The Artful Table

Finding beauty in everyday life

Wabi sabi: The Japanese concept of finding beauty in all things, and in impermanence.

Form follows function: Architect Louis Sullivan’s words (1896) became a design mantra. (Actually, it was ‘form ever follows function’ — but that doesn’t scan.)

Whatever your doctrine, why not use beautiful things each day?

This collection of tools and objects of spectacular design and workmanship make the everyday rituals of making coffee, preparing food or setting the table all the more pleasurable.

Usefully gorgeous

Designer Geoffrey Lilge (and husband of one of our favourite cooks, Cindy Lazarenko) creates elegant boards from laminated solid walnut. The charcuterie boards can be found on several restaurant tables around town including Corso 32. The 2012 collection — designed, crafted and hand-finished in Edmonton — includes sensuous curved bowls, a stag cutting board and butcher block styles from $250. Geoff’s boards are sold in Hong Kong, New York City, at Williams Sonoma (in the USA stores, not the one here), Hillaby’s and 29 Armstrong. See the entire collection at

Art of the table

Zocalo’s limited edition art tables come in three styles suitable for all types of architecture and garden design: a contemporary look in homage to the artist Piet Mondrian; a classic Portuguese blue flower motif; and one, modeled after Italian majolica, called Circo Mediterranean sun. The tops and chairs, hand-made for Zocalo in a bright, hard-wearing, hand-painted ceramic with wrought iron bases, fold down for easy storage. Tables are 29 inches in diameter, ideal for breakfast or drinks. Tables $550, chairs $250 each. Set of table with two matching chairs, $1,000,

A knife, the most essential of tools

We couldn’t mention wabi sabi and not talk about Japanese knives. The Pan Tree Kitchen folks have the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Miyabi 8-inch Gyutoh on sale for the holidays (promo price $280). The blade is micro-carbide steel with a Masur birchwood handle. The knife is both beautiful and functional. Gift boxed too.

The necessity of coffee

Stovetop espresso makers are popular in European homes and this Danesco model takes the styling up several notches. Made in Italy of high quality 18/10 stainless steel, with a shiny chrome finish. Makes six cups of espresso and handles gas, electric and induction stovetops with ease, $70.

Beauty in the prosaic

The Emile Henry deep lasagna dish is made in France from high resistance ceramic in four glorious colours: olive, blue pavot, pepper and muscade. It’s a generous size, 16 x 11 inches and handles oven to table with ease. Comes with a gift box, a handy server and a very good recipe book. The recipes are far from prosaic — spinach and goat cheese with bacon and hazelnuts, chicken with mushrooms, or apricot and almond lasagna, $90.


Cast iron forever

Impermanence is a fine concept, but when it comes to cookware why not have something that will last generations? French-made Staub cast iron cookware is beautifully designed and manufactured — cast in a single-use sand mould, with large dimples on the underside of the covers. The dimples create a way for moisture to drip back into the food, essentially self-basting and keeping all the juicy goodness in the dish. Colours galore: black, grey, blue, basil, grenadine, cherry, lemon, aubergine. The five-quart, lidded casserole is on sale for $230 at Dansk.

“There is a variety of roasters and casseroles, but if I had to choose one, it would be the five quart,” says Stacia Nawrocki of Dansk. “I love it because it makes my favourite recipes for beef bourguignon, Hungarian goulash and lamb shanks taste exceptional. My husband Bill loves how easy it is to clean.”

Recipe: Stasia’s Hungarian Goulash with Spaetzle

Copper for cooks

All the good cooks use copper; Julia Child used copper. Why? It looks amazing, it’s so very French and it provides seamless heat with no hot spots. Bakers love thick, high-quality copper as egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are more stable. Mauviel, designed and manufactured in France, is considered top of the line and will truly last generations. Yes, it’s a bit of work to keep copper looking fabulous — consider polishing your pots a zen moment.

Mauviel Copper cookware, $165 and up,

Lead free crystal

By replacing the lead titanium and zirconium, Schott Zwiesel created the first lead-free crystal — so revolutionary they were able to patent it. The glasses resist chipping and scratching and do not break easily, yet are not heavy or clumsy in the hand. The ultra-modern shape of the Pure line suits the aromas and flavours of fruitier, new world wine styles. Bella Casa, $18/stem,

A trio of Italians

Three superb design and manufacturing companies clustered in the industrial heart of Italy near Milan creating usable art for the table.

Why here? According to Alberto Allessi, the Lake Orta Valley in the Italian Alps has a centuries-long tradition in metal and wood handicraft that survives, no, thrives, to this day.


When Guiseppe Sambonet registered the GS seal at the Turin Mint in 1856, he was carrying on a family tradition — his father before him had been a gold/silver smith. In 1938, Sambonet became the first European company to manufacture stainless steel flatware.

Sambonet’s design aesthetic is purely modern, timeless. Five piece cruet set: oil, vinegar, salt and pepper on a square tray, Hillaby’s $165.


Alberto Alessi has transformed how we view object design. His company Alessi works with over 500 individual designers such as Phillippe Starck.

“A true work of design must be able to move people, to convey feelings, to trigger memories, to surprise, to go against the grain.”

The Juicy Salif Citrus Juicer, conceived by Phillippe Starck in the mid 1980s, remains a modern design icon — affordable and highly functional art for your counter, Hillaby’s, $118.


Legnoart (art of wood) is a younger company dating from 1946, with two distinct product lines, beautifully crafted wood items and a trendier design collection called Spicy. Darcy Kaser from Call the Kettle Black chose the Spicy Collection steak knives in chrome, black, green and red; set of six, $110,

Find at Bella Casa, Call the Kettle Black, Dansk Gifts, Hillaby’s, The Pan Tree, Zocalo and other fine kitchen shops.