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Design Stores

Ma Zone

Posted by Craig / Posted on August 25, 2008

Ma ZoneFirst, it's pronounced "May-Zone", not "Mah-Zone". I made that mistake and was quickly corrected by Armin.

Armin is the nervously cheerful, charming and absolutely serious owner of this shop. He's the creative mind behind the marketing displays and the energetic caretaker who holds it together. And he's resolutely serious about his creation. You see, this is the premier "design shoppe" in Toronto, and after 10 years in the business, Armin clearly aims to keep it that way.

Don't look for sales. There are only two, after Christmas and at the end of the summer. The rest of the time, you get to pay top dollar for top stuff. He says he never discounts and cheapens what he sells.

MaIt all sounds very serious, and it is. It's seriously about fun. He likes to make people happy, and there's one thing for sure in this place: happiness is on the menu. Of course, by this I mean Colour and Light and Cute and Pizazz. For a lot of people these things amount to something like happiness.

I mean, if you had an electrified Cute-ometer, when you turned it on in this place, it would beep loudly and then spontaneously explode. You practically have to install a Cuteness Dampening Field just to step in here without levitating six inches off the floor.

Ma ZoneThis place is filled with light. It must be the brightest place I've ever seen. The light is refracted through so many different objects it's hard to keep track of where it actually comes from.

The premise of Ma Zone is bright colours. Everything is arranged by colour on purpose, so that you can imagine your home in Orange or Violet or Translucent Green, maybe even just the right shade of Turquoise. Armin hand-picks everything from all the best designers, from companies like Iittala of Finland and Alessi.

Given that manufacturing has apparently stopped in Canada, almost everything he sells is from Europe. This is fine, because when it comes to cute stuff made out of plastic, Europe seems to have even China beat hands-down.

Ma ZoneAnd, happily, there's not a Hello Kitty to be seen anywhere in here.

There are lots of dazzlingly colourful mugs, though. There are even a few remarkably tasteful monochrome art pieces. These could be at home almost anywhere, not the least in the same house as, say, the green flyswatters resting charmingly on the counter.

Ma ZoneThe back room is brightly lit by a big sunlight. It has a dining table and walls laden with colour and distilled cuteness. Everything seems very well-thought-out, and no matter how frivolous it may appear, it all has some function or other. Take the key holder in the shape of, er, a key. Seems pretty obvious, but still, it's clever. I guess that's what makes it Designed.

I was personally taken by the stirring spoons with lolling tongues. When you hang them on their little red hooks, it looks like they're sticking their tongues out at you. Seriously, how darned cute is that?

Ma ZoneInstead of repainting, one way to lighten up your space is to get some bright, colourful stemware. It can make the whitest of kitchens glow, I'm sure. Of course, then you have to find matching curtains. Ma Zone can't help you there, unfortunately.

Ma ZoneBut seriously, folks, there's some blandly tasteful stuff in this shop, too. Take the white whiteness of the white-ware. It's very carefully designed and very tasteful. It makes some kind of statement, too. Like, "I went to this cool shop with dozens of colour schemes but I came home with this really nice white dish set." And people blame me for buying Vanilla Bean when I go to Greg's Ice Cream.

Ma ZoneBut there's more to this place than small takeaway stuff. For example, Armin has a yellow room-accent chair with a back that folds down. It goes for $775. It's a conversation piece, apparently. You can't really use it when it's closed, but it looks a lot like a big yellow egg and it's darned cool. That's got to start a conversation or two. I imagine it would go something like this:

"Hey, that looks like a big yellow egg."
"Yup. Sure does."

Ma ZoneMy personal favourite was the aquamarine glass dinner set by Leonardo. Maybe I imagine myself eating from this sort of dinner set, in a glass condo-chateau by the lakeshore. Or maybe I just like blue. Possibly it's a bit of both.

Ultimately, if you like designer goods and don't mind designer prices (with the very seasonal sale or two), then you've got to drop by and check out this very shiny shop. Your condo won't regret it, though your pocketbook might resent you when the Visa bill arrives. You're probably going to spend more than you thought you would.

