The Toronto design aesthetic can be a hard one to pin down. Back in the 1990s, it was all ethnic/eclectic, with batik textiles, hand-woven rugs and wormy wood furniture from Indonesia all the rage. Then came the first decade of 2000, with its clear-plastic dining-room chairs and a penchant for gluing birch twigs to the bathroom wall (if I never hear about “bringing the outside in” again, it will still be a decade too soon). But lately, there seems to be a slightly more relaxed and, dare I say, natural approach to decorating that feels both nostalgic and fresh.
Spruce is a perfect example of this new movement, one that embraces reclaimed and repurposed materials along with a clean modernity that is both practical and pleasing. Owners (and real-life partners) Tara Sameshima and Kim Alke have pulled together a unique signature style that highlights locally sourced textiles, housewares and furniture.
“We actually started with the designers and products we have in our own home,” Sameshima says. “We thought that if we enjoyed them, then maybe others would as well.”
The emphasis on local and independent suppliers is an important element for both women. They already had a go-to list created from their years of renovation projects and discovered a variety of artisans by checking out places like the One of a Kind show, an annual pre-Christmas craft fair held at the Direct Energy Centre.
“Almost all of our textiles in the shop are from Toronto,” Sameshima says. “We source the furniture ourselves, from farm sales in Naples, to a father-and-son team in Guelph who build the big tables. There’s also a gentleman in Ingersoll who brings in the rare metal medical cabinets.”
There certainly is a mélange of styles at Spruce. My favourite is a recurring bicycle theme: colourful silhouettes of bikes decorating mugs and glasses and silk-screened onto pillows. “Kim’s from BC, so cycling is a big part of her life,” Sameshima says. “And we recognize that Cabbagetown is a pretty high-traffic bicycle community, so it felt like a good fit for us.”
I also love the reclaimed leather iPad covers, beautifully weathered and buttery-soft with age, and Sameshima’s own scenic photography, which lines the store’s walls.
One thing I can’t help noticing is the affordability of a lot of Spruce’s offerings. Most of the furniture is priced well below what you’d pay at Pottery Barn for similar (though mass-produced) pieces, while the glassware, knickknacks and pillow shams are within even a modest decorating budget.
“That was always one of our main goals with Spruce,” Sameshima says. “We wanted to make the price-point accessible and competitive. The more people who can enjoy these products, the more we feel we’ve succeeded.”