toronto design guide!
i've really enjoyed being able to add some reader generated, d*s edited city guides to the site. it's rare that i get to work with local experts and i find that their input is priceless when it comes to capturing the real feeling of an area. for the toronto design guide writers meaghan clark and waheeda harris put together a list of their favorite, must-visit shops in the toronto area. as always this will be a guide that grows and changes as we go along so feel free to leave suggestions below if you think we've missed one of your favorite toronto shops. thanks meaghan and waheeda!
LESLIEVILLE/QUEEN STREET EAST
Queen Street East has become Queen Street West so to speak, and is now where the cool kids go to shop, wander, eat and indulge. The area bordering Broadview Avenue at it’s western border and Woodbine Avenue in the east is home to vintage furnishing stores, antique haunts and junk shops, affordable eats with rising–star chefs, emerging fashion artists, with an occasional curiosity spot here and there. Included in this section are the galleries and studios on Carlaw Avenue, between Gerrard and Queen. Cruise this hood and look for new and almost daily posted signs for “coming soon” in abandoned shop windows or watch shopkeepers switch and swap spaces as their businesses grow.
Hardware: Rustic, hand and custom made dining tables from salvaged woods are a staple. The owners partner woods-y furniture with modern light fixtures and gorgeous accessories such as mercury glass, feathers, and woven baskets.
Pazo: Mid-century classics, modern contemporary and offbeat accessories make their way to this chic spot.
Handmade Cabinets: Custom made cabinetry with a refined, rustic look; also refurbish and restore.
Machine Age Modern: Another haunt for retro pieces and recognizable names like Eames, Knoll and more.
Ethel: Storefront window always features one or two unique pieces of mid- century superstar furniture; the store has nothing but.
Festoon: Recently moved to a bigger space down the street, a testament to their success; unique gifts, accessories, affordable reproductions and local artists represented.
Winkel: Prop buyer and store owner Kari Measham has a soft spot for the unusual and quirky; a haven for off the wall cards from Canadian artists, affordable accessories and custom lampshades too.
Eyespy: refurbished finds with an emphasis on teak; gifts and cards for young and old; oddities and cheeky accessories make it a must-see.
Zig Zag: the website says it all; modern finds for those who are more daring; check for latest inventory online as well
Uppity: fun and funky décor and antiques that are preserved, not necessarily restored.
Flik and Company: Twist to modern country; have sister store across the street Forest and Co, that offers more cottage-y finds.
Up To You: For the ultra hipster looking for that one of a kind, original and cutting edge gadget.
Green Tea Design: Asian inspired contemporary furniture, including kitchen units; ship anywhere in the world.
Dragon Heir: Antique and reproduction Asian furnishings and accessories; mandarin club for those who want to learn more about culture and language.
Eastern Front Gallery: member of the Toronto East End Gallery Association
Hang Man Gallery: gallery face of this association
Toronto Free Gallery: also a TEEGA member
Parts Gallery: my personal favorite in the hoodSix Shooter Records: part gallery, part indie rock store, part Canadian retail phenomenon
Edward Levesque’s Kitchen: thoughtful fare, local suppliers, fair prices.
Pulp Kitchen: great vegetarian menu, snacks to go; just don’t engage them in “politics of organic” conversations.
Pop Bistro: newer to the east end offering rural French bistro.
Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant: delicious, modern take on Italian cuisine and affordable too./p>
Kubo Radio: fusion Asian, worthwhile brunch and red velvet baby cakes!
Le Café Vert: giving Pulp Kitchen a run for their money
Tomi-kro: Asian flair, a la carte
Real Jerk: Caribbean flavors a mainstay in this hood
Bonjour Brioche: another staple but for breads and pastries
Altitude Bakery: known for amazing pies
It’s the Icing on the Cake: you name it, they’ll make it; outrageously detailed cakes for any occasion
Cajun Corner: all things Louisiana; small kitchen with daily specials
Leslieville Cheese Shop: artisan cheeses from home and around the world; classes and workshops held periodically
THE DISTILLERY DISTRICT
A slice of Europe in the downtown core, this recently refurbished neighborhood of galleries, fine restaurants, specialty shops and cutting edge design continues its renaissance with more shops, more residences to come. There’s talk of a boutique hotel, major music venue, community park and gardens in 2008.
DOM toronto: Exclusive rep for Valcucine, high-end Italian kitchens; great for ogling
Fluid Living: contemporary Canadian furnishings, imported accessories, brand names
Found Objects: more contemporary furnishings, some Canadian faces, great gifts
Bergo Designs: contemporary, award-winning artisans in accessories, jewelry, and home décor
Akroyd Furniture: bespoke furniture from gorgeous woods, hand-crafted in studio.
Artifex: Canadian made products from furniture to ceramics to glass art
Sound Designs: home entertainment centre with latest technology and brands.
Fawn Ceramics and Gallery: beautiful tiles, ceramics, textiles; my favorite place of all.
Elizabeth Munro Design: gorgeous arrangements at reasonable prices
Blue Dot Gallery: contemporary pieces from local artists
Channel Gallery: affordable, Canadian art
Corkin Gallery: national and international, photo-based artists
Distill: different mediums all from emerging artists
Red Eye Studio Gallery: all local painters, variety of styles
Sandra Ainsley Gallery: major contemporary artists from around the world with all glass exhibits; worth seeing but don’t take kids!
Thompson Landry Gallery: strictly French Canadian artists; wide/wild variety of styles
Boilerhouse Restaurant: chop house with varied menu; best jazz brunch in the city;`contemporary Euro design, 22 ft wine rack, worth seeing.
Archeo: updated Italian food; innovative design, perfect hideaway patio.
