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A Beaconsfield Village Loft Packed With Tchotchkes

At their west-end home office, the duo behind Sali Tabacchi have a way of mixing business with pleasure

By Mike Doherty
Photography by Lorne Bridgman

When graphic designers Melissa Agostino and Henry Tyminski search for inspiration, they don’t have to cast their eyes far. Their Beaconsfield Village loft, a mere 56 square metres in size, is packed with unusual collections, from metal road signs and wooden typesetting blocks to perpetual calendars and paint-by-number paintings – just about anything, in fact, that instructs, informs, and unexpectedly delights.

Above their workspace, which doubles as a dining room table, hangs the iconic Italian corner-store sign that gave their advertising and design firm, Sali Tabacchi, its name (they count among their clients Azure and this magazine). Not only do they admire the sign’s utilitarian look, but it also reflects the variety- store aesthetic of their work: “Sometimes our design can be crazy and colourful, and other times it’s very laid-back and black-and- white,” says Agostino.

Even their apartment resembles a store. Nearly every item on display has been creatively taken out of context: a church pew sits at the dining table; a vintage first-aid kit and a wooden dynamite box store knick- knacks and files; and a DIY metal shelving unit framed with a chalkboard – which they’ve dubbed Express Your Shelf – is both a focal point and a place to jot down erasable notes.

The couple expanded their quirky taste while living in Amsterdam and travelling around Europe to feed their obsession for found objets d’art. Among their prized possessions is a classroom poster demon- strating flower genetics (from Utrecht) and a vintage science set (Rotterdam). In St. Petersburg, they bought a perpetual calendar that looks like an oversized cigarette lighter – the first of 100-odd calendars they’ve amassed from around the world. They’re aiming for 365.

“Living in a small space and being a packrat is challenging,” admits Tyminski. “Sometimes you wonder what it would be like to be a minimalist – there should be a minimalist resort, or a cruise ship that has just white walls.” Likely, he’d still want to take home a souvenir, says Agostino. “Henry’s the first one to pick up a really tacky postcard or some cheesy statue. I’m a bit more on the pattern, colour, and illustrative side.”

Their interests mesh, though, when it comes to paint-by-numbers. Above the bed is an assortment of them, depicting baleful dogs and drab still lifes. Tyminski sees their banal charm as a lesson for designers in general: “I think sometimes we overcomplicate things.” The couple’s collecting habits also suggest, as the saying goes, small pleasures are best … especially if you have a lot of them.

Originally published in our Fall 2009 issue.


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