Contrast Living fits in just fine to the stretch of Queen St. where it meets Roncesvalles. To differentiate itself from many of its antique store neighbours, the store carries a wide range of home decor and gifts with a focus on Canadian made and designed items.
When I first walked in, caught a whiff of scented candles and saw the wall of pretty greeting cards, I was a little dismissive, "just another one of those stores." You know what I mean - with nice but essentially superfluous items where you only go if you need to buy a present for your aunt, who you don't know so well.
Then an orange, vintage, tufted loveseat caught my attention ($499).
And little glass globe planters that hung from the ceiling (Hazy Nuts Creations, $20-40).
Then a retro coffee table with a black surface and brass detailing (Ruby Coffee Table, $350) and a striking tripod table lamp ($150).
The more I looked, the more I was won over. Sure, they have the odd novelty item - like a pacifier that makes your baby look like he's wearing a mustache (why?!) - but it's overall a tastefully curated collection of unique, stylish products at a decent price point.
My favourite was a collection of little stools that are one-of-a-kind and hand-made ($69) - just looking at them made me happy.
I was impressed by the other furniture too - well-made pieces using reclaimed wood to execute simple, modern designs at a surprisingly reasonable price, like a coffee table that opens up for storage (Barn Board Store, $400). ( Essentially the same table at West Elm starts at $550.)
They carry a charming collection of jewelry, including brushed metal stud hearts (Pursuits, $17-30) and a crystal pendant necklace that doubles as a perfume dabber (Rosy Rings, $35).
I won't pretend to be someone who understands the point of soap made to look like food but if that's your thing, they have a whole table of it here - cupcakes, donuts, popcorn, waffles, a burger and fries, all laid out like a buffet but all of it, in fact, soap (Hello Sunshine, $1.50-25).
With a background in fashion and retail respectively, owners Hazel and Paul are friendly and enthusiastic. Their store is warm and inviting, with lots of good finds.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.