Pure Spirits: Oyster bar and restaurant; huge selection of oysters, nice range menu.Mill Street Brew Pub: attached to the brewery; worthy artisan beers; upscale pub grub
Perigee: based on Japanese concept of Omakase (trust me); open dining layout; major splurge, but worth every penny.
Balzacs: in-house roasted coffees, great desserts, romantic setting
Soma: the place to worship chocolate; Mayan hot chocolate is best in town.
Brick Street Bakery: British style bakery with pot pies, interesting sandwiches, daily stews and specials, gorgeous pastries.
401 RICHMOND BUILDINGAs the name suggests, this meticulously maintained former warehouse is located on Richmond St West, in the fashion district. Home to a wide variety of artists, galleries, indie media companies, theatre companies, collectives and more, the 401 is an absolute buzz of creative activity. Regular tours, sample sales, shows and gallery openings, mean it should be on every Torontonian’s radar. Take a break and sip a tea on the green roof with its fantastic view of the downtown skyline. www.401richmond.net
PORTUGESE VILLAGE/QUEEN WEST
A small strip in the heart of the Portugese area of the city, Portugal Village’s street cred has lured many galleries, restaurants and artists to the pre-war buildings and unique mix of grad students and locals who want family-owned groceries and bakeries and the city’s design secrets.
Made: source for up and coming furniture, lighting and home accessories
Cindiloowhoo & Jaiden Flowers: country-style antiques and unique ephemera while Jaiden displays simply arranged fresh flowers, oversized glass vases and vintage accessories
Virginia Johnson: textile designer influenced by Mother Nature’s shapes and bright colours
C1 Art Space: gallery, shop, studios and classes
Get Real!: veggie friendly cafe
The Dakota Tavern: country, bluegrass and folk music nightly and bluegrass brunch every Sunday
The Sparrow: casual brunch & dinner spot/lounge w/dj on weekends
Sweaty Betty’s: friendly wee bar w/backyard patio & occasional writers’ rant afternoons
QUEEN STREET WEST/TRINITY BELLWOODS
Queen Street is a major shopping area of the city, but changes its spots – from Yonge to Spadina, the combination of government, high culture and brand name high street shops have pushed galleries and independent retailers farther west. Textile shops dominate the strip on the edge of the Fashion District, but it’s beyond Bathurst where design gets interesting. Galleries, designers and vintage shops have staked their claim in the Trinity Bellwoods area, named for the enormous park which is a restful spot after shopping and a dog’s delight for meeting other four-legged friends.
Leigh & James: A combination of new furniture and antiques from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, designers Nicky & Dean intersperse their showroom with cool Asian accessories and lighting.
Morba : A treasure trove of mid-century to modern furniture and accessories: a source for film crews and stylish locals.
MacFab: MacDonald Faber Fabrics is the source of funky faux furs to elegant embroidered silks. Now offering custom curtains, ottomans, headboards and upholstery items.
Urban Mode: Created by an artist and interior designer, a great source for Canadian and international furniture and home accessories and one of the oldest contemporary stores in Toronto
Commute Home: original wood and metal designed furniture, lighting and accessories mixed with vintage pieces such as medical and photography equipment
Fluf: pillows of all shapes and sizes from felt to silk
The Paper Place: the source for handmade paper to make love notes, décor and craft projects
Token: a gift shop for the stationery-obsessed with distinct selection of letterpress cards for all occasions.
Style Garage: sleek modern lighting, furniture and accessories with emphasis on glass, wood and Earthy neutrals
Planet Kid: For all things kid – from clothes to toys and furniture.
Casuccio Gallery: Canadian and Cuban artists
Clafouti: French patisserie
Fresh: vegan and veggie local chain.
Bar One: casual Italian and best cappuccino in T.O.
Sugar Café: brunch hotspot with homespun ambience
Queen Street West- Parkdale
An area that has transformed in the past years, the edge of Parkdale has seen it’s long ago glamour found again. A neighbourhood that had been a crown jewel of the city at the beginning of the 20th century, Parkdale lost its lustre in the 1970s. Its resurgence has been predicted for awhile, but the wheels are turning with the re-established hotels of the area into art havens, and a gentrification that isn’t cookie cutter.
Studio Brillantine: edgy, unusual, whimsical modern design objet from Alessi, Phillipe Starck, Barbapapa, Georg Jensen and Isamu Noguchi.
In Abstracto: a mix of Canadian, Italian and Scandi mid-century furniture and accessories
Koma Designs: part vintage furniture, part furniture design gallery, this Parkdale store combines 60s/70s style and is supportive of T.O. eco-conscious designers Brothers Dressler and new design troupe The Vest Collective.
Café Bernate: stylish fair-trade coffee and sandwich shop with plethora of veggie options
The Beaconsfield: French style snacks and dinner with infusions of global ingredients
The Drake: Not just a hotel, café, restaurant, roof top bar, lounge, exhibition or performance space, The Drake’s unique mix of accommodation, food, drinks and art has helped revitalize the way west strip of Queen Street. With monthly artists-in-residence, art exhibitions and the site of music, comedy and fashion shows, The Drake was just chosen as one of the top 500 hotels by Travel & Leisure Magazine.
The Gladstone Hotel: A restored Victorian hotel which has gone full circle from elegant accommodation for travellers run by a single parent & 13 kids to an artist-designed hotel rooms run by the Zeidler family 115 years later. A venue for all forms of art from displayed to performance, The Gladstone Hotel acts as a gateway to Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, providing short-term artist studio spaces, exhibition space, and overnight accommodations for travellers seeking more than a chain hotel.
Meaghan Clark is a freelance writer in Toronto who covers design, fashion, health and eco lifestyle issues. Waheeda Harris is a freelance writer and columnist in Toronto who writes about fashion, design, music and travel.