and early ’60s.  Inspired by his International style training but married with his Japanese and Shaker influences, Nakashima’s collection of bedroom and dining room sets and occasional pieces.

Nakashima was born and raised in Spokane, Washington where he developed a deep love of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He believed that all design, architecture and sculpture had an origin, no matter how distanced, in nature.

Both designers prized function above all else. Which is why this couch and coffee table fit into Paul’s life so wonderfully.

[T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings for Widdicomb buffet, Model 1671, 1950 via 1st Dibs]

Thursday
Jun052014

Issue 46 is Now Live!

[Image, Naomi Finlay]

Just a quick note to let you know that the June issue of Covet Garden in now live. We're particularly pleased to take you on a tour  of gallerist Pau's home for many reasons: 1. We've known Paul forever and he's a delightful fella; 2. He has an amazing collection of Canadian and international art and you know how much we love artists and art; and 3. He's also got an amazing collection of furniture — we discovered so much more about design just from talking to Paul and researching these pieces. Come back to the blog on Friday for a more in-depth look at Paul's favourite furnishings.

In short, it's the kind of place you'd feel perfectly relaxed hanging out in, but at the same time you learn a thing or two from the visit.

 

Friday
May302014

Guest Post: The Leslieville Flea on Basement Spaces

Many of our Toronto homes come with a low, ugly, unfinished basement.  A client (and friend) of mine recently approached me to try to make use of this overlooked space.

With four boys under the age of 16 and a very busy household — Angela is a full time mom and yoga instructor and Mark is a reporter with the CBC’s Fifth Estate — the family needed somewhere for their boys and their friends to hang out. Angela wanted to create a “man cave” — a fun and functional space in their basement where the kids could hang out. She also wanted to make the storage and laundry areas more functional and tidy.

The inspiration came from Grumman 78 (a restaurant that the couple visited restaurant in Montreal. It's housed in converted auto garage and had the feel of industrial cool they were after. Angela and Mark are also huge lovers of all things vintage and regulars at The Leslieville Flea, so incorporating great vintage items was a must.

The first thing I did was to map out the space into sections. The stairs come down into the center of the space so I kept laundry on one side and made space for a storage room on the other. The pre-existing brick columns made a perfect barrier between the functional and  recreational spaces. The general conractor John MacIssac built walls between the columns to divide the space up. We decided to use plywood instead of drywall here as a more durable and cost effective solution.  We also built an enclosure for the furnace and water heater to hide them from view.

Angela loved the idea of barn doors to section off the space so I designed those and had them built by Craig MacGowan of York Home Advantage. One large one to partition off the laundry and storage from the living space, and double doors to enclose the furnace area.

Since the ceilings were so low we didn’t want to lose any height by finishing them... and leaving them exposed added an industrial look to the space. The biggest challenge in a reno is often deciding on the timeline to ensure everything gets done properly. That's why we had all the wiring cleaned up, ran the new wiring and put in the supports for the new lights and barn doors first so that when we had the ceiling sprayed all those elements were painted out too. 

[Images: Chris Roberts]

Coordinating your trades so that one isn’t waiting on the other and it’s all done in the right order takes time but is worth every minute spent.  It also pays to hire people who do great work and are good to work with. John and Craig both provided amazing input and did a fantastic job within a very tight timeline.

We had a painter spray the entire space with Benjamin Moore Simply White OC-117, a really crisp white. The ceilings immediately looked higher and the space larger. It’s always amazing what simply painting a space can do to change the look and feel.

We chose to keep the floors concrete, but had them patched then painted in Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal.  This has to be my favourite mid to dark grey...not too cool and not too brown.

We added some industrial style track lighting and recessed the tracks between the joists to further brighten up the space while allowing for the most headroom possible. 

I wanted to really make the space personal for the boys so I created some original artwork for each of them (see the top photo). I took apart an old pallet and used the wood as a canvas, then painted an “icon” to reflect each of the boys’ interests. They were a huge hit and the red colour added punch and personality to the space. Storage with four kids is always an issue. I found vintage lockers from the Leslieville Flea in a great bright blue colour — one for each boy — and this retro touch brought fun and character to the space.

The end result is amazing.  You can barely recognize the basement and they’ve now gained an entire floor of usable space for their family. Adding vintage furniture pieces, some hand crafted rustic art and those giant barn doors give this space a unique and inspiring look.

We here at Covet Garden are so happy to have Chris Roberts and Brigid Elmy, founders of the Leslieville Flea, as guest bloggers. The Flea expands its empire this Sunday at the Harbourfront Centre and it returns to its East End roots at the Ashbridge' Estate on the third Sunday of every month. 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.

Wednesday
May282014

Kimono My House at The Textile Museum

Covet Garden is a big fan of The Textile Museum of Canada. It is such a gem in Toronto that not enough people know about. They have an amazing resource library on site and (I hate to give this one away) their annual fundraising event — the More Than a Yardage Sale — is coming up this Friday, May 30 from 11am to 6pm and Saturday, May 31 from 11am to 2pm. It's a great place to find deals on all kinds of gorgeous fabrics.

They also feature fascinating and constantly changing shows. Most recently we checked out the From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru exhibition, here is some eye candy:

Ichimaru (1906-1997), was one of the most celebrated geishas of the 20th century. She also had an amazing singing voice and quit the geishahood in the 1930s tbecome a recording artist. Still, as a vocalist, she would perform in full geisha costume. Her collection of hand-embroidered and hand-painted textiles spans decades and tells a story not only about how her taste evolved, but also about how globalization changed traditional Japanese culture.

[Images (except for portrait which is from the Textile Museum): Jessica Reid]

Says Jessica, "It's  like the stories of the homeowners in Covet Garden: you find things you love and work them into your life!

If you live in Victoria, you can catch more fabric fever starting June 27 at  Kimono: Japanese Cuture in its Art Form at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (who, by the way, organized the Ichimaru exhibition).

Kimono

Japanese Culture in its Art Form

Friday
May232014

Best of Etsy: Countdown to Father's Day

[1. Liberty of London fabric bow tie from Speicher Tie Company; 2. Cherry iPad Speaker Dock by J. Birchfield; 3. Swordfish flask by Liquid Courage; 4. Beard Oil by Province Apothocary; 5. Personalized Wood Fly Box by Engraving Pro.

Father's Day is June 15th—a mere three weeks awayso we thought we'd give you a head's up and some help in choosing a special gift for the special guy in your life. Yes, Covet Garden has once again scoured Etsy for fantastic handmade and vintage treasures for your dad.

Of course we have lots of other lists of our favourite finds on Covet Garden's Etsy List Page. Whether you planning a summer wedding or looking for ways to make your rural retreat more homey (or your urban place more cottagey), these lists can help you pull it all together while championing independent artisans and entrepreneurs.