Expert Picks is a shortlist of 5 events, exhibitions, and/or window installations selected by experts in the community. The criteria for selection is entirely up to each expert, while considering caliber of the project, and appeal to a general public and specialist audience. This year’s experts include Alex Bozikovic (The Globe and Mail), Melanie Egan (Harbourfront Centre), Catherine Osborne (Azure), Andrew Sardone (The Globe and Mail), and Christy Thompson (Art Gallery of Ontario).

Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail

That Is Best Which Works Best
Function and then beauty: This is the essential formula of Shaker design. Seen through the eyes of Mjölk and talented designers including Thom Fougere, this ascetic tradition provides inspiration for fine making that aspires to its own sort of truth.

Blindfolded Walking Tour
Design is too often focused on the visual at the expense of our other senses. I’m curious to experience the city without seeing it — as some Torontonians do every day.

Designing for Inclusivity
Thinking about the experiences of different people in mind makes the city work better for all. These presenters show us how.

Resurfacing Taddle Creek
The smart landscape architects of North Design Office will draw our attention — with a handsome installation — to a buried piece of the city’s topography.

TO DO Tours: Regent Park
Rebuilding Regent Park is one of the biggest and thorniest projects in the past half-century of Toronto urbanism. Great architecture, particularly the Aquatic Centre included on this tour, is a part of the recipe.

Alex is also the moderator for City-Building by Design: The Business Case for an Innovative Toronto Cityscape.

Melanie Egan, Harbourfront Centre

I chose this five for their variety of interest to all who partake in the Festival. The casual passerby will be enchanted by Abacus perfectly designed for a window installation; Bright — New Work will show the ongoing evolution of the mighty design duo Tung and Turner; Imported from Detroit will engage the intrepid Toronto cyclists and bike aficionados; Ojibway Quillwork will bring to the festival an important voice and design perspective; and Designing for Inclusivity will respond to our city in real and practical ways.

Bright – New Work by Annie Tung & Brad Turner


Ojibway Quillwork

Designing for Inclusivity

Imported from Detroit: Featuring Detroit Bicycle Company

Catherine Osborne, Azure

Of my top five picks, three are unknowns to me. Nanoleaf I know well. Azure has been following the lighting studio ever since Christian, Gimmy, and Tom invented the world’s most energy efficient lightbulb while still engineering students at the University of Toronto. (The project earned them $250,000 on Kickstarter.) The other one I know well is Mjölk, among the most beautiful design stores in the world and located right here in the Junction. I’m a big fan of everything they do. My other choices are based purely on curiosity: What’s it like to walk around the city blindfolded? I love that Jonathan Silver, who has a MA in philosophy, is exploring alternative ways of thinking about design. The same goes with The Sniff Bar. Design is about objects, but smell is one of our most acute senses, so I’m signing up to find out more about olfactory design. And Michael Fohring sounds like my kind of guy: a curious mix of artist, designer and animal lover. His anthropomorphic reinterpretations of common objects look beautiful and bizarre — just the sort of things I’d want to take home.

Blindfolded Walking Tour

The Sniff Bar

Pet Furniture

Nanoleaf Aurora

That Is Best Which Works Best

Andrew Sardone, The Globe and Mail

Dressing Room

I live out in the Junction and I’m grateful that the festival pays so much attention to the neighbourhood with its programming. One of the area’s best shops, Gerhard, is hosting an exhibition by furniture maker Heidi Earnshaw and men’s-wear label 18 Waits, which will include a special line of clothing created in collaboration with the store. It’s interesting to see a few fashion-focused events on the calendar this year — a sign, perhaps, that apparel designers are exceedingly keen to explore sustainable, small-batch manufacturing.


The Brothers Dressler were probably the first contemporary Toronto furniture designer-makers I paid attention to when I first started reporting on local design for NOW Magazine over a decade ago. Now that I have a more international beat at The Globe and Mail, it’s interesting to see how their way of working — especially maximizing the use of off-cut materials — is being adopted by global brands. Any time they open up their studio, it’s fun to sneak a peek at what they have in the works.

If you build it…

This pick is, admittedly, a bit self-serving since the moderator of the ‘If you build it…’ talk is my Globe and Mail colleague Nathalie Atkinson and one of its panelists is my husband, Philip Sparks. Nonetheless, the topic of how craft feeds creativity is an important discussion for the design community to have right now. And with the addition of Alexandre Fida and Lubo Brezina, there’s no better group to watch geek out about how things are made.


Out of all the teaser images on the TO DO site, the shot for the Abacus window installation at The Devil’s Workshop caught my eye. The piece by Jeff Goodman Studio combines warm metal with coloured glass, creating a look that feels equally contemporary and vintage.

Outside the Box

With Canada’s 150th birthday on the horizon, the Canadian cities participating in this year’s Outside the Box show (including Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver and Medicine Hat) will offer a timely crash course on our national design identity. Despite the spatial — and cultural — expanse of the country, Canadians are always curious to find common aesthetic threads in our work.

Christy Thompson, Art Gallery of Ontario

TO DO Tours: Regent Park, a Renewed Community

This cluster of community centre, aquatic centre, and the Daniels Spectrum is hands down a leader in the city. Smart architectural design, functional, and welcoming interiors…something we will all especially need during the winter. See how this is becoming an engaging hub for Regent Park, and a beacon for the City of Toronto by joining this special tour by CS&P Architects, Diamond Schmitt Architects, and MJMA.


These furniture designers are beloved west-end inhabitants, and one of the good reasons to head to the developing community of Sterling Road. The Brothers Dressler’s open studio is a great opportunity to experience how artistic ideas come into form with real-time demonstrations on everything wood.

That Is Best Which Works Best

A favourite shop in the Junction, Mjölk, will present an exhibition that presents an intersection between two designers, and a musician, with some Shaker furniture thrown in! As a gallery person myself, I am intrigued, and can’t wait to see what they come up with. And hey, their focus of use and necessity in our daily lives, is something perhaps we all need a little more of now…or is it a little less? This is sure to be another great bet for the west end.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

This exhibition by Costa Rican-born, Montreal-based artist, Juan Ortiz-Apuy, presents a visual contemplation between early Dutch fine art and current image making trends in the form of a large scale collages. I anticipate that ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ will take viewers into another world, while bringing us back down to earth to a familiarity of images we come across in our daily lives.

Surface, Seating, Storage

I love the practicality of this piece of furniture, and its flexibility to suit the needs of its owner. Whether perched beside a door to assist one taking off or getting on their boots to something children can use for board games and storage, it showcases adaptability with a contemporary take on traditional Canadiana — I keep seeing a beautifully crafted snowshoe. For me, I might lie down on it while taking in some great skin care products from Province Apothecary, the shop window where this beautiful design piece is showcased.


Image: Juan Ortiz-Apuy, courtesy of Gallery 44