WHAT’S THE REAL COST OF ORGANIC LIVING
t’s an ideal many of us strive for – to have creature comforts (luxury if we can afford it) at little cost to the environment and our conscience. Who doesn’t want 800-thread-count pillowcases, particularly if they’re woven by a co-op of blind and widowed Portuguese elders who’ve revitalized their off-the-map village through their small but mighty textile business? Or do we live with the 200-count pillowcases we found on sale at the outlet mall? Such quandaries have plagued us for too long, and are the subject of a popular book (Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class And How They Got There) that has singlehandedly created a new social stratum. These educated, careerclimbing, latte-sipping consumers have discovered how to tune out nagging doubts about extravagant purchases by categorizing them under the warm, fuzzy label of “organic.” “Organic is a term I’m not entirely clear on,” says designer and retailer Rob Whitfield of Casalife (171 East Liberty, unit 170). Many of his store’s items would be considered organic because of their material (sustainable wood), shape (tall, curvy and tree-like) or function (a tree stump that’s used as a, um, stump). What he is certain of, though, is that people are moving past the sterile environments of old-school minimalism. “People want natural, not perfect,” he says. Whitfield casually saunters over to a new bedroom set he designed that incorporates headboard, night tables and under-bed storage, all with great style, fair pricing and, yes, an organic feel. Made of pale American walnut, this sleek but definitely not sterile unit costs about $4,500 with the above-mentioned components. Don’t need a new bed but still want some of that soul-soothing organic style? Casalife has a very tall set of candle holders (tea light holders, to be exact) that resemble gorgeous tree branches and come in a trio for $535. Extravagant? Maybe. But the tabletop set for $180 certainly seems reasonable for a piece of nature at your disposal. Bobos In Paradise author David Brooks speaks of his subjects and their “renovated kitchens the size of aircraft hangars – with plumbing” with more fondness than disdain, more acceptance than revulsion. He adds that the Bobo attitude toward consumption has filtered down the food chain to be adopted by less affluent groups. Dekla (171 East Liberty, unit 106), the sleek and sexy showroom for Scavolini kitchens and Agape bathrooms, is a Bobo’s wet dream. Here it’s possible to buy an entire kitchen made of smoky grey-and-black recycled glass that you can sweep your hands along without finding any unruly seams, to the tune of approximately $30,000. Don’t get me wrong. I really, really like my discounted maple cabinets that set me back $3,500, but believe me, if I had the means I would go glass. “My favourite client is the one who appreciates the beauty of these products, can’t really afford them but works it out so he gets what he truly desires,” says owner Luiza Alexa. A great beauty herself, Alexa had no intention of being a retailer or style maven but fell head over heels for a sleek Scavolini kitchen while touring an ancient castle in Italy and decided Canada must have access to such beauty, too. In addition to the Scavolini lines, Dekla carries the equally extravagant and beautiful bathroom fixtures by Agape, which run the gamut from the $11,600 marble Spoon tub (a favourite of Madge’s), to the $4,500 Gabbiano oak sink (a perfect slope for my daughter’s ski Barbie), to the $700 lime-green basin by design darling Karim Rashid. Again, I really am fond of my $300 recycled claw-foot tub from Phillips Plumbing and my swanky chrome fittings that were a more extravagant $750. However, given the choice and means, I could absolutely visualize my serene self in the Spoon, surrounded by glowing organic tea lights. Until you feel the smooth-like-butta smooth of the Spoon, don’t knock it.
FROM DEKLA, A LUXURIOUS BASIN CARVED FROM A SINGLE PIECE OF MARBLE