Art History is a treasure trove of antiques and all around cool junk, with pieces to fit everyone's budget. I wouldn't call it a design store, more of an indoor garage sale with a wide variety of pieces from assorted hardcover and soft cover books (prices ranging from $4, $8 and $10) to t-shirts and bikini tops (seemingly displayed on an old coat rack) along with jewelery, glassware and framed art (various prices, up to $350 for some framed items).
Outside of Art History, large pieces of un-priced furniture help set the mood with the idea that this isn't a store for everyone, but there is enough history and stories inside to hopefully please even the most finicky shopper. I don't exactly need a large wooden bench with peeling paint, but boy it sure looked inviting along the busy Queen Street sidewalk.
Inside the store, it's a bit crowded, but thankfully that means there's a lot to look at. As I moved toward the back of the store I had the sense that I was trolling through endless rows of antiques at a country swap meet. Lots to look at, lots to touch and pick up, but I was started to doubt if there was lots to buy. Plus, the store has a bit of a musty and damp smell and even when I went in on a bright and sunny day, I felt a bit claustrophobic, which made me not want to linger very long. After a while, the only thing keeping me inside was the fact that everywhere I looked I became distracted by something new to see.
Make sure you don't just poke your head in, because it's near the back of the store where the kookier items lie, including a large collection of 9th grade schoolchild notes for $2 each or 3 for $5, suggesting that we all have a potential revenue stream hidden deep in our parent's basement.
I also liked the variety of glassware, tea cups, bowls and mugs - including a "Hydrate After You Jog" set of five beer steins for $32. I'm not sure how many of these pieces I would actually use to drink out of, but rather they would likely all look beautiful lined up along a window sill or patio.
The difficulty with this type of design store is that while several items could lend any home a fun and unique touch, too many of these items in one place and everything starts to lose that campy lustre, and instead just look old and dusty. Many any the items that weren't made out of ceramic or glass looked old enough to fall apart if I picked them up or handled them a bit too roughly.
I don't always have enough of a discerning eye to tell the difference between dusty old junk and a genuine antique. While, I guess that's what makes this type of shopping fun - trying to find that special trinket or treasure - many items seemed like they were just plain old.
It's a fine line to walk between collectible antiques and junk, and for the most part, Art History manages to walk that tightrope with relative ease. But, you have to have the patience for this type of store to see beyond the junk to get to the gems.
Before you plan your visit, make sure to take note of their operating hours: THU & FRI 12-7, SAT 11-6, SUN 1-5.
Writing by James Buttivant. Photos by Jason Tavares.