green light district

About a year ago, a new furniture shop opened just around the corner from my house. I could tell from peeking in the window that they had some very interesting furniture that I had never seen anywhere else. Through a series of fortunate accidents I came to know the two owners Deborah and David and learn about their store called Green Light District. I found their approach very refreshing. They source all their products in person often travelling the world to find them and they champion small artisans. The majority of their products are available no where else in North America. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the furniture business and what brought you to Toronto.

We had an inn in the lake country of east Ontario, and when we sold it - with all its furnishings - we moved to Ottawa to our new condo. Looking for new furniture, we got the feeling that there might be room in Ottawa for something different in a home decor store. We'd travelled a lot and remembered the distinct sense of style in furniture that we'd come across in different places we'd been. So, we went back to some of them to search for unique designs, and what you see in our store now is the result of that search, as well as what we've found on design focussed travel since then.

We opened our shop in Ottawa 4 years ago, but a year ago we relocated to Toronto. We were from here originally and we had the thought that it was time to come home. We also felt that this much larger market would be a better fit for our shop. It has proven to be just that.

How is your store different from other furniture retailers?

We source all our products in person, and we find them in places not traditionally thought of for fine design. Also, all of our designers are very small scale and most have never exported before. So most of what we have is available no where else in North America. (There are exceptions.) We never buy through distributors and never from catalogues. We touch and try every piece in person before we commit. We do not take on a whole "line" of pieces from any designer. We cherry pick what we like - it could be 5 or 6 or just one. We aim to appeal to people who expect their pieces to last a long while. This is why we emphasize hand crafted products made from natural materials.

How do you find your products?

We read blogs and magazines, do internet searches, ask people about fresh design. We look at cities in different countries and judge whether a place might be worth a visit. Then we go there and walk the streets and follow our noses. Alternatively, we visit design fairs and shows all over the world with an eye to unique design that might work in our shop.

About half of our products are from women owned small businesses. One example would be our hand embroidered cotton pillows from Egypt. We met Laila in Paris at a design show. She lives in Cairo but has a small hotel in Siwa, a village in the western Egyptian desert near the Libyan border. There, women had used an embroidery technique for centuries, but it was dying out with no younger women wanting to learn the skill. Laila had the idea of creating more modern patterns that had a chance of selling today, and then facilitating the older women teaching the younger ones. The program has worked, the traditional technique has been preserved, and our pillows are one of the results. It can take up to 2 months for a single pillow to be completed.

Another example would be our hand stitched leather and iron dining chairs. The designer, Carolina, has a ranch in Paraguay and it was in looking at the fabulous quality of the leather from her ranch that she came up with the idea of designing and manufacturing chairs where she lives in Madrid. She combines raw iron and the elegance of the hand stitched leather for her dining and lounge chairs.

What is your best seller?

We've noticed that things go in streaks ... today for instance, everyone is drawn to our hand made paper art wall hangings. Over the weekend it was our forest graphic console and our hand stitched leather and oak benches.

Thanks Deborah and David for the store tour!

Green Light District is located at 365 Roncesvalles Avenue.

All images by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book
Styling by Annie McDonald