Although celebrities and film junkies descend on Toronto each fall for its film festival, Canada’s biggest city makes an ideal destination for the spring. The city plays host to Toronto Fashion Week, as well as the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, Canadian Music Week as well as a photography festival. Design buffs will also love “Doors Open” Toronto where more than 150 architecturally significant buildings open their doors for visitors to take a peek. But thanks to a thriving creative class, Toronto offers plenty of buzz beyond the festivals. The city has a new influx of design-driven hotels, shops and restaurants. Even the skyline is evolving thanks to recent starchitect designed buildings from Daniel Libeskind, Will Alsop and Frank Gehry, who redesigned the Art Gallery of Ontario. Also new in town is the Aga Khan Museum, designed by Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki, which houses a collection of Islamic art. Here’s a look at some of Toronto’s most stylish neighborhoods.
[nggallery id=82 template=”sliderview” display_content=”0”] WHERE TO STAY | Although Toronto offers plenty of boutique hotels, for grown-up luxury check into the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, the company’s global flagship. Interiors were designed by Yabu Pushelberg – the firm’s other projects include the Park Hyatt New York and the London Edition. The public areas are ornate but accessible, with hand painted walls and the use of screens. Guest rooms have a pared down simplicity which comes from a muted color palette but the real star is the city views from floor to ceiling windows. The same view can be enjoyed while swimming laps in the pool.
YORKVILLE | Toronto’s most upscale neighborhood is home to the Mink Mile, a stretch of designer boutiques including Prada, Cartier and Mulberry. It’s also known for its Victorian architecture and design-focused museums including The Gardiner, Canada’s national ceramics museum, which offers everything from clay classes to fine porcelains on display. The Bata Shoe Museum highlights the history of shoes from ancient Greek sandals and astronaut boots to flip flops worn by the Dalai Lama. The exterior of The Royal Ontario Museum is just as compelling as its galleries, thanks to a crystal shaped extension designed by Daniel Libeskind. Once you’ve had your fill of museums, tuck into Italian food at the rustic chic Terroni or the retro Flo’s Diner. Stock your wardrobe at the women’s boutique Pink Tartan or the edgier 119 Corbo.
JUNCTION | This gritty neighborhood is a design hotspot in the midst of gentrification, so you’ll find a mix of stylish stores and young mothers pushing strollers. Most of the shops are centered along Dundas Street West. Don’t miss Pekota for elegant home furnishings with an industrial edge. Just about the entire collection is made in Canada. Mjölk showcases designers from Japan and Scandinavia; we loved the handmade birch wine buckets. Pop into Eclectic Revival for vintage and custom lights; some of our favorite picks are old medical exam lights as well a custom birdcage chandelier. Latre stocks unisex clothing and African textiles. Refuel at Humble Beginnings Café, which has exposed brick and linen upholstered Louis XV chairs. Try the Thai chili beef wrap washed down with a limelemongra ss pressé.
QUEEN WEST | Vogue recently named this neighborhood one of the coolest in the world, and we’d have to agree as it is packed with stylish boutiques and restaurants. Don’t miss Brika for hand crafted goods, or the indie bookstore Type. Old Faithful is an updated version of a general store, and is packed with Jack Rudy cocktail mixers as well as wool blankets, while The Paper Place shop sells washi tape and hand silk screened papers. Don’t miss the Drake General Store for whimsical Canadian gifts, such as adult onesies in a Mountie motif. Sip on a Canadian old fashioned and dive into a plate of Ontario rabbit at the industrial-designed Parts & Labour.
DISTILLERY DISTRICT | This neighborhood dates back to the Victorian era, and the converted whisky distilleries are now home to over 70 shops and restaurants. We loved El Catrin for its bold Mexican Day of the Dead murals and killer mojitos; Bergo for George Jensen-designed products and Bruno racing cars, as well as The Saucy Milliner for stylish hats. Linger over a coffee at Balzacs. The area is also home to The Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, eastern North America’s first sake brewer.
KING STREET EAST | King Street is packed with big showrooms and makes an ideal one stop shopping experience. Klaus is the place to go for modern furniture from the likes of Tom Dixon and Moooi. Pop into Kiosk for high end chairs. EQ3’s showroom has pieces from Herman Miller, Marimekko, Vitra and Alessi. MADE showcases homegoods by Canadian designers – pick up terra cotta growlers or wool pillows here.
ONE TO WATCH | One of Toronto’s hottest design firms is Partisans. Their buzz worthy projects include Bar Raval, which serves Spanish tapas. Inspiration came from Spanish art nouveau, and the undulating wood interiors are Gaudi-esque. Similar curves show up on the Grotto Sauna, perched on an island’s edge in Georgian Bay, Ontario. The exterior was built from charred cedar. The curvy grotto was prefabricated in Toronto and then delivered to the site on a barge.
FIRM COMMITMENT | Ontario natives Glenn Pushelberg and George Yabu launched their design firm in 1980, and have since grown their eponymous company into one of the biggest players in travel and hospitality design. With offices in New York and Toronto, Yabu Pushelberg’s portfolio includes Park Hyatt New York, Waldorf Astoria Beijing, the London EDITION and One Madison, a luxury condominium tower in Manhattan. They have also collaborated on a collection of rugs with The Rug Company.
Aga Khan Museum (77 Wynford Dr.) | The museum is dedicated to showcasing the material, artistic and cultural heritage of Muslim civilizations. The building itself is stunning; Fumihiko Maki created a fresh and unique space unlike any other in the city. Photo: Jack Landau
Avenue Road (416 Eastern Ave.) | Not only did we design this space, but we also have a lot of our furniture pieces housed here. Bias aside, Avenue Road contains some of the most welldesigned accessories and furniture in Toronto (and New York), offering collections from international and internationally recognized designers.
Toronto Dominion Centre Towers (77 King St. West Financial District) | Designed by Mies van der Rohe, the two dark towers are not only iconic but also some of the finest pieces of architecture that the city has to offer. It’s like New York’s Seagram Building, which came first, tuned to perfection. Built as a power statement, the TD towers are a contrast between negative and positive spaces.
Hanmoto (2 Lakeview Ave.) | It’s a small, loud izakaya that looks like a flea market on the inside. As soon as you step in, you feel like you’ve been transported to a watering hole in Ebisu.
WANT Apothecary (1070 Yonge St.) | WANT Apothecary is a shop with a real neighborhood feel, owned and curated by Byron and Dexter Peart, the founders of Montreal-based leather goods collection WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie. Everything is carefully selected and worthy of a little exploration.
ZANE (753 Queen St. West) | Here you can find an edited collection of Canadian and international accessory brands, selected based on structure and quality over trendiness.
Blackbird Baking Co. (172 Baldwin St.) | This tiny storefront shop with a bakery in the back is tucked into the warren of streets that make up Kensington Market, where you can find the best bread in the city.
Furlough (924 Queen St. West) | Furlough is a sleek, little restaurant with an exceptional bar, serving artisanal European bistro food. With its warm and relaxed feeling, meant to suggest a speakeasy, it’s a great place to gather with friends.
Mjolk (2959 Dundas St. West) | It’s a quaint gallery space that specializes in selling and exhibiting objects by Scandinavian and Japanese artists and artisans. Everything in the shop is precious and unique, and there’s a lot of focus in curating objects that are made from honest materials.
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