Whenever I consider adding something new to my apartment, I ask myself two questions: will I end up donating it to charity and will it increase in value?
My prized possessions are the ones I didn’t know existed until I stumbled upon them serendipitously in some obscure shop that appeared magically as I happened to be walking down a street I don’t generally take. Everything in my apartment, from the mermaid-shaped bottle opener to the painting by the artist that did Eisenhower’s portrait in the Smithsonian, has a story behind it that I use to impress guests during conversational lulls.
My favourite place to hunt for hidden treasures is historic Gastown. Located between Water, Columbia, Hastings and Cambie streets, Gastown is Vancouver’s go-to neighbourhood for interior design, trendy restaurants and unique gifts.
321 W Cordova St
Going into Salmagundi always reminds me of Miss Havisham’s mansion in Great Expectations. Located in a pie-shaped gothic building on the corner of Cordova Street, the floorboards creek beneath your feet and the air smells like an old church. Upstairs you’ll find high-end antique jewellery, clothing and collectibles. Wind your way down the narrow stairs to the basement for vintage postcards, toys and drawers full of “things” to rummage through. Prices range from a couple of dollars to the hundreds. If you’re looking for an heirloom to pass down through generations, you’ll find it here.
Secret Location Boutique and Tasting Room
1 Water St
While other stores and shops in Gastown downplay their uniqueness with wood and brick, Secret Location jumps out at you with bright whites and vibrant colours. The store is fashion-forward, focusing on high-end couture clothing as well as books and housewares. The adjacent Tasting Room serves European-inspired cuisine, with the burrata brûlée for $12 and ostrich in berry jus for $30.
Ignite Smoke Shop
109 W Cordova St
I enjoy Miller Time as much as the next guy, but there are days when a frosty one just doesn’t cut it. Ignite Smoke Shop dedicates itself to quality service and expert advice, offering an extensive selection of vaporizers and smoking accessories. Take a puff and watch your cares go up in smoke.
408 Carrall St
After suffering through countless Tim Hortons doughnuts, it was so refreshing to discover this tiny hole in the wall. Made with fresh ingredients, these handmade doughnuts are genuinely “always fresh” and very delicious. Get there early — supplies are limited.
115 Water St
With apartments getting smaller in Vancouver, it’s important that furniture look great and save space. Parliament is a refreshing change of pace from other stores that try to appeal to urban dwellers, offering stylish mid-century-inspired décor at reasonable prices. Locally owned and operated, Parliament was designed with Vancouverites in mind.
Old Faithful Shop
320 W Cordova St
A general store for the upwardly mobile, the Old Faithful Shop boasts a wide variety of home necessities with that extra zing. The staff are attentive but not pushy, and the shelves are stocked with artisanal merchandise that looks like it belongs in a folk art museum. Not for the faint of wallet, but well worth the money. Impress your friends with single-malt toothpicks ($19.95) or brighten up your home with a classic enamel pendant light ($159).
Meat & Bread
370 Cambie St
Call me a simpleton, but my favourite meal is still a good old-fashioned sandwich. The name says it all: hearty gourmet meat on fresh-baked bread for under $10. The shop is clean and simple and packed; save yourself some time and order online. The menu changes daily, and a fine selection of soup and vegetarian sandwiches is also available.
Brioche Urban Eatery
401 W Cordova St
The cioppino pescatore hot pot ($16.95 for one or $24.95 for two) at Brioche is the perfect respite from a cold, rainy day. The brick interior gives this charming little restaurant a European feel without being pretentious. The atmosphere is subdued, the portions are large, and the presentation is impeccable.