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by - Thursday, August 18, 2011

I have had a love affair with IKEA for the last 30 years. You would find IKEA in every home I've ever lived in... there was the yellow and white melamine bunk beds I shared with my sister; the big wooden desk with the arm-shaped work lamp clipped to it where I would sit and write my high school assignments; the gingham sofabed that moved with me from university rental to condo to first house; the picture frames hanging in Chloe's nursery. So to change my view of a brand I've known so intimately for so long takes some doing... but exhibitIKEA did just that.

HandyMan and I were at the launch last night of exhibitIKEA, a clever collection of IKEA-inspired work by artists Bruno Billio, George Whiteside, David Dixon, and Thrush Holmes. I've had the pleasure of working with Bruno, George, and David before in the PechaKucha Night events I run so I was familiar with their styles but they really blew me away with their takes on this global brand.

Photo courtesy of IKEA Canada

Mixing various arrangements of IKEA pots and vases, vintage notebook paper, and IKEA ODBY frames, George Whiteside created a fascinating gallery room. The Morandi Notes Series, influenced by the style of Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, was quite beautiful and ethereal. I'm usually a fan of more regular and symmetrical arrangements of frames but I was quite taken by this random display.

Thrush Holmes' rustic shack was a fun interpretation. Clad in IKEA boxes on the outside and sophisticated pieces inside (did you know IKEA carried cowhide rugs? I sure didn't!), it put the product in a new context. I loved how Thrush's original artwork played against the REIDAR chairs. 

Photo courtesy of IKEA Canada

Women's clothing designer David Dixon took IKEA's upholstery fabric in a new direction by using it to create a collection of simple and clean-lined garments. Beautiful models clad in these outfits were walking around at the launch, looking as stylish as the rest of the crowd. 

And it was quite the crowd. Toronto's design glitterati were out in full force - Tommy Smythe, Peter Fallico, Scott McGillivry, Kelly Deck, Suzanne Dimma, Tracy Moore, Margot Austin, folks from Designer Guys, Style Dept., Design Inc, CityLine - enough celebrities to make this design fan's head spin! 

Photo courtesy of IKEA Canada

Bruno Billio's installation induced even more head spinning! The stack of 60 black and white REIDAR chairs was quite arresting. Can you see how the weight of the entire structure was balanced on two feet of a single chair? Amazing. Placing a mirror beneath the chairs was a brilliant idea too.

And I don't think this bench was designed by the artists but it was pretty darn comfy and too cute not to show you.

I left the party with a tummy full of Swedish meatballs, a gift bag stuffed with IKEA goodies (Thanks @IKEACanada!) and a new appreciation for one of my favourite brands. If you want to see exhibitIKEA yourself, head on over as the show is open for one weekend only:

363 King St. W.
Aug.18th - 21st
Fri, Sat 10am-6pm
Sun 12pm-5pm

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