Another reason to like Ikea
Fell back in love with downtown Toronto yesterday, despite blistering heat, constant construction obtacles and footwear inappropriate for walking. It started with a stroll down a sun-soaked, slightly smelly Spadina to Richmond, where CB2, Crate and Barrel’s younger, hipper, cousin previewed some of the line-up that will appear in their first Canadian store, opening in November at the corner of Bathurst and Queen. The vibe is modern, with accessible pricing, and there’s a small curated “One of a Find” selection of pieces in limited runs from artisans and craftspeople around the globe. Lots of great stuff, which we’ll talk about closer to the opening. The one thing I wanted to walk away with was a galvanized steel indoor/outdoor coffee table. It would work perfectly with the French provincial loveseat I’m having finished in veneered lilac foil and lilac vinyl for use outdoors. (Quit rolling your eyes — it’s going to be beautiful!)
Then I walked over to 375 King West, where Ikea was showing off the results of having asked four Toronto artists/designers — Thrush Holmes, David Dixon, George Whiteside and Bruno Billio — to participate in an IKEA-inspired pop-up installation.
Walked in and saw Thrush Holmes' “shack”, (above) built out of Ikea boxes and tagged with neon lights (loved the plume of neon smoke coming from the chimney) and text. The tagging was carried indoors with words and phrases etched into benches and the bedframe. I would have liked to read them more closely, but my agoraphobia was acting up, exacerbated by a crush of Beautiful People™ who presumably wanted to do the same thing. It occurred to me the scribbles and scratches were like shortcuts to the patina of history that furniture acquires over time — the little knicks, the coffee rings, the dings, the dents and yes, the little notes that children are apt to add to walls and furniture before you fully civilize them. (I’d still like to know who wrote “booby” on the leather top of the secretary desk in my living room — there appears to be an unbreakable cone of silence around that one.)There was a strong rustic motif — a huge cowhide rug hung on one wall, and on others, a moose head and a set of antlers. Lots of rooms for books on shelves, and a small flask for those nights when your bedside reading requires liquid accompaniment. Definitely a room of one’s own.
When I went into the “dressing room” that housed the pieces that David Dixon designed using Ikea yard fabrics, I wanted to make like Daisy B in The Great Gatsby and throw myself on to one and start sobbing, “I’ve never (sob) seen such beautiful dresses”. They were — in a word — exquisite; beautifully cut and finely detailed, with a classic 60’s vibe – Jackie O meets an Air France stewardess. The tailoring was superb – knife-like edges on pocket flaps on a slim A-line dress, as were the details — the brim of a jaunty little cap, for example, was lined in what looked like gold light-weight basket-weave.
Dixon had also dressed a bevy of ridiculously lovely models, tall and elegant as poplar trees, garbed in mostly black, whites and greys. My faves were a restrained swing coat over a pencil skirt and a belted trench that fit to perfection. After my second look, I had switched from Daisy to Scarlet O’Hara mode and was ready to grab Dixon by the hand, along with the Ikea bed linen** that came in the swag bag and hiss, “I am too going to have a new dress out of these and you’re going to help me make it!’
Also loved the long bench covered in happy graphic materials and made fat with pillows in the same fabrics.
Sculptor Bruno Billio fulfilled a long-time ambition to stack Ikea chairs by creating two huge, arching columns of 400 black and white chairs that teetered on a slick mirrored surface. Billio, who says he’s attracted to “the connection between ancient architecture and contemporary IKEA, and how one reveals the other”, says the tower referenced the structural columns of Florence and Sienna. To me, it also evoked a reverse Tower of Babel, given that Ikea product is universally recognizable and hence, “translatable”. Of course, Billio probably wouldn’t want to know that I had thoughts of turning the stack on its side and using it as a garden sculpture (see lilac loveseat above).
Photographer George Whiteside took Italian painter Giorgio Morandi as his inspiration, creating a gallery-like, all-white room with prints in Ikea’s ODBY frames, hung floor to ceiling. The shots were of groupings of Ikea products, mostly vases and vessels, and printed on faded lined notebook pages. This is a room that has endless visual interest, but is — at the same time — preternaturally calm and restful.
My hat is off to Ikea for this exhibit; it’s fun, inventive, pretty, striking, thoughtful. We need more retailers to host such events, treating consumers less like cash-heavy lemmings and more like intelligent human beings looking for affordable inspiration. Get thee down there. But do it before the 21st, when the exhibit closes.
**By the way, I do like the bed linen, which is similar to a fabric I saw earlier this year by Pierre Frey, (below) in which the word peace — in every language in the world — is written over and over.