A veritable who’s who list of Toronto’s top designers have lent their creative efforts to making next month’s Chair Affair gala the most successful signature fundraising event yet for Etobicoke’s Furniture Bank.
CBC’s Steven and Chris, Heidi Richter and Paul Lafrance of HGTV’s Decked Out, Alex Chapman, Kelly Cray and Neil Jonsohn of UNION31, and Jessica Helps and Jeff Schnitter of Seven Haus Design, are among the list of 22 designers who donated their talents and time to create “unique and extraordinary works of art” from ordinary, donated chairs from Furniture Bank’s Horner and Evans avenues area warehouse.
And what those designers have come back with, said Furniture Bank’s executive director Susanna Kislenko, has been mindblowing.
“Every single chair we’re getting is of the highest quality – we’re blown away, just blown away,” she said, noting each of the chairs has been re-imagined and redesigned to reflect the individual designers’ interpretations of this year’s Chair Affair theme, Vibrant Toronto. “The designers really stepped up – the detail is there, the craftsmanship is there, and the design itself is there, too. We’re really, really happy.”
Now that the chairs are all completed, they’re ready to be auctioned off at this year’s Third Annual Chair Affair, sponsored by Streetcar Developments and hosted by Global Toronto’s Susan Hay at the Palais Royale on Nov. 1 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The top 10 chairs will be available for bidding by live auction, while the rest – along with more than 40 ‘chair experiences’ ranging from concert seats, to sittings with Toronto’s top hair stylists – will be auctioned off during the event’s silent auction.
Tickets to this year’s Chair Affair are available at http://chairaffair2012.eventbrite.ca for $150 each until Nov. 1; groups of eight or more can take advantage of the group rate of $125 a ticket. Tickets include two drinks, a chance to win a door prize (from Porter Airlines valued at $2,500, VIA Rail valued at $750, or Royal York Hotel valued at $700), a menu prepared by Chef Stefan Howard, and complimentary parking.
All proceeds from this year’s Chair Affair, said Kislenko, go towards Furniture Bank’s mandate of providing free, gently used furniture and donated household items to immigrant and refugee newcomers to Canada, to women coming out of abusive situations, and to the formerly homeless trying to establish homes of their own.
Founded in 1998, Furniture Bank has helped furnish the homes of more than 40,000 such clients over the last 14 years.
Eleanor Adam, who is co-chairing this year’s Chair Affair alongside Moriah Bacus, said she knew within three minutes of stepping into Furniture Bank’s old warehouse in Parkdale three years ago that it was an organization she wanted to volunteer with.
On that day, one of the client families Adam witnessed perusing the Furniture Bank warehouse included a quiet little boy with “big, dark eyes” looking longingly at a coveted desk. His parents – who were busy picking out the family’s new beds, kitchen table, couch and other basic furniture – didn’t notice their son staring at the desk, but the volunteer helping to guide the family through their choices did, recalled Adam.
“The volunteer picked up on it and she asked him ‘would you like that desk?’ He never said anything, he just nodded his head, but you could tell from his face that he was just over the moon to think that he was going to get his own desk and he was so proud when they put his name on it,” she said. “That touched my heart, and I decided then and there that this was a great organization to work for.”
Last year alone, Furniture Bank helped outfit more than 5,000 people with proper furniture – 1,600 of whom were kids.
It’s because of that good work that Toronto design house UNION31 has lent its assistance to Furniture Bank for years – first by donating a truckful of furniture to the organization, then by getting involved with the Chair Affair.
Each year for the last three, designers from the firm have participated in the Chair Affair by both redesigning chairs for auction during the annual event, and by purchasing chairs by some of the other participating designers, said UNION31’s marketing coordinator Laura Martins.
This year, she added, they’ve stepped up their efforts even more – with designers Chapman, Cray and Jonsohn designing not one, but two chairs between them, and also volunteering to help with Chair Affair’s marketing and promotion.
“We’ve seen that Chair Affair hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure and we know that this is an event that’s worth covering so we wanted to help,” Martins said. “Little charities like Furniture Bank often get forgotten, but we know how important the work they do is…it’s fantastic the work Furniture Bank does.”