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Our Crazy-Comprehensive Guide to DesignTO 2019

Luvere Studio's living light installation.

Design Week is back! These are some of our top picks for the Interior Design Show (Jan 17-20) and the DesignTO 2019 festival (Jan 18-27). Stay tuned for more coverage – including our annual DL Loves tags – awarded all week to everything we loved

By Sara Cunningham

DesignTO (formerly the Toronto Design Offsite Festival) returns ( 2019) with over 100 exhibitions, window displays, and back-to-back soirées. More than enough to get you through the darkest days of winter. Follow along on DL’s Instagram as we hand out our Loves tags to our favourite things. At the end of the week, we’ll publish a crazy-long list of all the designy stuff we loved. Share your best moments with us by using the hashtag #dlloves2019 and we’ll repost your snaps!

Now, back to the festivities. Kick off your week at IDS in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where award-winning Shanghai design firm Neri&Hu are the guests of honour. This is also where 300+ established manufacturers – and a substantial number of young studios – unveil new home furnishings in Instagrammable booths. Small batch Canadian makers get their share of the spotlight, too, at the Studio North & Prototype marketplace. And did we mention team DL will be at IDS? Well, come say, “hey” at our COFO-designed kiosk.

Studio Rat brings grown-up bouncy castle vibes to 2019 DesignTO's festival launch party.
Studio Rat brings grown-up bouncy castle vibes to 2019 DesignTO’s festival launch party.

After that, run to see Studio Rat’s translucent pink inflatable installations (think grown-up bouncy castles) at DesignTO’s always-fun festival launch party in the historic – and sublimely pink – St. Lawrence Hall. The Gladstone Hotel’s annual group exhibition / fete Come Up to My Room, which transforms the historic building, room by room, into site-specific immersive installations is unmissable.

Luvere Studio's living light installation.
Luvere Studio’s living light installation.

More wonder awaits you in the King East Design District (KEDD for short) this year, with showrooms hosting a star-filled exhibition crawl. Look for Luvere Studio’s living light sculpture (pictured above) at Bulthaup, and then catch a talk by millennial-approved interior designer Tiffany Pratt at Relative Space.

OCAD U's Dori Tunstall is leading a bus tour around Toronto as part of DesignTO.
OCAD U’s Dori Tunstall is leading a bus tour around Toronto as part of DesignTO.

For something equally fun, take a guided city bus tour with OCAD U’s Dean of Design Dori Tunstall or Toronto architecture critic Alex Bozikovic (who recently wrote about this picture-perfect Summerhill reno). Now would be a good time to firm up your itinerary with a fellow passenger.

Hangeraki by Dear Human from Work/Life 2017 at the Umbra Concept Store.
Hangeraki by Dear Human from Work/Life 2017 at the Umbra Concept Store.

For example, you and your bus-buddy could schedule time to cast a vote for your favourite prototype at the annual Work/Life competition at Umbra; visit Missed Fit, a new fashion exhibition by Junction tailor Philip Sparks; or an OCAD U exhibition of new objects by Black and Indigenous makers called One Who Protects a Sibling. And you won’t want to miss UK-based art collective Studio Swine’s talk on how synthesizing engineering and art could help tackle global water scarcity. Whew, told you there was tons to do – and we’re just getting started!

More Designy Events:

Event at DesignTO 2019

Elbow Room

In one of its vintage ads, Ikea used a desk lamp discarded at the side of the road to poke fun at our sentimental attachment to furniture. You’d have to be crazy to feel sorry for an inanimate object left out in the rain, right? Well, what if that object somehow resembled a human body–with joints, skin, hair? Check out this exhibition of furniture prototypes from 15 local makers to find out.

 Batay-Csorba Architects event at DesignTO 2019


Toronto’s Batay-Csorba Architects (BCA) are the champions of texture. Just look at these light-filtering brick duplexes in Parkdale. Now, they’re smashing (conceptually, at least) the glass curtain of condos and public buildings threatening to rob the city of its idiosyncrasies. In this explorative exhibition, they’re revisiting concrete as a way forward. Although the building material gets slammed as “brutalist” or “clunky,” BCA thinks it deserves another chance.

architect Marina Tabassum
Photo by Sounak Das.

Architecture of Impermanence with Marina Tabassum

Along with architectural tours of their Fumihiko Maki-designed building, the Aga Khan Museum will host a talk by award-winning architect Marina Tabassum, who lives and works in Bangladesh, the world’s largest delta. Here, the landscape is in constant flux. As the seasons change, she says, “you can’t distinguish between water and land.” And so impermanence is in Bangladeshi architecture’s DNA, informing every choice an architect makes. Like Toronto’s heritage structures, the city’s most common building material is red brick. Although, their applications couldn’t differ more.

Chairs by COFO design

COFO Design

Our editor raved about this debut collection ahead of its release, and the story made it into our top ten most popular articles of 2018. There will be three opportunities to see such pieces as the Roque chair (shown above) durning Design Week. First, at our COFO-designed IDS booth, where we’ll be handing out copies of our latest issue (and launching a very exciting contest). And then second and third, respectively, at the King East Sub-Zero and Wolf showroom and Area+001 on Ossington Ave.

Flat Pack Furniture

The Twentieth Century gave us microwaves, plastic cutlery and mass-produced flat pack furniture. Without the later, many of us might be living in empty apartments, never having experienced Allen Key-related wrist cramps. Luckily, we’re not living in that upside-down world. Instead, we get to go to this exhibition at Drechsel Studio to see a juried selection of flat pack prototypes from students enrolled at Ryerson‘s School of Interior Design. This is the place to preview the next wave of democratic furniture, shipping to a dorm room near you.

exhibition at Drechsel Studio for DesignTO 2019

DesignTO 2019 Talks: Uncovering Canadian Design

This panel discussion brings together a who’s who of Canadian design. Moderated by EQ3‘s creative director, Thom Fougere, the talk focuses on the process of making furniture and decor in Canada. Hear from Good Thing’s Jamie Wolfond and lighting studio ANONY (their lights are on our current cover) among others.

Taking Canadian Design to the World Stage

Our sister magazine, Azure, hosts a morning panel discussion at IDS featuring MSDS’s Jonathan Sabine and Jessica Nakanishi as well as Jamie Wolfond, Lukas Peet and Abraham Chan. It’s a breakfast event happening on Friday, and we promise it will serve up hard-earned insights on what it takes to build relationships internationally. The talk is free with price of admission; register here.

Visit DesignTO for the complete 2019 festival schedule. Also see our 2017 and 2018 crazy-comprehensive guides, when DesignTO was called the Toronto Offsite Design Festival. 

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