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Design Stores


Posted by Ian Milne / Posted on March 20, 2010

BookhouBookhou is a gem of a store that I wish was in my neighbourhood - it strikes a perfect balance between local yet worldly, crafty and sophisticated, accessible and accomplished.

BookhouArounna Khounnoraj and John Booth have created an environment that I thought could only exist in the movies, or California, or maybe in Dwell. The shop is in fact the physical incarnation of a well-established web site that has been up and running for close to ten years.

BookhouOn a recent visit, the store is supposed to be closed, but it's a beautiful day so they've opened their doors. Arounna's young son is busy with his very important trucks in the middle of the store, and the baby strapped into a carrier on her back never makes a peep. I feel like I'm visiting an old friend in her living room. Indeed, it turns out I am; she lives in the building, and, I discover that we have so many mutual acquaintances, we might as well be old friends.

BookhouArounna crafts everything from bags to cozies, all screen printed with simple and inviting designs. And John creates stunning benches and chairs using an innovative process that ignores traditional bent wood shapes. Flatpacked bentwood is both an impressive trick and an oxymoron. Bravo.

BookhouA vintage printing press anchors the small shop, and allows them to offer courses in the now defunct craft of movable type. A generation or two ago, type for every newspaper was set - letter by painstaking letter - into a physical tray, which was then slathered with ink and pressed into paper. It was messy, hard, time-consuming work.

BookhouBut Bookhou has re-branded it as rewarding fun. And it certainly is that. You can design and print things like event invitations yourself, and it's is an enjoyable way to pass an afternoon. Combined with courses in screen printing, you start imagining yourself as their next featured guest artist. Currently that honour belongs to Shane McNutt's amazing pottery.

BookhouWhen my friend Amy Fleischman told me she'd chosen this same backwater stretch of Dundas West to open up her restaurant, Musa, in 2000, I kinda bit my lip, "Really? Are you sure?" But she was adamant. And right. Since then, a long list of great shops and restaurants have moved into this happening neighbourhood - think Made, Ezra's Pound, Ella's Uncle, Saving Grace and the Hoof Cafe.


Photos by Jason Tavares



Mrs. Poutini / March 21, 2010 at 04:32 pm
Mr. Milne,

I forgot for a second that you write design reviews and as I was reading thought, "Who is this charming blogger?" Well done, excited to check it out!!

Max / March 21, 2010 at 05:23 pm
Glad to read more blogs from Ian. Drove by this store the other day and thought to myself how great this neighborhood is becoming. Can't wait to check out this store.
Ian / March 22, 2010 at 01:09 am
well thanks for your kind words... but i was impressed and i think you will be too!
JJ / March 22, 2010 at 08:38 am
Great post! I am excited to check out the spot... and maybe pick up one of those chairs!!
Andrew / March 23, 2010 at 06:04 pm
John's benches are fantastic, their organic shape reflecting the way they are built. He was happy to explain his process one day when I curiously wandered in.

It makes me happy to walk by this store on my way to work.
amy / March 24, 2010 at 10:32 am
I have always thought that those that create are happiest. And I am happiest when I buy from people that do what they do best. Too many hands in the pot spoils the broth. Whether it be bending wood to hold my form, stuffing casings with deliciousness, or pressing out that perfect creme on an espresso that can pass the sugar sink test. All can be found here on Dundas. Bookhou is beautiful-and affordable. All we need now are less speculators and more makers. Well done Milne.
mondayjane / March 25, 2010 at 06:53 pm
I love love love Bookhou, and yes the owners are so friendly and outgoing. If you need to feel retail-inspired or have faith restored that creativity and kindness from strangers exists in Toronto, take a visit to Bookhou and support this marvelous shop. I plan on buying the alphabet for our baby's new room. Love it.

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