First, 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.
It 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.
This 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.
And, 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.
The 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?
Instead 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.
But 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.
But 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."
My 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.