Biscuit General Store
It's not just party frocks, snappy menswear, candy and cool makeup inside Biscuit General store on Argyle St. (though those are tempting enough to sate any shopoholic's appetite). Check out this retro-inspired, pastel-infused take on the department stores of yore for its unique, adorable selection of housewares and accessories. Giftware is a huge strength -- pretty teapots, flirty printed aprons, ceramic tableware in unique shapes, stationery and cool books are just a few of the steals here.
2 Quebec City
If you're shopping along rue St. Paul, you must drop by Machin Chouette (which translates to What's-his-name). Graphic designer Lyse Maheu has an unparalleled knack for, "assigning new purposes to our predecessor's objects." Lyse has turned an old henhouse into a cupboard, vintage butterbox crates into leather upholstered footstools and also transforms old albums covers and records -- Sting or the Beatles, anyone? -- into CD or DVD case holders. There's a well-curated selection of antiques like chairs and tables, as well.
When it's time to invest in a proper sofa or bed -- one that doesn't involve the word 'futon' -- consider going custom. The benefits are many: you'll get the right size and shape for your space, no one will have the same piece as you, and usually you'll be investing in local workmanship. This is the case at Meubles Re-No, where the Massicotte family has been custom-crafting furnishings since 1961. Crisply modern (but comfy) design is a forte in this three-story, 40,000 square foot showroom and workshop. Meubles Re-No also carries hard-to-find European brands like Molinari, Porada and Fjords.
Ministry of the Interior
Years ago when I wrote a shopping column for Style at Home, I heard of this boutique's imminent opening and hustled over to its digs on a revitalized stretch of Ossington Avenue. The paint was still drying and the glass window front had yet to be installed, but I could tell this boutique -- and indeed the whole neighbourhood -- was going to be a hipster haven. Sure enough, it is, and Ministry of the Interior anchors the vibe with its offbeat collection of art and furniture. We're talking a green sideboard with a comic-bookish faux-timber effect, a white shelving unit with tilted shelves that resemble honeycomb and cool accessories like rollerskate bookends.
Crocus & Ivy
This Regina hotspot has been open since 2001, offering bedding, bath accessories, gourmet pantry items, and hot tableware from the likes of Jasper Conran and Emma Bridgewater -- basically a cornucopia of cool stuff. Owners Carol Brundige and Debbie Kosior make things easy for brides, too, with a gift registry that they'll custom create with you. And if you're looking for kiddie gear, step next door to the children's store where you can find educational toys and lovely bedding.
6 Okotoks, Alberta
What if you don't live in a tiny condo? Let's say you're lucky enough to live in a new house with cathedral ceilings and a huge great room. It's a challenge to fill large spaces with properly scaled furniture that will stand up to high ceilings and wide expanses of wall. Prescription: Fresh Country. This boutique is located south of Calgary in the suburb of Okotoks, and caters to individuals with tastes trending to warm and cosy. Gorgeous buffets with rich wood grains and carved "rope" detailing are a must-see, as is the rustic Sedona line of coffee and end tables. Choices run to modern, too, such as the tufted Hannah sofa and Austin leather sectional.
With branches in Vancouver and Victoria, Design House is Canada's down-to-earthier version of Design Within Reach. It's a repository of all things high-design, from amazing bent-oak Buttercup armchairs, to Tools oversize pots and pans, to punchy Marrimeko shower curtains. Located on Mainland St., interior design aficionados will love browsing the store for cheeky accessories or delicious streamlined furniture. This isn't a place to hunt for sales, though -- prices are kept as stable and reasonable as possible, so you can buy with almost certain confidence knowing your fave item won't be drastically slashed in price across town.
Fan Tan Gallery
541 Fisgard St, 250-382-4424
A trip to Canada's oldest Chinatown, located in Victoria, will reward you with the revelation of this superb furniture and accessory boutique. It's worth a side trip here just to check out the stunning architecture -- the shop has a charming loft gallery on the top floor and a lovely courtyard as blogged about by stationery goddess Fiona Richards of Cartolina Cards. I once purchased Clapham Beeswax Furniture Polish, which I used to seal a kitchen's raw butcherblock countertop without harsh chemicals, but such local niceties are not the only reason to visit. There's original art for sale, lamps, room divider screens, cabinets, baskets, mirrors, stools, towels, soaps and curios, all displayed with artistic panache.
PHOTO CREDIT: cartolinacards.com