introducing...

Ok...hands up, how many of you have at one time dreamed of opening your own store? Lots of you, right? There is something so romantic about working for yourself and seeing a vision through from start to completion. Well, two of my dear friends have done just that. Liz and her husband Clay opened the online vintage store The Arthur just last year and now they have opened a bricks and mortar version at 550 College Street in Toronto.

I'm so inspired by these two. They have poured their heart and soul into this place and it shows. I sat down with Liz last week, on her first day of business and asked her a few questions.

TMHB - Most people probably know that you started your business online but you just recently opened a storefront. Will you keep the online store running?

Liz - Yes, definitely. The online biz has been fun and I think people buy differently online than what they can see/pickup and carry away from the shop. I think they’ll make a good balance.

TMHB - What attracted you to opening your own vintage store? Is this something you have always dreamed of doing?

Liz - This really has been a long dream coming. Ages ago I’d seen the shop Mojo in Montreal and it blew me away that a couple could open a shop of well curated, random products that they just loved.  I’d put the idea of owning a shop on the back burner and focused on photography which had been my career choice for the past 7 years. Having kids really made me put everything into a new perspective and I decided to throw caution to the wind and try something new.

TMHB - I'm sure many of my readers would be interested in knowing some of the process you went through in terms of finding a place, getting it ready, setting up shop, etc?

Liz - I barely feel able to give any advice – as I’m such a newbie to the retail world! I spent about 5 months looking for a place. I searched all over without a real estate agent (they're not so helpful if you’re only interested in leasing), cruising neighbourhoods for “For Lease” signs and looking online. I’m so happy that I waited for the right place.

I’ve been preparing/hoarding for a long time so getting ready included finding new product lines that are handmade or reflect qualities of the past. But setting up was a hectic affair. My incredibly talented (in ways very opposite to me) hubby - Clay Stang – designed and created the space with the great talents of carpenter Dawson Campbell . You’ll be seeing Clay’s handy work popping up in the shop soon!

What were the challenges? Anything you wish you had known in advance?

The challenging elements were trying to find resources to find out: Do I need a licence? How should I register my business? Do I need a bookkeeper? Where do I find a cash register? Do I need one? Etc. The learning curve was kind of insane within the last 6 weeks but I think I’m happiest when I’m in a crunch so it worked out okay. And the best thing has been the amazing community of women in retail that I’ve met in the past little while. Alison from Coriander Girl, Micah at Russet & Empire, Karyn at The Workroom and Hollie & Jane at White Elephant have been so supportive and great wealth’s of knowledge. And the Biz Ladies section of Design*Sponge was also super helpful.

Where do you find most of the items in your store?

I cruise estate sales, auctions, church sales, craigslist and flea markets all over Ontario. It’s the best part of the job. I love the hunt.

What are some of the things we can find in The Arthur? Best buys?

Well some of the new lines that I’m excited about are: Shelter -  handmade quality backpacks, clutches and wallets made with hand stained/tooled leather. And locally made Yahbags are so insanely good. These totes and purses are all made of repurposed original mail bags, grain sacks, army canvas and french ticking.  Things Together create prism shaped papier mache and driftwood mobiles that look beautiful in any room. As for vintage housewares – I’m partial to wool army blankets, old school pull down posters and old typewriters (I have about 10). The shop is perfectly small so you’ll see new items popping up every time you visit.

TMHB - I love all the new lines you've added in - you've got such a good eye. They mix in so well with the vintage finds. You often can't even tell them apart!

TMHB - Any other people who helped you along the way?

I just want to add a super HUGE thank you to Space Camp who did our graphics and branding! Graeme and Blair had the shortest turnaround yet were able to do such an extensive (& INCREDIBLE) branding execution. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have received such care and attention from any other design team.

Thanks Liz and Clay. You've done what so many people only dream of doing. If you live in Toronto, drop by and say hello to Liz. The store is located at 550 College Street in Little Italy. And if you live too far away to make a personal visit don't forget they still have an online store.

If you have any of your own questions for Liz ask away. I'm sure she would be happy to answer them!

Image Credits: Clay Stang

kilim floor pillows

My good friend Liz over at The Arthur emailed me the other day to tell me that she had found two kilim pillows on one of her vintage hunts. She suggested that they might make a nice addition to my living room and wondered whether I would like to buy them before she put them up for sale on her website. Liz knows a push-over when she sees one and I easily acquiesced to her suggestion!

There’s something about floor pillows that makes a living room more relaxed and intimate. You’re kind of inviting your friends to take their shoes off and get comfortable.  They also provide great extra seating in a pinch which is definitely a plus in narrow or small living rooms like ours.

Some of my favorite rooms feature kilim floor pillows:

Artist David Bromley's home

Marie Olsson Nylander's home

But I have to admit that it was these images, from Commune designer Roman Alonso’s home, (first seen over on Simple Lovely) that convinced me that adding a couple extra kilim pillows would be a good addition to my home. I find this simple, relaxed bohemian style works well for a family (where nothing is too precious) while still having a bit of an edge.

The other thing I noticed in these photographs was the dark brown trim and woodwork. This is very common in Toronto homes and often a bone of contention for new homeowners. Many people feel in order to modernize their home they either have to paint the woodwork out or be happy decorating in a style that is suited to the period of the house. I think these photographs are proof that you can keep the dark woodwork and still have a eclectic, creative up to date home. Don't you think? Do these rooms speak to you?

Oh and if any of you out there are looking for a specific vintage treasure for your home, say a kilim pillow or vintage artwork drop Liz a line. She’s happy to do the hunting for you! What would you send her hunting for?

Photo credits:
1) The Marion House Book
2) Mikkel Vang
3) Sara Svenningrud
4,5,6) Amy Neunsinger

happy day

I have a little secret to share with you. This weekend I will be celebrating my birthday. It will probably be a pretty low-key affair. During the day, I'm going to stop by the Parkdale Bazaar where some of my favorite local artisans including The Arthur and Scout & Catalogue will be selling their wares.

The Arthur

Scout & Catalogue

I'm also planning a little jaunt across the alley to Pantry Press's 15th Anniversary Holiday Studio Sale. Do you know their work? Absolutely to die for. Martha is a fan.

Pantry Press

You see, December is a busy month around our house. Not only is it my birthday but Henry and Myles also have December birthdays. Next weekend, we're throwing a big themed party to celebrate our collective aging. I'll have more details next week along with a very cool giveaway. Until then, you won't see much in the way of holiday decorations or cooking around here. Once the party is out of the way then I will be at it full force!

{Can you believe that all of these talented people live in my neighbourhood?}

happy thanksgiving

To all of my Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you are enjoying this day off and indulging in all things autumn-like. This time last year, we were down in Ithaca, New York celebrating with some friends. Have you ever been? It is one of the most amazing small towns I have ever visited. It might actually be America's best kept secret! The outdoor farmer's market is loaded with fresh produce and quaint stands like this one. Who wouldn't want to go home and cook up a feast after seeing all this goodness?

We did just that and had a Canadian Thanksgiving with our Canadian friends (living and working in Ithaca) in an American town. It was wonderful - so much to be thankful for (including our matching "Ithaca is Gorges" t-shirts!)

Don't forget that today is your last day to enter the Vintage Giveaway for a $25 giftcard for The Arthur. Just leave a comment on this original post by midnight (EST) tonight and your name will be entered. Tomorrow, I'll be back with the winner!