Omer Arbel Explores Vancouver His Way

Internationally renowned designer Omer Arbel burns, illuminates and drives his way around Vancouver.

Omer Arbel - Cory DawsonEvery so often Vancouver produces a superstar— like internationally renowned Vancouver designer Omer Arbel, touted by Wallpaper magazine in 2003 as one of the 15 designers of the future. His bubblelike cast glass pendant Bocci lights, just five years old, are already iconic, as much a design staple as a Noguchi coffee table or Eames chair. He has designed everything from furniture, interiors and electrical sockets (see below) to the 2010 Winter Olympic medals in collaboration with aboriginal artist Corrine Hunt. His numerous awards include the Canada Council’s Ron Thom Early Design Achievement Award, International Design Award and the Design Prize of the German Republic.

Omer Arbel’s 5 free, cheap or worth it things to see, do or buy in Vancouver

DISPLAY Japanese glass buoys, free if you can find them on the beach, are the most beautiful pieces of glassware one could ever have. There are so many different sizes and shapes. Cluster them around your space, the more the better. Small piles of them look great. No luck on the beach. Look for authentic vintage floats on eBay or at

ILLUMINATE “22” plugs and switches by yours truly for Bocci. They will make the ugly plastic cover plates associated with these items completely disappear, leaving your walls fresh and free of “visual noise.” A wonderful way to become involved in the minimalist project. Donald Judd did it—now you can too!

BURN wood furniture. Buy any piece of old furniture at a thrift store or antique shop.  The heavier the wood, and the more ornamental the detailing, the better. Take a blow torch and burn all visible surfaces until they start to charcoal, then finish with a matte clear-sprayed wood lacquer. An easy way to have a polemical piece of furniture. Tables work especially well.

REFINISH every available surface of a single room with plywood first, then staple canvas to every surface and paint with many different layers of white gesso. A wonderful wall finish alternative to drywall. Ann Demeulemeester will be proud! It works even better if the room only contains white objects.  If the objects are not white, paint them.

DRIVE a Figaro by Nissan. This amazing little car was built in the ’90s to look like a car from the ’50s. Very reasonably priced and imported from Japan. And sooooo cooooool. They start around $8,000 on Craigslist;  Japanoid in New Westminster often has them.

Photo: Cory Dawson

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