The Art of Mixing High-and-Low Styles at Home
Contributing editor Amanda Ross shares her fave places to shop for designer homewares and budget-friendly decor.
March 22, 2017
I’m a hunter-gatherer. Give me a store that requires digging and discovering so my imagination can run rampant. Those conceptual, high-modern, concrete-floor clothing boutiques with, like, 12 items hanging on a rack? Total head-scratchers. While I can appreciate their efforts at selling fashion as art, I hate feeling like fashion (or decor) only belongs to the realm of a chosen few. For me, style follows the principles of democracy—the right of the individual to express themselves in any way they like.
To that end, I’m a high-low devotee. Just like in real life, few people walk into Chanel or Brunello Cucinelli to buy an entire outfit off the mannequin; most of us are layering, mixing-and-matching and wearing everything from a vintage jacket to splurge shoes—with your grandmother’s scarf, to boot! And even if you can buy the whole Chanel outfit, you shouldn’t. Ditto our homes—I love the idea of quality made items dovetailing with more on-trend looks that can be swapped out after a few seasons (that said, if I buy one more pillow, my husband is going to stick ice picks in his eyes).
So with that in mind, here are my five go-to places that offer the thrill of mixing the high with the low.
This Main Street boutique has hipster style in spades, but not so much that you get the side-eye if you’re wearing the same clothes you wore yesterday and doused your hair with liberal amounts of dry shampoo (um, speaking theoretically, of course). Their collection includes thoughtful brands with a modern sensibility, from Denmark’s Menu furniture (sofas with mid-century styling and a top-end price of $7,000) to Germany’s Kaweco pens (classic instruments without the Montblanc prices or expectedness—these pens, at only $24, are for the quiet, in-the-know crowd that doesn’t need to scream their coolness).
This place is hands-down the best consignment shop in the city. I love the Granville Street location for its high-end brands (Gucci, Celine) and affordable prices. I encourage my two girls to spend their allowance here instead of the usual teen go-to’s—fewer, better things, I preach—and this place allows them to buy quality-made pieces that will last a lifetime. Next door, their furniture gallery skews a bit too traditional for my tastes, but every so often something comes in that’s perfect—a beige sectional for $1,200 by an unmarked brand that rhymes with “Ming Rosé.”
Some Gastown boutiques can end up feeling a little too precious, but Julie Wu’s modern household goods shop straddles the line perfectly. Kinto Japan’s tablewares offer minimalistic styling with a utilitarian ethos all for reasonable prices while French-made beech wood photo-clip holders ($15 for a box of 3!) work double-duty as stylish place card holders at your dinner table.
I still have a wardrobe cupboard from this antique consignment mainstay that I purchased when I was 25. I love reimagining all the options here: chairs that can be recovered in upscale modern fabric, stools painted in mod colours—all for ridiculously affordable prices. There’s a reason it’s been in business for 36 years.
5. Goodge Place
South Granville is hardly the spot for steals, but just off the pricey chain strip is this utterly quirky but well curated shop with all things cool thanks to owner Emily McLean’s time in London. It’s not cheap, but there are great pieces that are accessible like high-end “crayons.” Last year I bought a Rory Dobner porcelain salad bowl that looks very classical until you realize it’s decorated with fish smoking cigarettes. I get more comments on this bowl than anything else on my neighbouring shelves.
Of course this mass market retailer is here, but all is not equal at HomeSense. I’ve learned the hard way that anything that requires solid construction—couches, chairs, tables—are often a disappointment. They just can’t stand up to the wear-and-tear. Soft goods on the other hand—feather-insert pillows and wool carpets—can be an epiphany and given the disparate selection from store to store, you never have the Ikea problem of seeing thee exact same thing on your friend’s couch.