With the start of each New Year, after the celebrations die down, resolutions dissolve, and cabin fever has us climbing the walls, to our rescue comes a slew of home and garden shows. This year the season started with the GTA Home Show at The International Centre in Mississauga.
I love the personalities that hit the stage, and opening this inaugural debut was a woman whom I’ve admired for years. In 2008, Cobi Ladner, Editor-in-Chief of Canadian House & Home Magazine, decided to leave her stylish post. Always warmly referred to as the “home” in “House & Home” Cobi did exactly that six years ago; she went home.
She didn’t have to leave the job she loved. “I allowed myself to come out,” Cobi explains in a private interview after her presentation. “I took my job at House & Home very seriously, being a place where Canadian design was allowed to show and shine and be its best. My job was to show off all the designers in Canada. It was a wonderful job, but I couldn’t show bias; it wasn’t what I was hired to do, it wasn’t my job.”
One of her last features was an extensive renovation of her own home. As vividly as I remember it, so does everyone else in the audience.
“I always am asked, ‘How do you attack your house – how do you do it – where did you get that, and how do you do this?’ I could never say, ‘Go here and then there’ – it’s not as direct a line as that. It’s hard to explain that I go to flea markets, pick things up during my travels, take my grandmother’s this and turn it into that; it’s usually a long and windy road…” and during the few months she took off after leaving the magazine, she loved figuring out what she wanted to do. She realized she wanted to create her own product line that feels exactly like that; it looks like you picked it up when travelling, and has that “fall in love” quality everyone looks for when decorating.
“I love the combination of things that come from other places, that arrive here and get mixed in; I love that!” ~Cobi Ladner
That was when Cobi took stock of her goals, invested in herself, and found her entrepreneurial spirit. CobiStyle.com came to life in 2009 in all its vivid fuchsia, magenta, tangerine, lemon, chartreuse and aqua living colours. Early blog posts saw Cobi’s new liberties with editorial features, speaking engagements, interviews and style commentaries. In 2010, Cobi found her writing voice with ClubCobi as she returned to design features. Then in early 2011, all the colour we saw online turned three dimensional in an explosion of home furnishings and accessories known as CobiStyle.
Cobi has always been obsessed with colour, even though she has never studied colour, “I just know it works for me.” Colour seems to have been stripped from home décor during the start of the 2000s with the beiging and then graying of homes. Sure there were accent walls with a single pop of tactically placed colour, but whatever happened to the pretty house? “I’ll be the poster girl for all who want a pretty house,” says Cobi enthusiastically.
And as individuality is at the heart of Cobi’s designing, it incorporates multiculturally inspired styles that not only influence her attire but her décor sense. CobiStyle has not only westernized the mosaic of its worldly offerings, but “Canadianized” them with a little injection of humour, as everything in her product line makes you smile.
My statement brings a smile to Cobi’s face and, as she internalizes, she realizes there may be some truth in my observation for, as Canadians, we always seem to go with the flow and find the humour in life. So why shouldn’t her decorating sense reflect this national characteristic?
“I hope people kind of get it,” as this is what inspires and excites her. She would love to design jewellery and Indian influenced tunics next, “I wear them and do wish they more readily came in my size,” as she shares her adventures of being a 6ft redhead walking into an Indian clothing store and asking if they have anything that would fit her. She loves the ethnic influence that is part of today’s cultural fabric as it brings a lot of colour. “I always wonder what people from hot countries think when they see our eastern seaboard colour palette. They must think, ‘Did it get washed out; what happened?’ I love the combination of things that come from other places, that arrive here and get mixed in; I love that!”
Cobi is excited as CobiStyle is about to go south into the US. But as details are being ironed out, she’s enjoying cocooning and hibernating like nobody’s business this winter, and has been knitting, shared in her latest post. Cobi was genuinely touched that I, in fact, read her blog. “It’s my Suduko,” as she likens the zone she gets into similar to those who play Suduko. “It’s like coming back to a novel where you want to return to see what the characters do. Knitting isn’t giving me a story, per se, but it’s giving me the same comfort,” and she explains how much fun she’s had gifting yarn and needles to friends and family and teaching them how to knit.
For the woman who can create any product she ever wants, I find the thought of her knitting amusing. She loves anything hand crafted and has baskets full of throws and embroidery throughout her home. This spirit is captured in her tag line “Collection of Beautiful Ideas” which evolved as an acronym from her name. Cobi gives credit where credit is due, adding that the idea came from party conversation by the husband of a good friend. He introduced the idea of Cobi meaning something, especially since the American population may not be familiar with the red-haired 6 foot tall Canadian with an infectious laugh and Geena Davis’ eyes and smile.
Once CobiStyle brings a smile to their homes, Americans will embrace Canada’s latest export.