Round Up: Toronto Exhibits, Design Shops + Restaurants

March 12, 2013 | Sherry

If you find yourself in Toronto and like design, there's lots to see, do and eat along the way. On my last trip to Toronto, I saw evidence of an emerging design scene. The city, Canada's financial hub, is comfortable and livable, but with an industrious pace.  Because the national psyche prioritizes a balanced lifestyle and social programs like universal healthcare, Toronto is drawing young professionals, creative entrepreneurs and those in the arts from all over the country and beyond. The city has a good transportation system, publicly funded universities, cultural venues designed by local firms and Starchitects alike, and an influx of immigrants who lend an air of originality, energy and diversity. The bubbling economy and recent expansion in housing options helps the cauldron to ferment a creative Canadian brew.

MUST SEE EXHIBITION

Marimekko, With Love (January 21-April 21, 2012) 

Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Avenue | website

Armi Ratia founded the iconic textile house in 1951. "Marimekko, With Love" highlights the early decades of the Finnish design company and the distinctive vision and culture that has kept it at the forefront of modern textile design.

via Textile Museum of Canada

via Textile Museum of Canada

DESIGN SHOPS

Absolutely Inc. 

1132 Yonge Street | website

An uptown mix of merchandise from vintage furniture, tabletop wares and jewelry, to original art and contemporary lighting and accessories. I rarely emerge from Absolutely empty handed. This last visit I was particularly enamored of a vintage fur collar that looked great casually tossed over a sweater, Game-of-Thrones style.

A Cheery Display at Absolutely Inc.

A Cheery Display at Absolutely Inc.

Green Light District

365 Roncesvalles Ave | website

A small airy store run by David and Deborah Peets. The two are enthusiastic collectors of original furniture with a modern bent. Much of the merchandise in the store is sourced directly from artisans in far flung parts of the world. My favorite piece in the store is the "loves me, loves me not" table. Each carved wooden "petal" can be pulled out for a place to sit one's cocktail, iPad mini or BlackBerry (hey, it's Canada!) Once reassembled after the party, it forms a lovely floral centerpiece between lounge chairs.

The 'Loves Me, Loves Me' Not Table at Green Light District

The 'Loves Me, Loves Me' Not Table at Green Light District

Peaks & Rafters

585 Dupont Street | website

Peaks & Rafters is an art gallery, home furnishings store and full-service design shop all rolled into one. There are bed linens, pillows, carpets, napkins, lamps and even fabulous felt belts and shortbreads! The shop is bright, comfortable with wonderful works by Canadian artists. Owner Katelyn Jarrett has created a welcoming space that invites visitors to dream of a better looking home...or at the very least of dressing up their jeans.

Colorful Felt Belts at Peaks & Rafters

Colorful Felt Belts at Peaks & Rafters

Mjölk

2959 Dundas St W | website

Ok, so what modernist doesn't love Scandanavian and Japanese design? The brilliant concept of combining the heritage of two design-rich nations in one shop makes for a very desirable design destination. If you can't make it to Toronto, their online store alone will have you coveting all things Mjölk (pronounced mi-yelk). I thought the Spin Poufs by Claesson Koivisto Rune were inviting for adults and children alike. There are wooden cutting boards by Oji Masanori, fine art photographs (my favorite photograph is of giant glaciers, with a tiny-in-comparison nude fellow on an ice flow in the foreground) and artisanally-crafted dining chairs by Maruni. All of their wares are meticulously displayed. And if there is not room in your budget or suitcase for any of their products, you can always come away with the shop's stylish business card: a Danish flag rendered in black and white.

Claesson Koivisto Rune's Spin Poufs at Mjölk

Claesson Koivisto Rune's Spin Poufs at Mjölk

Pimlico Design Gallery

643 Dupont Street | website

At Pimlico, you'll find Canadian contemporary furnishings along with beautifully designed accessories for the home. Owner Tatiana Velasevic believes that household items should be practical as well as beautiful. This philosophy is evident in her line of hand molded bowls by San Francisco-based Tina Frey  and graphic striped mugs and trays by the German Krefeld. Tahir Mahmood's  brightly colored lamps are perfect in scale-- high design impact with a small footprint. 

Tahir Mahmood Lighting at Pimlico Design Gallery

Tahir Mahmood Lighting at Pimlico Design Gallery

Burnett

1052 Bathurst Street | website

Gordon and Catherine Runge together own the store I found to be one of the most intriguing shops I visited while in Toronto. This talented couple has been involved in retail, television styling, painting and jewelry design, among other creative ventures. Their current enterprise, Burnett,  features vintage furniture pieces in a variety of interesting shapes, restored and made desirable anew with rich paint finishes. Shoppers can easily imagine the vintage pieces in an artfully designed room thanks to Gordon's paintings, displayed on the walls of the shop, that evoke late 50's, early 60's style.

Burnett's adorable storefront

Burnett's adorable storefront

WHERE TO EAT

Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill

100 Adelaide Street East | 416 366 7827 | website

Small and cozy with an eccentric bar. The owner himself poured the laminate over randomly placed oyster shells with a few star fish thrown in for good measure. Our bartender was warm and friendly, as well as efficient and reliable at advising on food and wine selection on request. The oyster selection was varied, fresh and delicious. 

Terroni Bar Centrale

1095 Yonge Street | 416 966 1372 | website

This Italian restaurant is a lively adult-and-kid-friendly spot, just like you might find at old country restaurants in the homeland. The food is authentic too, with a wide ranging menu of popular Italian fare and an excellent wine list. The efficient staff, beautiful light and art work, and delicious food makes Terroni a favorite of mine-- and judging by the crowds, lots of Torontonians agree!

Cava

1560 Yonge Street | 416 979 9918 | website

Self-described as a restaurant with "small plates, big flavors,"the food covers "the vast gastronomic range of the Iberian Penisula." The restaurant does have interesting food. Case in point: black garlic with brussel sprouts. Delicious. So much so that my husband, the cook in our family, finished his meal at Cava and then immediately ordered a case of black garlic online. Expect to order and share a handful of small plates off their "nose-to-tail" menu, which boasts ingredients sourced from vendors that rely on sustainable practices. As you might expect from the name, the wine list offers a handful of nice sparkling cavas. The only downside to this restaurant is its location in an unappealing mall-like complex. Once inside, though,  the decor and flavors of the meal cast aside any doubts you might have had passing through the dreary entrance.