I’ve never been too picky about furniture. Hand-me-downs, IKEA– when you’re a student and you’re moving again in eight months anyway, it doesn’t much matter. But I’ve just moved back in with my mother, who believes in choosing home furnishings for their quality and design, and I could be here a while. So it is that I started my search for a desk at The Art Shoppe, featuring “the finest furniture & home furnishings available from around the world” rather than at a garage sale down the street. The Art Shoppe, for those who have never been, is a sprawling location on at least three levels on Yonge St., south of Eglinton. I found a nice solid wood desk, actually in the children’s furniture section. It was plain, had tressles, was painted yellow, and I liked it. It was an Italian design on sale for $700. Steep, I thought. How wrong I was.
Perhaps a week later, after more window shopping around town, we picked up a copy of what was to become our Window Shopping Bible, Design Lines Toronto, Fall 2007 issue, which lays out all the go-to places for designer furniture in Toronto, organized by neighbourhood. I don’t know that we realized the calibre, and price range, of the vast majority of locales covered in this magazine. Once we started browsing, it didn’t seem to matter. We were going to furnish our space the way we liked. Money no object.
Since we were, at that time, in designer mode (or La La Land), we didn’t bat an eyelash before stopping in to Klaus by Nienkämper as we made our way across the King Street East stretch of high-end furniture stores. Klaus is a designer furniture showroom where, should you have the funds and interest, you can acquire your very own set of Daniel Liebskind chairs exactly like the ones on display at the new entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum. It was here I was almost convinced that designer furniture was for me. One look at this TAFEL Table Bench and I was intrigued.
When my mother and I sat down across from each other (not without some balance issues– it felt a little bit like being on a see-saw), I was hooked. I hadn’t been aware of the existence of a single piece of furniture that combined table, wall and seating, and I wouldn’t have thought I would have a use for a diner-like unit in my bedroom, but all of a sudden it seemed like the perfect piece.
Until I saw the price tag: approximately $10,000. So that was out.
Although, to be honest, by that time, not only my $700-desk but this $10,000 item was starting to seem reasonable. Earlier in the afternoon, following a quick stop at Fluid Living in the Distillery District, we had arrived at Roche-Bobois. We had deliberately sought this place out after seeing their ad in Design Lines. The photograph in the advertisement was similar to the one below, showing the Mah Jong seating system, first designed in the 1970s by Hans Hopfer, upholstered this time around in Kenzo Maison fabrics.
Clueless about the who’s who in designer furniture, and boldly unperturbed by the Parisian name of the store, we walked in thinking we had found the solution for our loft-style second-floor bedroom, a.k.a my bedroom. It has a slanted ceiling because it is that close to the roof so ‘low-to-the-ground all around’ seemed a good design approach.
Imagine our surprise when we eye the price tag for the displayed seating arrangement and find it to be an incredible $25,000, with each individual cushion priced at $700-$2,000! We spent the rest of the time in the store looking amusingly at other items and their price tags: ‘Oh, this is only $5,000? What a steal! We’ll take it!’ This remained comical price tag after price tag. Our only regret was leaving the store without at least trying out the cushions.
I don’t want to leave the impression that there weren’t a few affordable stores out there. After coming to terms with the fact that certain places were (financially speaking) out of our league—which doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a visit, as you can always get design ideas to replicate more cheaply, no?—, we were pleasantly surprised by two more mid-range furniture stores: EQ3 and Visitor Parking, both also in the King Street East area. Visitor Parking had this beautiful desk I almost went with in the (by now acceptable to me) $700-range. But many of their furnishings are made of compressed wood and veneer, which my mother was originally reluctant to go with.
We finally bought our first piece of new furniture from Morningstar, a specialist in imports from India off the main furniture grids. It wasn’t for my room, but it’s a great, solid wood piece we use as a TV stand and media storage unit.
Indeed, all this window shopping and after three weeks, I still hadn’t found a desk that I knew was The One. Where did I finally find it? On Craigslist, of course. And what was it? IKEA. I guess I haven’t outgrown my student lifestyle just yet…
(…Not that Craigslist doesn’t do ‘designer’… hurry, and a unique art-deco-inspired table, two suede tango chairs or a Joe Colombo Boby Trolley storage unit could still be yours. I’m not being facetious, these are actually some pretty great deals…)
The Art Shoppe | 2131 Yonge Street
Klaus by Nienkämper | 300 King Street East
Fluid Living | 55 Mill Street, Building No. 8
Roche-Bobois | 101 Parliament Street
EQ3 | 222 King Street East
Visitor Parking | 254 King Street East
Morningstar Trading Co. | 680 Yonge Street & 388 Roncesvalles Avenue