I’m writing to you from London (sadly, not the London across the pond, but the London a little further to the east and south of us) at the beginning of a two-week holiday, starting with a visit with my boyfriend’s family, then heading off to Cabo San Lucas for a week. We’re only here for a few days, but when you’re this close to one of the largest design meccas in Canada, you squeeze in a day trip to Toronto!
It just so happened to also be the Toronto International Film Festival, so on top of the regular hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto traffic, Bloor Street was crammed with people hoping to catch a glimpse of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, and even Madonna! We stopped into Holt Renfrew — which was absolutely crazy busy in every department — and were told we missed an appearance by Elton John and David Furnish by a day — a day! Although we didn’t happen to spot anyone famous while we were there, we were close; the buzz in the air the whole time we were downtown was amazing!
With only a few hours to shop, I was mostly interested in finding a few top-notch furniture/home stores. It’s one thing to browse products on websites and online, but totally another to be able walk in and experience the atmosphere a store like Pottery Barn, for example, offers its customers. Everything downtown is huge in scale — and the sizes of the larger stores lining Bloor Street are no exception.
Pottery Barn was massive: sweeping windows, a glass elevator, hardwood and forged metal bindings and riveted hand rails. The style and feel of their brand you’re able to derive from their world-wide catalogues is tripled when you’re actually in one of their stores. It was my first time in, and I was completely surrounded by classically and impeccably tailored furnishings; rustic and woven pillows, blankets, and textiles; lush and dream-worthy bedding; and a smattering of accessories and décor hand-picked from all over the globe. Staged in a way that created mini vignettes throughout the store, I could have curled up in every inviting sofa on the floor! The thing Pottery Barn does well is blend a mix of traditional and global, while keeping a clean and slightly familiar feeling about their products. No matter your design aesthetic, there is something for everyone.
A little further down the street was another favorite of mine: Anthropologie. Mostly known for their bohemian clothing, Anthropologie extends their brand into small home furnishings and unique décor too. Their style caters more towards shabby chic and beach house lovers, evident with the mix of eclectic hand painted dishware, spicy and sea-scented candles, exotic door and cabinetry hardware, and spend-a-week-in-bed worthy comforters and quilts in unbelievable batik and water colour patterns. I couldn’t fit an entire bedding suite in my suitcase, but I figured I could stash a few heavenly scented candles!
And lastly, we ducked into a bunch of privately owned, boutique-type shops tucked into the mix amongst their sky-scraping neighbors. What I noticed in nearly every one of these stores was a collection of mid-century modern inspired lighting fixtures. Futuristic looking and edgy, they’re highly popular paired with simpler, more transitional looking tables and chairs. And the industrial-chic wave we’ve seen sweeping the design world is definitely alive and well in Toronto; I loved seeing barn wood and iron coffee tables and bookcases mixed with softer, upholstered pieces.
I mean, we only saw .00001 per cent of design represented that afternoon in the city, but it was such a varied and exciting mix of style and product, it made me realize again just how sheltered we often can be living in the prairies. If you have the opportunity to get out of the ‘bubble’ and travel, make sure you carve out a little time to find things that will continually inspire you!
Stay tuned for an update on our trip to Cabo!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 15, 2012