The CONTEXT DESIGN COLLECTION
Welcome to the website I have created to showcase objects I have acquired and collected over the past 50+ years. Every collector experiences a different arc of learning and discovery,
therefore each of these objects documents some aspect of my journey of curiosity and learning as a collector. Other items speak to a turning point or a shift in my interests often brought about by an individual or experience which in turn led to unexpected avenues of insight and understanding.
My collecting activities have always naturally fed my interests in people, places, history and design; enriching my life beyond anything I could have imagined. They also inevitably lead to friendships, and surprises and memories which continue to feed my passion daily while constantly continuing to evolve and change.
Although this collection may be a reflection of my interests , both past and present, it is not static, but rather a work in progress as I continue to buy and sell, broker, source and consult on a daily basis when ever possible.
Through this website I hope to expand my network of like minded collectors and enthusiasts, and to help enrich their experience and understanding in the process. I encourage you to ask how, where, why and I will do my best to provide direction, contacts and information to the best of my abilities.
Sincerely Brian Knapp
Vicar's Close Wells / Wells Cathedral
I began my interest in collecting early in life , during those heady days of new found Canadian cultural heritage slightly before Canada celebrated its centennial, when I accompanied my father to farm sales where we purchased country furnishing for our modest Scarborough home.
My interests grew exponentially when I was introduced to a business associate of my fathers who was himself the son of a rural auctioneer, who would be come my friend and mentor. David was happy to share his passion and the joys of restoring and living with painted Canadian country furnishings from what remained of a 19th Century blacksmith shop on his property. The constant ebb and flow of people, personalities and those in search of something different making the days fly by.
My education continued as I later began furnishing my new apartment and eventually by first home with armoires, harvest tables, wagon wheels lamps and an assortment of other decorative objects and furnishings which others found curios or interesting at best.
In the early 80's my parents and business associate had moved to Hong Kong where I joined them and with the financial support of my brother in law, I assembled a container of Chinese antiquities and exported a container of material to Toronto where I sold goods through a retail partnership on Queen Street East, and on weekends at the Harbourfront Antiques market.
I had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo with a History major, but also a healthy number of fine arts courses which included fine art History among others.
In the late 80's and early 90's I exhibited at the Cookstown Antiques Show, Cabin Fever, The Wimadosa Antiques Show, The OdessaShow and the weekly harbourfront market, a mainstay in the business at that time. I also provided moving and set up services for other dealer friends when I was not exhibiting.
As my collecting interest continued to expand and evolve,I began to search further afield to learn more about the material culture I had grown to love and seek. I began the process of exploring the dealers and collectors in Quebec and the maritimes, while eventually making my way south of the border where I quickly learned the availability of volume of material and scale of potential far exceeded my expectations, but proved to be a perfect classroom to explore and access a much larger resource of material and expertise.
Ardingly Antiques Fair / Modelling Sheppards Coat
My education and perspectives were constantly challenged with regular visits to a variety of shows and special events where dealers and collectors would assemble to buy sell trade and learn about the various categories and interests on an international scale. Although my love of Canadiana remained strong, my curiosity and thirst for knowledge brought me to appreciate several categories of collecting I would have previously shunned.
Almost 2 decades ago recognizing my life was about to change with the eminent passing of my life partner, with her help and the assistance of friends, I held a " House Sale" , where I offered the entire contents of my home which produced exceptional results and established new homes for many of my prized posessions.
The memories the following 30 years produced as a result of the many friends and experiences could and one day might fill a book, but after taking early retirement I opened a retail shop ( CONTEXT DESIGN ) in Toronto's design district which operated for 3 years servicing a number of Torontos designers while also sourcing, selling and renting to events, collectors and the ever growing film industry. The inventory of my store required regular buying trips to Europe and America, where I was able to source and import an eclectic mix of decorative furnishings and accessories under the appropriately phrased tag line " Medieval to Modern" where I offered just that.
Relaxing at an Outdoor Event
In recent years I have fulfilled the dream of owning a 500 year old stone cottage in the Cotswolds where ( Pre Covid) I live for several months each year, attending antique shows, fairs and shops while retooling my business plans for the future. My past experiences and expertise has provided me with an extensive list of business associates, restoration resources, shipping contacts, and a world on real life hands on know how.
Aside from hosting custom buying trips , I am able to accomodate guests and provide transportation and advice with regards to what is being sought, manage expectations and advise on the fly as to what is real, restored and worthy.
My passion for the hunt , the people, the history and the potential for acquiring and living with beauty and value is what i strive to achieve and share. If you are interested in any aspect of what you find on this website please reach out and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.
Courtyard House Blockley UK Canada Day
Selecting Blue & White on a Buying Trip in Hong Kong 1984