Meet Ashley Rumsey and Stanley Sun. Not only are they two of my besties from design school (we all attended Ryerson’s School of Interior Design together) but they are also the dynamic design duo behind Toronto’s hottest new design firm, MASON. The buzz surrounding MASON since its arrival on the Toronto design scene less than a year ago has been nothing short of remarkable, although not surprising considering the incredible talent and ingenuity of its creators.
MASON, named for Stan’s father and Ashley’s grandfather (who were both stonemasons), is a multidisciplinary firm that takes a holistic approach to design, blurring the lines between interiors, art and graphics. They focus not only on the interiors but on integrating all aspects of the brand into one clear, brilliantly designed message. Ashley and Stan enjoy working with local and independent retailers, and pride themselves on being distinctly Canadian.
MASON started with a bang by hosting the highly successful ‘Show Off @ the Junction’, an event that showcased this up and coming neighbourhood and its local retailers by pairing them up with Toronto artists and designers to create captivating window displays. ‘Show off’ was such a hit, it may become an annual neighbourhood-hopping event. Let’s cross our fingers for that one! Since then they have been popping up all over the place, being featured in the online OTMzine, grabbing the cover of NOW Magazine (Jan. 26th-Feb.1, 2012 issue) and most recently being showcased in the ‘How Do You Live’ exhibit at this years Interior Design Show. High fives guys!
A few words from MASON:
What an incredible first year you’ve had! What do you believe has contributed to your success?
Thanks! We really couldn’t have asked for more. I think our growth can be attributed to a great support system of friends, family and colleagues that believe in us, respect our approach and have been willing to lend a helping hand. Many of our opportunities have come through our personal and professional networks of friends and colleagues. We are continually grateful to those who believe in us (especially urbandweller!) and will continue to work hard to make the most of those opportunities.
MASON recently participated in the ‘How Do You Live’ exhibit at IDS. What was the concept behind the exhibit in general, and specifically your booth?
The exhibit invited 6 designers to create a conceptual living environment within the confines of a 20’ x 8’ shipping container. Each designer took on a different room in the house and was asked to comment on how one could live in that particular environment.
We wanted to create a space that really explored the question ‘How Do You Live?’. We tried to blur the lines between public and private spaces in the home by tackling the kitchen and the bathroom. Looking at the routines and tasks that take place in modern day kitchens and bathrooms, we found there are similar rituals that are seen within these two spaces, so we took on the task of creating a space that facilitates the functions of both!
The main feature is a 13 foot long oak table which is a vessel for running water that fulfills the needs of both eating and cleansing, and terminates as a cascading waterfall into a live garden, providing a continual flow and movement. In such a small space, we felt that less was more. We decided to use only two materials; wood and leather. By using these two materials in as many ways as possible, it added texture and contrast to the space without feeling too cluttered or over thought.
How would you describe your personal style?
Ashley – I am drawn to simple, clean and minimally styled interiors where interest and beauty come from unique, natural materials and clever detailing. Sometimes you don’t have to do too much to make a big statement. I don’t stray too far from a grey-white palette, and tend to add colour and texture through the use of natural materials like stone and wood.
Stan – I tend towards objects, materials and designs that are a bit rough around the edges. Things that have a history and can tell a story just by looking at its surface. I generally gravitate to neutral colour palettes as the texture of an object can be beautiful on its own without having colour to supplement it. I like to experiment with man-made materials and understand how technology can be incorporated into an interior design.
Any tips for homeowners on creating a space that reflects their personal style?
Stick to what you love. Too many times we see people trying to keep up with trends, or emulate magazines. The best spaces are those which are authentic to the personalities who inhabit them. Most importantly, objects in our home that you interact with and touch every day should bring you joy. Our philosophy is to get rid of the things that you don’t love so when you enter your home, you are surrounded by nothing but joy.
How would you describe the design scene here in Toronto, and how is it distinct from other cities?
Toronto is an international city and the design scene definitely reflects that. There are distinctive pockets that are a direct reflection of the designers that reside within them. It is an amazing experience to go from one end of the city to the other and see the quick progression of changes based on the area. We are proud to be based in Toronto because we are constantly inspired by all these unique design approaches. Our city is not restricted by one design aesthetic or method, but it is known for its eclectic and diverse nature.
What kinds of projects do you currently have on the go? Any exciting plans/projects coming up?
Recently, we helped out some fellow designers for the renovation of the new home of Gilda’s Club which just re-opened for its members this past fall. In the studio, we tend to work mostly on retail and restaurant environments. Currently, we have a café project in NYC, a jewellery shop in western Canada, and an exhibition space in Europe. We’re also looking forward to the planning of the next Show Off event, scheduled to be held at the end of the summer.