Bringing a new look to Winnipeg

HutK’s Dane Kofoed breaks down modern design

Shelby Wagemakers

HutK sits at the corner of Princess Street, tucked neatly between the historic red-brick buildings of the Exchange District. It might seem a strange choice for an oasis of modern furniture design, but owner Dane Kofoed thinks otherwise.

“There’s enough opportunity on Princess that it can become another destination,” he says.

Kofoed believes the Exchange is changing, and that the rest of Winnipeg is running to catch up to it.

“Winnipeg is where every other city in Canada was 20 years ago,” he says, but he doesn’t mean it as a dig. While most of the nation battles a roiling economy, Winnipeg provides young entrepreneurs with a shot at a still largely untapped market.

Kofoed moved his family from Vancouver five years ago to set up shop in Winnipeg with his business partner, Tim Morris. Morris, a local boy, is himself a furniture designer.

The shop, which is immaculately laid out, features hand-selected modern design perennials, like Modernica fiberglass shell chairs, as well as innovative Canadian brands, like Bluedot and Benson.

Their process of selection is simple: ideally, each piece could stand on its own, Kofoed says with a laugh.

“We’re arrogant enough to think that [our] personal taste is enough.”

So far, it seems they’re right. The overall response to the store has been good.

While HutK has the advantage of being the only shop in town, Kofoed welcomes competition.

“It’s good for us as a fledgling business to be pioneering in this specific style, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple really good stores in town.”

Winnipeg, it would seem, is finally catching on to the predilection that the design world has long had for modern design.

“People love this furniture, but they don’t know who makes it,” Kofoed explains. “There is no brand name exposure in Winnipeg.”

So a general education is in order. If not for the brand names, or the status, why then has mainstream Winnipeg caught the mid-century modern design bug?

“There’s something in the concept or philosophy of it that makes it last,” Kofoed says.

Beginning in the late ‘40s, designers “took all the unnecessary aspects of furniture design … and they pared everything down to the essence of what it was.” The movement emphasized cheap materials and sturdy construction over ornate and elaborate embellishment.

And in looking around the showroom bathed in afternoon light, there is suddenly something romantic about the functionality and simplicity of those clean modern lines.

In an age of fast-paced consumerism, we, too, could stand to learn a little something about stripping it all away, and finding the beauty in bare necessities.

Published in Volume 67, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 5, 2012)

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