Peter Cooli­can, wood

Poet of Wood

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Peter Cooli­can stands on the footrest of his Palmer­ston stool, the full weight of his body bear­ing down on the seem­ingly dainty spin­dle. “Peo­ple are al­ways like, ‘My kids will de­stroy that,’” he says. “But these things are bul­let­proof.” We’re at the Cooli­can & Com­pany re­tail space, a pris­tine splash of white in an other­wise in­dus­trial ware­house on Ster­ling Road. On the other side of the wall is a com­mu­nal work­shop, where he has been as­sem­bling Wind­sor-style chairs for Kit and Ace’s Oakville lo­ca­tion. To keep prices down, Cooli­can sells his Shaker and mid­cen­tury–in­spired fur­ni­ture on­line, but af­ter his de­but at last year’s In­te­rior De­sign Show, he de­cided to open this show­room so that cus­tomers could get a feel for his quiet crafts­man­ship.

The Mor­ris­burg, On­tario, na­tive had al­ways loved mid-cen­tury mod­ern (his grand­par­ents’ Big Rideau Lake cot­tage was filled with the clas­sics), but a third-year civic ar­chi­tec­ture course sparked a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of it. Af­ter univer­sity, he delved into wood­work­ing and dis­cov­ered the ex­pres­sively or­ganic – and lim­ited edi­tion – work of Ge­orge Nakashima, Whar­ton Esh­er­ick and Tage Frid. Then came a turn­ing point: Rideau Hall came across his lov­ingly de­tailed wooden boxes and com­mis­sioned a set of side ta­bles. He thought, “I have this op­por­tu­nity: Am I go­ing to do this for a liv­ing?” Cooli­can moved to Toronto and opened his stu­dio in 2012.

His pieces – in­clud­ing the Palmer­ston stool with its round-edged seat, and the Rusholme cof­fee ta­ble, which sports a dowel stor­age rack un­der its top – may evoke a Shaker-es­que min­i­mal­ism, but they’re un­de­ni­ably dy­namic. Spin­dle legs and del­i­cately turned footrests cre­ate an in­trigu­ing in­ter­play be­tween shape and void. His lat­est is the Madi­son chair, which fea­tures a black-oak fin­ish (achieved us­ing vine­gar, steel wool and el­bow grease) and a Dan­ish-cord seat de­signed by lo­cal weaver Donna Kim. Ev­ery­thing is hand­made from lo­cal woods – maple, wal­nut and oak – and in small batches at a mod­est wood shop nearby, be­fore be­ing as­sem­bled and fin­ished in-house with a sharp eye to de­tail. His wedged-through-tenon join­ery is now a per­sonal hall­mark. “It’s about fig­ur­ing how to rep­re­sent some­thing hon­estly – where the con­struc­tion is ex­posed and vis­i­ble – with­out be­ing showy or in your face. It adds a de­tail with­out be­ing su­per­flu­ous.” COOLICANAN­DCOMPANY.COM

VISIT COOLI­CAN At the In­te­rior De­sign show, JAN 21 to 24, At the Metro TORONTO CON­VEN­TION Cen­tre (255 FRONT st w).

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