Ma Zone



Adam / August 26, 2008 at 03:54 am
Right in my hood! I love this place. Very colourful and refreshing, so I shop here sparingly. Their stuff is very fun and interesting.
guy lafleur / August 26, 2008 at 04:16 am
Any other indication of what prices are like (beyond the chair)? What's top dollar mean?
red / August 26, 2008 at 04:36 pm
today's treasure tomorrow's dust collector
Lola / August 29, 2008 at 05:09 pm
I for one am a frequent shopper at the Zone and can assure that top dollar means top quality. Whether I'm attending a birthday, a wedding or a house warming party, a gift from MaZone is like no other.
The care and nurturing that is used to complete the displays is spectacular. You're met with innovation and creativity at every turn. Be it $20 or $2000, the receiver of a gift from MaZone will feel like a million bucks!
Kat / August 29, 2008 at 09:44 pm
Shopping at Ma-Zone is an experience in itself. Many wonderful ideas to choose from. The owner will gladly put together a fabulous collection of items that will WOW! anyone recieving them. MONEY WELL SPENT - your clients, friends, family members will love their gift....they will even fall in love with the amazing wrapping job that comes with each purchase. You won't find most of the items anywhere else as most of them are European designs and imports carefully selected for design-savvy people. But anyone will have their 'taste-buds' satisfied with the colourful and lovely items from Ma-Zone.
papa / August 29, 2008 at 10:17 pm
Ma-Zone is one of the cities most innovative design stores. Always on the pulse of design. It truly is refreshing to see a store filled with colour and style. Everything is merchandised perfectly and even something for $10 looks like a million bucks. Everyone should experience it!!!
Madimadi / August 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm
! My first and last time in there I was followed around by a very rude woman who could not even take a moment to answer any of my questions as she was too busy wiping my fingerprints off of everything I had touched! I felt that she thought i was about to shoplift something - it was an extremely uncomfortable experience.

I am European and have only just moved to this are of Toronto. While I enjoy all the lovely products in the store, and it is just around the corner from my home, after my initial visit I will unfortunately be spending my money elsewhere.


melanie / December 19, 2011 at 11:00 pm
ma zone is my favourite place for gifts. I've been going for years and always get something beautiful and unique ...and who has tried their fabulous body products? favourite is made in Canada and uses natural organic ingredients...this is why its great to have small businesses thrive in the neighbourhood. ma zone is an aesthetically great addition to jarvis st. check it out for yourself at 63 jarvis
kathy / December 1, 2012 at 01:09 pm
You know how excited you feel when you discover a great store for the first time? Well, I had that feeling last week when I happened upon Ma Zone. I was served by a lovely young lady and the owner's mother helped with packaging my purchase. Great attention to detail, here. Beautiful gifts. It's a gorgeous store and I plan to return again and again.
Marilyn / August 18, 2015 at 04:38 pm
The shop is right by my dentist office so I always made sure to drop in and look around and have spent thousands there
Marilyn / August 18, 2015 at 04:50 pm
Just continuing on my last post.After years of spending thousands at this shop- pictures for a few hundred, a fruit basket for over $50, a stool for $200 - I went in last month and bought a $125 clock and $50 tissue holder to take to my place in Florida. At the time, I told the owner's mother I would be bringing what I bought to Florida, and she assured me if there were problems even after the week given for a return,the store would help me.I opened the box (given to me at the store) about three weeks later and found the face of the clock had detached to the steel-like stand. I asked the owner for a refund but he refused and rudely said it was policy to only give credits for a replacement within a week. He didn't have a new clock in a box - he wanted to give me a clock that was sitting on the shelf for weeks and offered no refund or discount. After spending thousands there, he was not in the least bit understanding how I didn't trust the quality of the shop.He was rude, threatened to call 911 and berated me and accused me of trying to get away with something. He threw a part of the broken clock onto the ground and told me either Itake the clock on the shelf or I can wait for a new order that would take weeks. I was in tears so I took the clock on the shelf. He is one of the rudest shop owners I have ever encountered. And his mother was trying to convince me to hire him to help me design my Toronto condo. Don't shop at this store - the owner degraded me and was rude to me and in front of his salesperson and a customer.
Marilyn replying to a comment from Madimadi / August 18, 2015 at 04:53 pm
I had a horrible experience with the son of the mother who owns the store. Read my post. It's great when you want to spend money here but never try to say you want to return a purchase as you're put through hell.

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