In pioneer days, heading west was for the courageous or foolish, depending on how you saw it. It was an opportunity to start a new life in a new place but involved backbreaking work. There’s new territory to explore in Toronto’s west end, but it’s less on the strenuous risktaking side, more on the relaxing, fun side. If you’re on the hunt for new shops to browse and interesting people, check out King/Dufferin and Queen/Roncesvalles. Between the innovative new design and decor stores at Liberty Market and the quirky shops on west Queen West, you’ll wonder what took you so long. Liberty Market (171 East Liberty, 416530-9866) is a new design and retail centre in an old factory in Liberty Village. Other old buildings here are being redeveloped into sleek condos, town homes, business headquarters and retail spaces, and the change has been fast and furious. One of Liberty Market’s first tenants was CasaLife (416-922-2785), whose owners saw the market for elegant, multifunctional and moderately priced furnishings. Besides outfitting and accessorizing your bedroom, living room, office and kitchen, CasaLife offers free design consultations. More free design info is available at Dekla Scavolini Kitchens and Agape Bathroom (416961-2929). The award-winning showroom is full of brightly coloured, ultra-modern kitchens and bathrooms, the kind you see in contemporary shelter magazines. The kitchen combinations are surprisingly affordable, so if you like the idea of glossy red or orange cupboards, consider this alternative to Ikea. The innovative bathrooms are out of this world, but their price tags are steeper. Liberty Market is also home to wholesalers, manufacturers and showrooms like Alfred Sung, Gus Furniture Design, DuVerre, Canadian Scooter and Cervelo Cycle, plus EMBA Boxing Studio and Kingwest Fitness. Arriving later this summer are Oro Café, ZED Home and a brewhouse/oyster bar. Rounding out the list is a T-shirt manufacturer, a boutique ad agency, photography studio, film studio, potter and puppeteer. On a stretch of Queen near Roncesvalles called Antique Row, old, new, vintage and retro furnishings, carpets, lighting and toys are on offer from interesting shopkeepers, some of whom in their previous lives were Jesuit priests, monks and missionaries. If you live for gilt and glamour, be sure to stop in at Era (1629 Queen West, 416-535-3305) for French-inspired furnishings befitting a starlet or debuante. There’s nothing too frou-frou or Laura Ashley-ish here, though. A couple of doors down is relative newcomer JDY Antiques (1625 Queen West, 416516-9720), offering more moderately priced pieces. Next door at 1623 is the shop (no name) belonging to Albert, where piles of bric-a-brac reveal hidden gems. Albert will negotiate, pontificate and talk your ear off while you browse. Across the street is Jackdaw Antiques & Treasures (1710 Queen W., 416-5380846), home to originals and reproductions priced for all budgets, ranging from modest accessories to custombuilt cabinetry. A painted dresser with mirror was going for $175, and signed Heywood-Wakefield children’s chairs for $39. Mostly Movables has moved from Queen & Bathurst to 1684 Queen W. (416-531-3565) and has already made its mark with reupholstered furnishings of exceptional value. New to this side of street is the Painted Table (1716 Queen W., 416-915-7924). Owner Gloria Amos offers Moroccan lanterns, classic tableware and beautifully reupholstered furnishings, all of which she does herself. Anchoring the neighbourhood is Arcadia Antiques (1702 Queen W., 416-534-0348), a long-time fixture here. More Victorian in feel, this expansive space has great deals on wood, wicker, china and, of course, antiques. Retromania (1692 Queen W., 416892-8990) owner Geoffrey Miller has entire display cases of vintage toys. Need a retro phone for a movie set? He’ll gladly rent you several. Co-worker Cynthia Davis offers decorating, shopping and organizing services. Throw in a couple of moody Afghan pooches and you’ve got an afternoon to remember.
Toy from Retromania