Saturday, May 23, 2009

Divine Inspiration - only 25 Bucks!

Finally made it out to have a look see at the Junior League of Toronto Showhouse 2009 yesterday. I was hesitant to mention it or write about it in my blog as it seemed unfair to criticize such a wonderful fundraising exhibit of Toronto's finest interior designers, but as I just can't keep opinions to myself, here goes.... For starters, allow me to say, the amount of time and effort that goes into a massive production of this nature is astounding. Kudos to all of the organizers and volunteers as they really do go above and beyond the call of duty to pull this off each time. The transformation of historic McLean House was a sight to behold. (there, that was pretty diplomatic, no?) Now to the actual designers. For those of you who have not been, it goes like this. Each designer is assigned a different room in the house. Depending whether you are one of Toronto's heavy hitters or more of a bench warmer, dictates which space you get to work on. The likes of Brian Gluckstein, Kimberly Seldon or Katherine Newman get the choicest spaces in the house to showcase their talents and the B-listers get the dregs. Hallways, basement bathrooms, cubby hole's turned meditation rooms, etc. Based on what I saw yesterday, this system is in place for good reason. It takes genuine talent to integrate a modern aesthetic with old world charm and these three really managed to succeed. There were a handful of other designers that impressed, but nothing compared to them. There were a few that were completely uninspired as well as some downright ghastly spaces that made you want to move away and onto the next one as quickly as possible. The third floor hall way - a case in point. I won't expand - you go and have a look for yourself, then we'll talk. It was unfortunate to notice the return of the 70's and 80's use of grey, putty, mauve, lavender and pink everywhere. As far as decorating trends go, I have always felt that to be one of the worst palettes thrust upon residential spaces - EVER! Somehow, Kimberly Seldon and Katherine Newman's master suite, living room and conservatory managed to make the colours seem fresh again. I am quite certain I won't be suggesting such a scheme to my clients any time soon, especially if they have already been down that road before. As in fashion, if you wore it the first time it was the all the rage, you're too old to make it work for you the second time round. Then there were the handful of designers who just backed up the truck and unloaded the antique furniture and called it a day. At least the dining room designer, Joseph Cheng was clever enough to add some modern lighting and accessories to punch it up and make it seem relevant. Then you have the "trying too hard" types that fail on every count in an effort to get noticed. They turn out rooms that are off balance, feature garish colour schemes, or are impractical and/or useless. Frankly, I think the only designer that truly succeeded in turning his space into a timeless masterpiece, was Brian Gluckstein. This man is genius. He transformed the Main Study into a space so inviting, yet so elegant, it was astonishing. The eye was immediately drawn to the bay window where he hung an exquisite Fortuny light fixture (pictured above). He added a wall of Chinese lacquered screening to tone down the room's original dark panelled walls and added a charming, feminine little plaster floral relief on the painted border between the ceiling and the walls. The furnishings were contemporary classic pieces in soft neutrals grouped to face the original fireplace that he freshened up with a new creamy ivory coloured onyx surround. Glam silver and crystal hits with the accessories and Voila! - perfection. I could go on and on telling you about all the details of all my favourite rooms, but I won't. Go have a look yourself. It is a pleasant outing - go have lunch afterward (get to the their little cafe early though, or they'll have run out of food) and support a worthy cause. Even the mud room will inspire.

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