Un-Common Spaces
by Rollout for IDS18

Un-Common Spaces are five public rest areas that were conceived for the 2018 Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto by the firm Rollout. The challenge was to design five central common spaces throughout the fair, each honouring 2018’s theme, “Future Fantastic” on an extremely small budget.

The 5 ingredients: 1/together & alone, 2/more & less
The 5 ingredients: 1/together & alone, 2/more & less
3/plus & minus, 4/quiet & loud, 5/one & many

Rollout is a Toronto-based custom wallpaper design firm with plans to expand into space design. As a sponsor of the IDS, they were invited to design all five common seating areas at the show. Their goal was to use the spaces at IDS18 to showcase their creative abilities and disrupt perceptions. Arts & Labour helped activate Rollout’s creative process, provided strategic guidance and led a team to create one of the spaces.

Bubble Yam, one & many
Vantashack, quiet & loud
Hive Talk, alone & together
Forest of Humanity, more & less

The core creative strategy Arts & Labour helped develop for the five spaces was based on the idea that collaboration is essential; that contrasting, parallel points of view are needed to push the world forward. From this, we developed an intelligent constraint for each of the five creative teams to explore: One & Many, Open & Closed, Quiet & Loud, Alone & Together and Plus & Minus.


Arts & Labour led a design team in developing one of the public spaces. Part of the creative direction was to approach the rest areas as art installations, allowing each of the design teams to both thoughtfully address the strategy and embrace the tiny budget. We chose to explore the contrast of Plus & Minus, resulting in a space titled “Crate Canteen.”

Crate Canteen, plus & minus
Crate Canteen during the show

Crate Canteen was a space designed to juxtapose the omnipresent consumerism trade shows are put on to promote; the most expensive materials, the latest trends, the most sought-after colours, the greatest finishes, and everything new, new, new. But creativity and problem solving have nothing to do with any of these things. This led us to a concept for the most “no frills” public space possible using materials that can only be described as common.

One of the driving ideas behind the space was to use the tiny budget as part of the concept – to show that it was possible to have a fully functional and welcoming public seating space worthy of talk value, but without a single bell or whistle. Also, Crate Canteen’s location within the Interior Design Show required that it be the last area in the entire show to be installed and the first removed. So “quick and easy to assemble and dismantle” became a key design objective.

Over a period of a few weeks, we collected hundreds of free milk crates from a local grocery store and experimented with endless configurations. It was important to us as a team to push the envelope and reject traditional “table and chairs” type seating, and instead make the space comfortable and inviting non-traditionally with multiple seating and standing possibilities, both private and group oriented. Most of all, we wanted the space to be customizable for every type of person or group. The result was an imaginative, multi-functional public space with a fully functioning bar that served everything – but milk.

While the concept for Crate Canteen wasn’t “anti-consumerism”, its goal was to spark in those who experience it, the notion that glossy, sleek, expensive and new aren’t what’s needed to push the world forward. In fact, they can be crutches. The most interesting solution to a problem is often the simplest.