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Montreal siblings create uplifting designs

There is something symbiotic about sibling design teams - a common past, shared experience and fluid communication. So it's no wonder that Montrealers Thien and My Ta Trung are among the four sibling duos selected to create an IDS concept space this year.

Thien and his sister showed as part of Studio North their first year working together and they have had a soft spot for the show every since. But this year's show is just one of several exciting developments unfolding for both of their design businesses, Periphere and Domison.

For starters, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of Periphere, a high-end, contemporary-furniture line that is made entirely in Canada. In 2008, they launched Domison, a more affordable line complemented by a boutique on Montreal's Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

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Presently, they are in the final stages of opening up a Toronto location at the corner of King and Jarvis Streets. Designed by Montreal firm Blazysgérard, the space totals an impressive 3,500 square feet and, according to Thien, represents "quite a gesture."

Thien and My, 34 and 30 respectively, combined forces on a shaky design foundation (he has a marketing background, she studied industrial design). "When we began, we were working a lot on beginner instinct. We didn't necessarily need to understand who we were; we just would go and do it," Thien explains from Montreal. "And then as we moved on, what inspired us a lot were materials. Now, we're known for experimenting season after season."

In many ways, they seem to take the iconic forms and sculptural shapes of mid-century modern and push them into the 21st century. Lines are more aerodynamic, textures more high-tech.

"We're trying to [stay]really borderline futuristic," admits Thien, who reveals that their IDS concept will be a study of concrete cloth. The proprietary material originates in the United Kingdom, where it was first used for shelters. When the cement-infused fabric is hydrated, it becomes flexible enough to mould, making it especially appealing for design purposes. "It's quite raw and beautiful," Thien says, describing the architectural bench and "ribbon-like shapes" that will cover the display walls.

Their application will introduce a new interpretation - perhaps even softness - to a cold material. Which is exactly the point, says Thien. "We always try to achieve some sort of emotion. The whole idea of the space is very conceptual, so we want people to feel something. Is it weird or calming or rough? Usually we try to make the response positive. Some artists try to make people feel disgust, but we believe in the positive side, in designing something uplifting."

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