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Shopping Expert: Western Expansion – Oct/Nov2016

Shopping Expert: Western Expansion - Oct/Nov2016

Queen Street’s hip vibe continues its westward journey

It was in the late ‘70S that a previously unlovely and unremarkable stretch of Queen Street, east of Spadina, began to emerge as the raucous, rebellious heart of a local punk scene and vibrant arts community.

That’s when Myrlene Sundberg, a young interior designer, and John Palchinski, a painter, decided it was the perfect spot to open Urban Mode, a tiny, funky store that sold gifts, children’s toys, cards and accessories.

Myrlene Sundberg has been in the retail business for more than three decades.

As time marched on, gentrification reared its well-groomed head, and the duo watched picturesque second-hand shops, storefronts for young designers and quaint little boîtes being replaced with mass merchants of fashion and furniture, and fast-food chains.

Sundberg started looking west with envy. “I kept saying to John, that’s where it’s cool now, with all the great little shops, while our area was becoming like an outdoor mall,” she says.

In 1995, they moved to a new location at 145 Tecumseh Avenue, west of Bathurst and south of Queen—kitty corner to the historic Ukrainian Baptist Church, which opened its doors at Tecumseh Avenue and Richmond Street in 1897 as the Memorial Baptist Church.

Natural light pours into Urban Mode, showcasing the clean-lined modern furniture and accessories that make up its eclectic offering.

Since then, Urban Mode has become a destination for designers, architects and homeowners looking for beautiful, well-made contemporary design.

It’s a fun place to visit, turning a very handsome face to the street with a tidy prefab addition knitted on to what used to be a glass-fronted, three-bay garage.

Light spills into a gallery-like space filled with furniture, art, and accessories from such brands as Chilewich, Modfire and Pablo Lighting. It’s also the go-to spot in Toronto for wares from Blu Dot Furniture, the much-respected Minneapolis-based designer and maker of modern home furnishings.

Most recently, Sundberg has been adding stars of Scandinavian design to the mix. There’s Muuto, (it means “fresh perspective” in Finnish), which focuses on the enduring esthetics, functionality, and craftsmanship found in Scandinavian design, and Softline, a global brand out of Denmark that collaborates with international designers.

Always on the lookout for emerging contemporary design, Sundberg discovered Muuto, the Finnish company that makes this unfussy, chic suite.

Another Danish company, Normann Copenhagen, creates furniture, sculptural lighting, textiles and home accessories that are both timeless and contemporary.

There’s no arguing, of course, that change hasn’t also come to Queen West. Lots of it has been good. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, for example, underwent a massive renovation and expansion that includes affordable housing, retail, and treatment facilities for those with addictions and mental illness.

The independent streak remains, represented by retailers such as Quasi Modo, which also sells modern furniture and quirky vintage pieces.

Sundberg loves the vibrant nature of the strip and the mix of retail and restaurants: when she needs a hit of coffee, she ventures over to Jimmy’s at 735 Queen West.

“I love that there’s no attitude, and they make a great Chai tea.” For excellent pizza, she recommends Terroni at 720 Queen West. “If, that is, you can stand the noise!” she says.

One place Sundberg and her husband keep going back to is Le Select Bistro, the lovely French bistro nearby at Wellington and Spadina. “It’s always perfect, and never disappoints.” Just like, some might say, a visit to Urban Mode.

Photography By : Who Do You Love Photography


Vicky Sanderson