In mid-September Vancouver was buzzing with design events culminating with IDS West – the little cousin of Toronto’s Interior Design Show. This year Western Living Magazine brought a number of the events under a Design Week banner giving a much needed push to the idea that design is becoming more important to people living on the West Coast.

Azure magazine has a great review of the highlights from IDS West so we’ll take a different approach and comment on some of the themes coming from the week.

Optimism & Modern Design

We had a great chat with Nelda Rodger, Editorial Director at Azure Publishing, about modern design on the West Coast. She reminded us that modern architecture has quite a long tradition here as shown in films like Coast Modern, or Selwyn Pullan’s book, Photographing Mid-Century West Coast Modernism. But modern interiors and furniture design is much less common. The popularity of the cabin feeling of the Whistler style (raw cedar logs) and the Grandma’s house nostalgia of the Craftsman style are understandable – many people who live on the West Coast today came from places east in search of a coastal lifestyle that is more laid back and temperate – and slightly removed from a faster paced world. Non-stop flights and the internet have reconnected us and we now have an urban population wanting the best of both worlds – embracing nature’s playground at evenings and weekends while keeping up with the best of modern urban living in Europe and Asia.

Nelda agreed – there is a huge amount of optimism fuelling a new generation young designers on the West Coast. A comparably stable economy is the perfect environment to encourage designers to pursue their passion. And these designers are creating a body of work that has a subtle Canadian perspective on the current movements in modern design. In furniture, Brent Comber continues to sculpt wood into intriguing forms with practical uses. Jeff Martin Joinery and MTH Woodworks show the beauty of natural wood but with refined and sophisticated innovations like eco-resin and cast bronze hardware. IZM‘s craftsmanship and design stands solidly beside products coming from Scandinavia and Japan.

Brent Comber’s Tafoni 2 Bench

Bloom Table / Stool from MTH Woodworks

Fitfat Side Table from IZM

Coastal Credenza from Jeff Martin Joinery

The Future: A Fare & Festival

We may be a few years away from a full blown design festival where the entire city gets in on the action. A festival, like the ones in London and Milan, goes beyond commercial interests to discuss and show the role of design in our culture and society. Museums and collectors, teachers and students, designers and manufacturers all add their voice – and reinforce the idea that good design is equal parts durability, utility and delight. We fully support Western Living leading the charge to bring more of the design community out to play as they start work on the 2nd Design Week for 2014.

The Future Master’s area of student projects

Tables from the fundraiser Dinner by Design were relocated to IDS West. This table, designed by Kelly Deck Design, uses a brushed bronze laminate on the wall and ceiling.

Success Spurs Success

Missing from this year’s design week were some of Vancouver’s biggest design success stories: Bensen, Molo and Bocci (we’ll give Bocci a break since they were putting on another show-stopper at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the London Design Festival). While we are modest Canadians I think we could take a nod from how Scandinavian countries celebrate their design icons: every Finnish citizen seems to own Marimekko and Iittala and public spaces in Copenhagen are filled with Fritz Hansen. Pride in the home team would go a long way in showing our youth that Canadians can be just as successful as Italians or Brits. But the first step is making them more visible and making them household names.

Bocci’s 28.280c installed at the Victoria + Albert Museum for this fall’s London Design Festival. Photo by Nick Barr

Detail of Bocci’s 28.280c. Photo by Nick Barr

Access – The Modern Home Tour

300+ people toured the seven homes on the Vancouver Modern Home Tour, our bachelor pad project being one of them. Everyone we spoke with said the tour was a huge success – giving the public access to modern architecture and interiors often with the designers and home owners on site to answer questions.