2020 Holiday Gift Guide
The pandemic has foregrounded the importance—and necessity—of supporting local economies and communities. In that spirit, we’ve assembled a 2020 gift guide of items made by Canadian architects. (You might also like our companion gift guide of top books for design lovers).
Some of these objects are made as extensions of an architectural practice, others are a side-hustle. Still others are made by designers who have pivoted entirely from architecture into product design.
We hope you enjoy the round-up.
Architect-trained Mari Fujita and Michael Barton are behind the most handsome face masks we’ve seen. Each mask is hand-dyed, hand-printed, and hand-sewn in Vancouver. The original graphics including a black-on-black dot pattern perfect for matching an architect’s wardrobe. The masks are finished with satiny adjustable ear loops and an inner liner made of super-soft kimono fabric.
Modular trivet, $70
Charlottetown, PEI-based Nine Yards Studio has put its design skills—and CNC router—to use in creating a line of home accessories. Each month, the firm designs a new object to add to their catalog, and crafts a limited edition to sell. The modular trivet is milled from solid maple, with eight pieces that can be used as coasters or combined to form a single oval, with furrows inspired by the island’s freshly plowed fields.
The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation’s viewmasters are a delightful blast from the past. This one presents a slideshow of contemporary and archival photos of the modernist landmark designed by Gustavo da Roza and Number Ten Architectural group in 1971. Proceeds go to support local architectural advocacy and conservation efforts.
Deagan McDonald and Kelsey Nilsen met while completing their Masters of Architecture at the University of Toronto, and founded Origins shortly following graduation. They make furniture and architectural woodwork to-order, but you can get a taste of their handiwork in a selection of objects available for direct purchase, including this tray, made in white ash.
Architect-trained Andrea Mastrandrea is a third-generation baker, and his Italian heritage comes to full flower (or should we say, flour) in his bakery’s once-a-year panettone. Forno Cultura’s version of the sweet holiday cake is made with 100 percent remilled Italian semolina, dried Ontario peaches, and grappa-fortified raisins and orange peel. No delivery—you’ll have to venture to one of the bakery’s four Toronto stores to add one of these beauties to your holiday table.
For your walls
Beton Brut prints, starting at $200
Architect-trained Amanda Large is one half of Doublespace, the architectural photography firm she co-founded with partner Younes Bounhar. Their vertiginous Beton Brut series of elevator shaft photos is available in limited edition prints up to 30″ x 40″ in size. They’re also offering a series of pastoral images of contemporary cottages, with proceeds donated to COVID relief.
Toronto architect Charisma Panchapakesan, co-founder of CAB Architects, turned her hand sketches of Toronto homes into an Etsy store. For non-Torontonians, her stunning drawings also include an alphabet soup of animals in urban settings—from a monkey in Marrakesh to a peacock in Paris.
Natalie and Zain—designers and architects educated at MIT in Massachusetts and the University of Waterloo—are behind a line of sustainably sourced wood platters and accessories. Their Hung Up wall hook was designed to pair with their Serve it Up platters, but is also great as a purse or scarf hook. It’s available in cherry, maple, oak or walnut.
Paper Softblock modular room divider, from $250
If you’re short on walls, Molo’s line of modular room dividers has you covered. The company, founded by architects Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen, now also offers lights and seats made from their honeycomb textiles and paper.
A better bag
Totally Tote, $180
Vancouver architect Shirley Liu is the designer and maker of a minimalist line of bags, clothing, and accessories, sold under the label Bliue. Her ultra-soft lambskin tote is hand-stiched with a single pleat on one side, and comes in salmon or midnight blue.
Atelier YUL’s contemporary take on the traditional drawing tube can be carried rolled-up or flat. It’s handmade in Montreal from pebbled cowhide. The company began when its founder, architect Cece de la Montagne, needed an elegant way to carry oversized drawings. It now offers a range of bags—from mesh-fronted pencil cases to structured backpacks.
A structured line of silver rings is the signature collection in this minimalist jewelry portfolio. The rings are made using traditional hand-carved lost-wax casts, with painstaking precision, and evidence designer Becki Chan’s background in sculpture and architecture.
Q cufflinks, $300
Inspired by a blooming cherry blossom, these cufflinks were first made as a birthday gift from architect Hiroko Kobayashi to her partner, architect Neil Prakash. The couple sees their jewelry as mini architectural studies. “Each piece of jewelry is a miniature study in architectural balance: considering light, space and form to exacting standards,” they write.
For the very special architect in your life
Flotsam Particles, contact for pricing
LeuWebb projects, founded by architect-trained Christine Leu and Alan Webb, has created a limited edition of seven bronze miniatures of Ontario Place’s Cinesphere, designed by Eberhard Zeidler. The sculptures were made by taking casts of partially disintegrated artifacts that LeuWebb had placed on the beach at Ontario Place.
Architect-turned-artist Kira Varvanina’s latest work involves laser-cutting intricate, three-dimensional landscapes and combining them with silkscreened backdrops. The pieces on her website have been already sold, but she takes commissions. We can’t think of a better way to bring a landscape of personal significance into one’s home.
HAB chair, starting at $3,775
Designed by Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe and manufactured by Nienkämper, the HAB chair is made of veneered molded plywood, with a stainless steel back and legs. The chair was designed as a contemporary take on the Muskoka chair for a boathouse residence.
Developed by architecture-trained Jeff Forrest, this collection of benches, tables and chairs are made with Merino wool felt off-cuts from manufacturers in Toronto and upstate New York. An algorithm matches the categorized surplus felt to optimize its reuse in the furniture.