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Generation X author designs traditional Japanese furniture

Whether you have read him or even heard of him, you know his biggest contribution to the culture, the term (meme) Generation X. Perhaps you belong to it, in which case, Coupland, in a way, has named you. The words were part of the title of a novel he wrote more than twenty years ago (full title: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture). But Coupland, who lives in Vancouver, spent four years studying at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in that city long before he found fame as an author. In fact, the writing was originally intended to be a way to pay the bills while he established himself as a designer.

The Douglas Coupland collection as shown at the Toronto Interior Design Show. Traditional Japanese influences in a writer's daily tools—desk, lamp, bookcase.
The Douglas Coupland collection as shown at the Toronto Interior Design Show. Traditional Japanese influences in a writer’s daily tools—desk, lamp, bookcase.

A couple of weeks ago at the Toronto Interior Design Show (IDS13), Coupland unveiled a collection of “everything I use daily. These are pieces that will unleash creativity, dopamine, high style and timelessness into their user’s world.”

That’s promising a lot for a collection that includes, essentially, a suite of writers’ basic furniture. The collection, for a group called SwitzerCultCreative, consists of a desk, chair, a couple of lamps and bookshelves.

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White version of the Douglas Coupland escritoire. The leg bottoms are 24 carat gold leaf. Coupland says “you just put all your brain in there and you close it up at the end of the night.”

The collection shows a strong Japanese influence—the “Bento box” desk, the Ryoan-ji lamps, inspired by patterns from a Kyoto temple, Osaka bookshelves, so named for shelves Coupland saw in Osaka. This is not surprising, as Coupland spent time living in Japan, where he began his design studies before returning to Canada.

“When I went to art school in Hokkaido, I had to study several Japanese art forms: ikebana, rock arranging, calligraphy and sumi-e painting,” Coupland explained. “I think everybody should study these things. It makes you reframe the way you see the world. These seats are unexpectedly ergonomic and work whether you’re doing ink work, or blogging on a MacBook Pro.”

The escritoire is the centre piece of the small collection. It’s made of BC plywood, lacquered in red to match a Bento box he had, with Italian hardware. The bottoms of the legs are covered in 24 carat gold leaf which, says Coupland with a chuckle, makes the piece “kind of expensive.”

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Ryoan-ji lamp. Coupland says he was bowled over by the colour and pattern in a Kyoto temple in Japan and based his design on that.

Judging by Coupland’s remarks at the launch of the new line, the simple, traditional look of the pieces could be a subconscious attempt to hold on in a world that changes faster than we can comprehend. He speaks and writes in a McLuhanesque style peppered with one-sentence observations that may or may not relate to one another. Said Coupland, “The whole notion of intelligence, the whole notion of relevance or necessity or obsolescence is changing by the hour practically . . . I can see it happening, I can feel it in real time, but I think that for the younger people, it’s not change; it’s just the real world . . . The ultimate delineator from one generation to the next is the assumption that the Internet is the real world.”

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