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Why this is glass designer Joel Berman’s favourite room

Before moving into his 2,000-square-foot Richmond, B.C., home 25 years ago, Winnipeg native Joel Berman tore down the walls and gutted the interior. His objective: turn the 1970s-era structure into a family home to be shared with wife Sandy and their two children. An internationally acclaimed glass designer (he's currently wrapping up his largest project to date at the Doha airport in Qatar), Berman wanted his residence to showcase handcrafted pieces. The living room's granite fireplace, cabinets and cast glass shelves, for instance, were made by his company's artisans. "The living room reflects my world," Berman says. "Living among the story of objects made by hand is a wonderful expression of the creative talent we have here in Canada."

The glass panel

"This is my raison d'être. It's the last spontaneous leaded-glass panel I made and I did it in 1986, I think. My beginning in glass art was through leaded, hand-blown glass like this."

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The leather sofa and chairs

"This is a Walter Knoll Switch sofa and chair set. I got them all from the Brayton showroom in Chicago during a renovation sale. I had my eye on this sofa for years; our Chicago showroom was in the Merchandise Mart, down the hall from Brayton. Every year, I asked them when Brayton was going to update their showroom because I wanted to get the pieces on sale. Luckily, they listened to me."

The glass ray guns

"These are by Vancouver artist Jeff Burnette, a local glass blower. His ray guns are collector items. I used to be an avid comic-book collector and the whimsical approach to 1950s/1960s ray guns was perfect for me."

The print

"The painting is a print by Vancouver artist Gordon Smith, who is 95 and still painting. He is one of my all-time heroes. His artwork is unbelievable and highly collected, not to mention expensive. My son, who knew how much I admire Gordon, gave me the print. Needless to say, it blew me away. The print depicts one of Gordon's winter scenes and it captures the Prairie snowfall to a tee. Peter Braune of New Leaf Editions on Granville Island prints all of Gordon's works. Peter is a fantastic print-maker."

The fireplace

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"The original fireplace was a homemade Heatilator framed in river rocks. When Sandy and I bought the house, it was the first thing to go. Eventually, we bought a granite fireplace that had been left unclaimed at a local marble and granite fabricator. We built the cabinets and shelves around the granite. The shelves are cast glass, which we made ourselves."

The owl

"This wood sculpture of a wise old owl with cities written all over the body is by Peter Kiss. My wife, Sandy, gave this to me as humorous comment on the fact I travel for work extensively."

The coffee table

"I made this. It was one of the first multilayer fused panels I attempted, around 1990. The piece is layered, fused and etched and was very experimental at the time. As a result, we were commissioned to make the arms of the Speaker's chair for the legislature in Yellowknife in addition to a series of cast-glass tables for the legislature buildings."

The glass bowl

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"This is a Venini glass bowl, circa 1950. It is one of my early glass inspirations. The glass design and technique always interested me growing up. In part, this piece is why I wanted to learn about glass art and glass making."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More


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