Commute Home is my perfect design store. There are many design stores to love in this city, but Commute's inventory of constantly fresh products and designs appeal to my short attention span. If you've got an Ikea problem, their distinctive brand of home furnishings will cure it, assuming money is no object of course.
Commute's retail shop on Queen is really just a front for a multi-faceted business with multi-talented employees. Their showroom is a carefully curated and ever evolving mix of products that are either for sale or just please the owners mightily to have around.
There is always some refurbished office or industrial lighting from the past and some current work that is intended to look timeless. Indeed, a hallmark of the best Commute work is that it literally defies dating. Early on in my visits to the store I overheard someone ask "Is that from the 50's or Russia or what?", I find myself repeating that very question almost every time I go in.
Through their commissioned works for some big name restaurants, Sara Parisotto and Hamid Samad who co-own Commute, have left their subtle signature all over town and beyond. If you've ever eaten at Terroni's Queen location right across the street you've seen their work : ditto for the Adelaide and Los Angeles locations. How about Colborne Lane ? Cinq 01 ? Nyood or Babur ? Any of these places prominently feature the quirky aesthetic of Commute.
There is no bored salesgirl or overeager greeter here - the staff are working on their next design. The "sales desk" is always cluttered with things like textbooks, research material or, test pieces.
Over the course of the last few weeks I watched a gorgeous "headlight chandelier" come to fruition on the back table. Which brings me to my next point. The store begins at the Queen street end as a very public friendly retail store... as you make your way towards the back, the space becomes a bit more intense and you begin to realize that the store is also the prototype lab. Things get built and tested right here. How honest is that?
You can literally see things travel from prototype to product in store. It's the "open kitchen" restaurant applied to design. A business model that has more in common with a bakery like Pain Perdu than a furniture store like the Brick. If they could persuade people to eat their dinner tables instead of eating at them - they'd be rich.
There is a manifesto / poem cut into a wall of the store that has cemented itself into my psyche. I like it for a number of reasons, but mostly cause it ends like this:
"We make it for you
because we like you."
It's more earnest than a Simon & Garfunkel lyric and finding stuff like that makes me like Toronto a little more.
Photos by Mauricio Calero