#078 / 2007

ODI options

Until quite recently, the contemporary furniture consumer had two options (in simple terms) - purchase off-the-floor or haute couture. Economies of scale made mass-produced furniture less expensive, but design options were limited. Custom-made furniture was unrestricted in design but came at a considerably higher premium for a comparable item.

Today, North America imports the majority of its wooden domestic furniture from low-wage Asian countries. To compete Canadian and American furniture manufacturers have adopted "just-in-time" production techniques from the auto industry. This allows the customer to choose from a range of finishes, fabrics, wood species and size modules, and delivery time can be as short as two weeks.


Black walnut drawer dresser designed by Grant Wyllychuk.

As a small-scale producer of contemporary custom furniture, Grant Wyllychuk, co-owner and principle designer of Vancouver's Ornamentum Furniture Ltd., has remained competitive in this rapidly evolving marketplace by being innovative.

In 2000, he applied for and was awarded Forest Sustainability Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certification. When eco-conscious architects purchase FSC-approved furniture from Ornamentum they can claim LEED points for their building projects. He has encouraged local furniture designers to work cooperatively by establishing the Ornamentum Design Incubator (ODI), which held its first group show in 2004.

Now, Wyllychuk is about to embark on his most ambitious project, as he and business partner Jeff Hunt open ODI Gallery at 883 Hamilton Street on the edge of trendy Yaletown in downtown Vancouver. Here, Wyllychuk's forward-thinking strategies have come together to provide "personalized" service, high-quality products and on-time delivery to meet discerning customers' unique needs.


Screenshots of typical customization images using Google Sketchup.

This approach includes his use of computer-generated images to help clients develop custom designs or visualize their furniture needs in room settings. With CNC technology, Wyllychuk produces panels (to form parts of beds or cabinets) that incorporate the designs of First Nations artist Corrine Hunt. A small, engraved metal Ornamentum logo and the signature of the cabinetmaker inset on an inside surface identifies the uniqueness of that piece of furniture.

ODI's location in Yaletown, where space is at a premium (some loft apartments ring in at $700 per sq.ft. or more), reflects another of Wyllychuk's marketing strategies. All the furniture on display demonstrates how to make the best use of Vancouver's expensive living space. "My free-standing furniture is finished to the same high standards front and back; therefore, a wardrobe, shelving system or cabinet can do triple duty as storage, room division and aesthetic centrepiece," he explained to furniturelink.


Black walnut and maple bedframe designed by Thomas Winkler.

Complementing Wyllychuk's own dressers, table and wardrobe, other contempoary furniture pieces on display for the official opening on March 15, 2007, include a dining set designed by Victor Chan and bedframes designed by Bradely Overbye and Thomas Winkler. Furniture by different designers will be featured on a regular basis, as will ceramic and sculpture pieces by local artists.

True to the spirit of the incubator concept, Wyllycuck welcomes submissions of work for display at the gallery. He wants to promote Canadian furniture design professionals and recent graduates with portolios of innovative products that are consistent with the gallery's aesthetics and purpose.

Entrepreneurs like Wyllychuk and entreprises like the ODI Gallery, providing design options beyond those of the traditional retailer or furniture producer, deserve the support of the consumer and design community.

update: ODI Gallery has ceased operation.

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© furniturelink 2007 (text and images)