Funky junk

Turn­ing dis­cards into home decor

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Lauren Fer­ranti-Ballem

THE bea­gle has one of the best­de­vel­oped noses in the dog world. They’re tapped to sniff out nar­cotics, pheas­ants and now, it seems, in­te­rior de­sign trends. It was on one of their reg­u­lar walks that Olive the pup and her owner, artist Casey McG­lynn, un­cov­ered some un­likely fur­ni­ture pieces. McG­lynn was not win­dow shop­ping in his Junc­tion neigh­bour­hood in Toronto, but rather min­ing the tan­gled dis­cards along the rail­road tracks that run be­hind the home he shares with his part­ner, Jen.

In this pile of garbage that’s al­ways chang­ing, he found an eight-foot-long wooden bench (an old hockey dress­in­groom re­ject scratched with names and jer­sey num­bers) and an oddly shaped, un­cracked mir­ror. Both now sit in the din­ing room, and both are tagged with graf­fiti. You can tell it’s done by a good graf­fiti artist too, by the flow and qual­ity of the line, says McG­lynn, an oil-on-can­vas man whose art has a de­cid­edly graf­fiti-like look. He also ad­mits to oc­ca­sion­ally dab­bling in spray-can art. Both pieces have that raw, roughed-up look we love.

The cou­ple has un­wit­tingly found them­selves on the in­ex­pen­sive end of the ur­ban de­cay de­sign trend. This man­ner of re­cy­cling and re­pur­pos­ing doesn’t in­volve a good sand­ing, a slap of fresh paint or shiny new fix­tures — the beauty lies in all the rusted, dented, peel­ing and thread­bare de­tails.

We don’t bother restor­ing too many of our pieces — it’s a waste of time, says Paul Mercer, co-owner of Smash, a store-gallery in the Junc­tion that spe­cial­izes in in­dus­trial and ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage. Peo­ple want things that are banged up.

Much of Smash’s stock comes from fac­to­ries around On­tario that have been emp­tied of their work­ers but are lit­tered with fur­ni­ture in the mak­ing. Stools and work­benches seem to leave as quickly as they come in. We can’t keep up, he says. Their bases and wooden tops are so beau­ti­fully beaten up, they’re com­pelling.

In one cor­ner of the big Bar­ry­more Fur­ni­ture show­room in Toronto, where the util­ity pipes criss-cross the ceil­ing and the floor is re­fin­ished con­crete, its de­sign­ers will as­sem­ble an in­dus­trial chic gallery in March, com­plete with a hefty dolly ta­ble ($1,270) and tar­nished vin­tage desk lamp ($790). Items like th­ese were key to the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, when so many fac­to­ries were go­ing full-tilt, says Sandy Cal­la­han, Bar­ry­more’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor. The patina of age and their im­per­fec­tions con­nect us some­how to the past.

To be sure, the look has an edge to it; one that high-end paint pur­veyor Far­row & Ball has cap­tured in its Ur­ban De­cay pal­ette. The col­lec­tion of seven shades — from the brood­ing plum of Pelt to the acidic sting of Ar­senic — chan­nels high-fash­ion, street art and graf­fiti, says Joa Studholme, the com­pany’s in­ter­na­tional colour con­sul­tant. It’s very much re­lated to the credit crunch — peo­ple are em­bar­rassed by glitz right now, she says. This isn’t a look that’s pretty or en­tirely comfortable; it’s some­what op­pres­sive and there’s a hint of men­ace to it.

For those of us who don’t re­side in a cen­turies-old home or an in­dus­trial loft or who aren’t about to take a belt san­der to the walls, a sense of ur­ban drama and de­cay can be ap­plied with un­ex­pected colour and tex­ture, says Studholme, like lac­quered black trim or a shock­ing yel­low ceil­ing.

Or you can hang it. Toronto pho­tog­ra­pher Mathew Mer­rett shoots all sorts of bro­ken-down sub­jects: the net­work of pipes in aban­doned fac­to­ries, rusted-out cars in over­grown lots and empty cor­ri­dors where the paint is peel­ing off the walls like great, curl­ing fins.

But it’s not all about doom and dis­as­ter. Invit­ing ur­ban de­cay in­doors is also about play and hu­mour. Of­ten one or two el­e­ments can have the great­est im­pact, Cal­la­han says. And it can work just as well in a boho loft or a coun­try chic home.

Use Bar­ry­more’s fir-topped ta­ble ($2,390) in an ul­tra­mod­ern kitchen for a dose of rugged warmth, for in­stance, or shock the ceil­ing with Far­row & Ball’s Day room Yel­low and ex­tend the drama with a ro­coco chair and stained mir­ror. You can even bring a lit­tle street sass to the ta­ble, al­beit in a very re­fined way. To wit: Love­grove & Repucci’s Lon­don Delft $170 five-piece set is done in del­i­cate bone china and dec­o­rated — or de­faced, de­pend­ing on your point of view — with a spray of royal blue graf­fiti.

When it was done on can­vas in the ’80s, graf­fiti was shock­ing and was la­belled as low art, says Rafi Ghanaghou­nian, a pri­vate dealer in Toronto who sells the china. Ap­ply­ing it to everyday, us­able ob­jects ups their cool fac­tor.

The sprayed scrawl is turn­ing up on all sorts of func­tional pieces, from re­uphol­stered an­tique chairs to the shade on a $1,200 pen­dant lamp. What was once low art is now high irony. Would McG­lynn pur­chase it new when he can get it from his back­yard for free? No way, he says. Not as long as Olive is tak­ing me for walks.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.