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Montreal’s The Machine, And The Nature Of Art & Design


The Machine is a fascinating multidisciplinary firm situated in Montreal, Quebec.

What I love about them is their work sits on the fence between the worlds of art and design. Founder Joel Desmarais and project managers Marie France Paquette & Julian Perreault work with a variety of mediums and formats, including but not limited to furniture, architecture, and even graphic design.

Being able to execute different types of projects requires having a broad arsenal of skills and knowledge. Fortunately, many such skills are transferable, such as an eye for composition or colour, or a knowledge of materials. Any designer who understands the underlying principles of what makes a design or a form ‘work’ can apply that understanding to other things. For instance, any designer may view graphic design as a 2-dimensional sculpture, or create furniture with an understanding of how certain materials behave and function in architecture. The result can be fantastic, which is evident at The Machine. But first, to fully appreciate the ethos of this firm and its multifaceted talents, it’s useful to understand the nature of art & design.




Art is intrinsically, beautifully selfish. Art is the soulful culmination of an individual, and sometimes collaborative, which is a reflection of the artist’s own ideals or self-expression. Art is inherently subjective and soulful which comes from within to bring something new to the world. Of course, to be fair, there is art that is made with the intention to inspire others or communicate something. Although, I believe this is most often secondary to the primary ambition of the creator(s).



Every form of art is comprised of elements of design. Because of this, design could be called art in a metaphorical sense.

Our world is comprised of design – from the furniture we have to the technology we use, and even the buildings in which it all takes place. I believe design is user-focused, and humanity depends on design to make the things in our lives ergonomic, functional, convenient, and enjoyable.


Fusing Art & Design

It’s significant to note that although art and design like to flirt with each other, conceptually they’re two completely different schools of thought.

However, art and design are as similar as they are different. They share common principles of aesthetics such as composition, contrast, form, materiality, etc. Many principles are shared when creating art and design, and that is exactly where an opportunity for a marriage between the two arises.

This marriage is exceptionally dominant in the work of Machine. As both an artist as well as a craftsman myself, it inspires me greatly and brings me joy to be able to appreciate furniture with sculptural, and sometimes even graphic design elements – which brings me to the creations of The Machine.



Table Dimanche

As you can see in the image above, from a utilitarian perspective it’s a table with storage, but visually its form reads as sculpture.

Comprising a cylindrical storage rack ‘cut open’ diagonally, from which a single stem sprouts into a decorative circular shelf, the piece is a carefully curated geometry of circles and curves. It’s breathtaking.



I love when the practicality of furniture is elevated and becomes a functional sculpture.



Repose-Pieds Nocturne

Repose-Pieds Nocture, or ‘Night Footrest’ translated into English, is another beautiful example. This piece is comprised of a minimalist steel structure adorned with a curved surface of upholstery, upheld with foam padding.



The simple yet striking geometry not only offers an aesthetically pleasing form but also ergonomic function as a comfortable footrest. The surface curve has a dual purpose besides aesthetics, to comfortably fit the user’s legs.



Transat 2001

This beautiful chair looks as if it were designed by a seasoned graphic designer. With sharp lines and a bold form, the soft padded seating is suspended by a deliberate rigid frame.



Visually striking, the juxtaposition of the soft beige fabric seating contrasting with the stark black framework is highly reminiscent of geometric line art.


The Machine is an outstanding example of the potential for product quality and beauty when art and design share the same roof.  I invite you to explore the fantastic portfolio of The Machine.



Interested in seeing more Canadian custom furniture? Check out these Canadian Real Estate, Housing & articles:

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An Interview With Jeff Forrest, Toronto Designer & Founder Of STACKLAB


Photos courtesy of Machine.


Researched and Written by Mikhail Shchupak-Katsman, Undergraduate Environmental Design, OCAD University

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