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2004-2006: The First Growth Spurt

Looking back on the stores, designers and trends that made the news during a few of our earliest years as a publication

By Tory Healy

Fifteen years ago, our sister magazine Azure identified a growing appetite in Toronto for the sort of furniture it featured on its glossy pages. Our publisher regularly fielded queries, and not just from aficionados. Designlines was launched in 2001 to answer those questions. This is part two of our retrospective. For more trips down memory lane, check out parts onethreefour and five.

2004: Full Steam Ahead


i.  ii.  iii. 

Flipping through the two issues produced this year reveals a city on the move. And if you flip them real fast, you can almost feel the pace of development in 2004 quickening. Designlines had ads for condos, a review of a contemporary example of big-name-builds – i.e. Will Alsop’s colourful tabletop at the newly named OCADU [i.] – and a profile of 3rd Uncle, the architects behind the, then contentious, Drake Hotel [ii.]. Who would have guessed how soon more starchitecture would follow (Foster in 2006, Libeskind in 2007, Gehry in 2008, to name but a few) and the speedy gentrification of West Queen West [iii.]. And look how Drake’s grown: the stores, the swish restaurant in the Financial District, the Prince Edward County destination, the dance moves 😉 .

Yes, Toronto was a design city and we were digging up fine examples of it everywhere. It was then that we started examining restaurants, spas and even spectacle shops closer. I think of 2004 as base camp and that it was then that it became pretty clear there was plenty up ahead to explore.

2005: Ch-ch-changes


 i.  ii.  iii. 

Growth spurt alert. From wallet-sized, Designlines inches up to digest format [i.]. Print was king back then and we were thick. Our retail-distribution partners remarked on seeing their shoppers pulling copies out from bags and coat pockets. We often saw them shelved on dashboards. Readers were taking our fat, resourceful issues shopping with them!

Back then the majority of the book was still given over to store listings and where best to shop in Toronto but with the format change came new content components. We now had the space for product round-ups [ii.], explorations of unexpected places – like eyewear shops, spas, tattoo parlours, hotels – for design ideas, and up-close examinations of residential interiors.

As we’re currently working on what is Designlines’ most shelter-y issue ever, it’s fun to look back at our very first home feature. A bit of a coup really – we were invited inside the home of architect John Shnier [iii.]. The co-principle of Kohn Shnier had just renovated his condo, making it highly functional with a design that was subtle and succinct. We’ve kept up with Kohn Shnier over the years, always marvelling at the studio’s ingenious organization as well as its quiet – and sometimes not so quiet – detailing. See for yourself, here and here.

2006: Bright Lights, Big City


i.  ii.  iii.

This year, Catherine Osborne – now editor of Azure – takes the helm and brings on photographer Lorne Bridgman to capture what’s really becoming an embarrassment of riches: Toronto is crowded with creative design talents in a variety of disciplines. We feature artist-hotelier Christina Zeidler, poster designers-“identity thinker-uppers” Doublenaut, painter-moose enthusiast Charles Pachter, and cafe owner-furniture kingpin Robert Sidi. This wide range of profiles reflects our quest to cover great design in its many iterations.

And its this year that we dig deeper into a few of the topics the design and architecture community was quite keen on. There’s the overwhelming love of all things made from reclaimed wood [i.], and the boom that is the condo development (the sales centre of Philippe Starck’s Seventy5 Portland was just opening). We were also fascinated by the idea of designer collaborations (do you remember Vest Collective [i.]? Jonathan Sabine, now of MSDS, was a member), and the employment of digital technology in architecture. This was a sensation world-wide and local architects Betsy and Shane Williamson [ii.] (now co-principles of WilliamsonChong) were early adapters, fabricating wavy drawer fronts and doors from algorithms and solid hardwood. Ten years on we continue to watch the experimental ways of our local designers, and the surge of condos, too.

Check back in the coming weeks as we publish retrospective posts looking back on the best design stories from the past 15 years. Don’t forget to share your Toronto design memories – old and new – with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Cheers!

Categories: News

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