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Over its 25 editions, Toronto’s Interior Design Show (IDS Toronto) has cast a much-needed spotlight on Canadian design — and in this corner of the world, you’re never too far from the forest. This past January, IDS Toronto moved out of the woods in one way — finally back above ground after a few years confined to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s gloomy basement — yet remained firmly rooted in the northern landscape in another sense. Design studio Objects & Ideas presented a charming chair that took cues from a beaver, while the feature exhibition “Modern Prefab” showcased stylish takes on traditional log cabins. At DesignTO (the 10-day festival of off-site events that picks up where IDS Toronto leaves off) woodworkers continued the timber conversation, demonstrating how lumber salvaged from residential demolitions can have a successful second life at the material re-use themed exhibition “Circular Living Lab.”

But in Canada, and especially in Toronto, lumberjacks are just part of the story. In “Nourish,” a DesignTO exhibition held in Mason Studio’s office gallery, the interior design firm cataloged how local chefs from a variety of cultural backgrounds approach dumplings. In other corners of the city, designers Safoura Zahedi and Stephanie Singh (who both did double duty, showing at IDS as well as during DesignTO) paid thoughtful tribute to Islamic geometry and Jamaican flora, respectively. IDS also hosted several foreign ambassadors: Visiting from Poland, Zieta Studio took to the stage for a memorable demonstration of its inflated metal production technique.

Lurking just below the surface was an unexpected abundance of octopus-like forms. After Luca Nichetto presented a vase adorned with suction cups at design boutique Mjölk, it suddenly seemed like the sea creatures were everywhere. A many-legged stool by Sarah Yao-Rishea joined lighting by the Goodman Studio that danced with tentacle-like flair. Octopuses are known to be one of the smartest animals on earth — Remarkably Bright Creatures, as author Shelby Van Pelt’s recent bestseller puts it. Evidently, Toronto’s design community is as clever as it is outdoorsy.  

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Modern Prefab
One of the best parts of IDS Toronto 2024 was Modern Prefab, an exhibition that showcased pre-fabricated log cabins. Here is a small A-Frame in the woods with a series of steps up to it.
Photo courtesy of Backcountry Hut Company

Muskoka moved to the big city in an IDS Toronto feature exhibition that invited showgoers tostep inside wilderness retreats built by three prefab bunkie makers: Arhome by Arcana, CABN, and the Backcountry Hut Company (whose System 00 A-Frame is pictured).

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Beaver Tail chair
One of the best parts of IDS Toronto 2024 was this round wooden chair by Objects & Ideas that is modelled after a beaver tail.

Di Tao and Bob Dodd (a.k.a. Objects & Ideas) paid tribute to the beaver family that lives in the pond outside their Kawartha Highlands home with a sweeping throne made from 16 layers of stack-laminated wood. Cinnamon and sugar not included.

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“Circular Living Lab”
One of the best parts of the DesignTO Festival 2024 was the exhibition Circular Living Lab. Here, a stack of reclaimed bricks forms a sculpture to the left while the back wall is lined with shelving and seating made from reclaimed wood. A long bench sits in the foreground.
Photo by Kurtis Chen

A collaboration by Giaimo Architects, OuroborosDeconstruction, Ha/f Climate Design and Haley Anderson Consulting (with support from TAS), this show invited designers to remake materials salvaged from an Erin, Ontario, home into furniture and sculptural totems.

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Nourish
One of the best parts of the DesignTO Festival 2024 was this exhibition featuring suspended ceramic dumplings in a room lined with white curtains.
Photo by Scott Norsworthy

Celebrating food’s role in bringing people together, Mason Studio explored dumplings in all their forms — from perogies to momos — in an exhibition that paired recipes with production tools. A pop-up dining environment (pictured) hosted meals.

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“Journey through Geometry”
One of the best parts of IDS Toronto 2024 was this geometric steel sculpture by Safoura Zahedi.
Photo by Kurtis Chen

After a full year of field research across 17 countries, architect and artist Safoura Zahedi developed this modular steel structure. Its geometry references traditional Islamic patterns to inspire spiritual reflection.

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Island coffee table
One of the best parts of IDS Toronto 2024 was this black resin table with a top shaped like Jamaica and flowers and spices embedded within.

Stephanie Singh’s work was a standout of IDS Toronto’s Prototype section, as well as Umbra and DesignTO’s transparency-themed “Lucid Ideas” show. Shaped like Jamaica (where Singh’s parents were born), this coffee table preserves Caribbean flowers and spices in resin.

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Snopek
One of the best parts of IDS Toronto 2024 was this coat rack made from inflated metal. A red scarf hangs on one of the prongs.

Visiting IDS Toronto from Poland, Oskar Zięta introduced an in-flated metal coat rack that uses his studio’s signature Free Internal Pressure Deformation technique — which he and his partner Agata demonstrated live on stage with a bicycle pump.

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Ribbon light
One of the best parts of the 2024 DesignTO Festival was this lighting featuring squiggly blue and orange lines blown in glass with tubular white pendant lights hanging from the bottom.
Photo by Worker Bee Supply

Brad Turner, the new head glassblower at the Goodman Studio, took inspiration from flowing currents to come up with the concept for this blown glass light. The pendant debuted in a colourful cluster as part of a window display at Bergo Designs. 

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Nassa vase
One of the best parts of the 2024 DesignTO Festival was this clear, cone-shaped vase featuring circular suction cup-like decorations. It's shown holding large pink flowers.

Limited to an edition of just seven, this made-in-Murano vessel (designed by Luca Nichetto for West End boutique Mjölk) is accented with pinched circles modelled after octopus suckers. An iridescent finish adds to the ethereal object’s strange beauty.

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Visible Welds table
One of the best parts of the 2024 DesignTO Festival was this welded steel stool featuring four legs with four additional steel legs connecting them together.
Photo by Marc Santos

“Double Entendre,” a DesignTO group show held at Project 107 gallery, encouraged a crew of Montreal and Toronto designers to approach production flaws (such as welding marks, in the case of curator Sarah Yao-Rishea’s side table) as deliberate elements.

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Block 01
One of the best parts of the 2024 DesignTO Festival was this resin table featuring many clear tubular legs and a blocky tabletop.

Another prototype presented at Umbra and DesignTO’s Lucid Ideas exhibition, this side table by Polymetis uses clear acrylic to lighten chunky brutalist forms. Twenty-five cylindrical legs are arranged into a square lattice pattern that makes for beautifully rippled shadows.

A Beaver and an Octopus Walk Into a Design Fair…

During IDS Toronto and DesignTO, symbols of cultural identity mingled with more eccentric fare.

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