When I bought a small 600-square-foot condo as my YMC Mom Cave in the heart of downtown Toronto, I had no idea how complicated the process of furnishing a space would be. My plan? To have my condo fully furnished and in live-in condition three weeks after closing. My reality? It's now two months since I got the keys and the space is still virtually empty.
The best thing I did was ask interior designer Meghan Carter to help me pull everything together. Without her guidance, I would be sitting in the corner of my condo weeping right now. The second best thing? Discovering the Toronto furniture store Decorium, where I found most of my key pieces for the condo.
If you're planning to furnish a new space in the foreseeable future, here is some of what I've learned about shopping for furniture so far.
As soon as I received the keys to my condo, I started shopping, both online and in-store, to see what's hot in interior design. With Meghan's guidance, I was prepared to whip out my credit card and do a mass shop, pay for delivery and be done. The truth is, if you want something nice, it takes time to pull it together.
Researching online before heading out gave me a sense of design trends, but seeing pieces in person are a whole different thing. For example, I needed to buy chic arm chairs for the living room. Online, I found several options I thought would work. But when I went into the stores to sit on them, they were often not comfortable, the wrong size, or sold out. It was suggested that I check out Decorium, Toronto's one- stop for modern furniture and accessories, where they offer free in-home and in-store design consultations. I connected with Tara, Decorium's head buyer, who is encyclopedic about the store's vast inventory. She spent a couple of hours with me wandering their showroom going through all their eclectic styles. And then I spotted it. The perfect, comfortable, chic chair that was the just the right size.
But the fabric was totally wrong for my muted colour scheme, so I pulled in Meghan to help us pick the right fabric before I could order the chairs. Here's what I didn't know: furniture takes a long time to be built. From the time I ordered the chairs to delivery will be around six weeks (thank you to Tara for the rush order!!). From beginning to end, I'm expecting that having a completely finished space will take a full three months. But it will be worth the wait.
Once I chose my chairs, I had to pick the fabric. Based on the colour of my walls (paper white), we agreed that some version of grey would be the right choice so we could have pops of colour in our throw pillows. I had no idea how many shades of grey there are. Fifty shades of grey is not an exaggeration! Tara, Meghan and I spent time combing through books of fabric samples to find the grey that would fit my Mom Cave. Grey with blue tinges, grey that looks yellow-ish, light grey, smoky grey. It actually made my head hurt trying to see the difference.
Once we settled on three favorites, Tara suggested we take the sample to the front of the store to see it in a natural light, to ensure it’s the perfect shade. She advised me to always see any piece of fabric or furniture in natural light before you buy it. Picking the right grey was much easier once we had better lighting. For the record, we went with neutral pewter grey for my chairs.
The condo has nice sunlight streaming in the morning hours, but much of the time it's pretty dark. So lighting was a big concern for me. I am putting in track lighting in the living room/kitchen open space which should brighten up the area, but otherwise the fixture itself should be unnoticeable. While I was at Decorium, we found a couple of gorgeous lamps that serve the dual purpose of design while actually providing a lot of light. I went with the lamp on the right to sit beside the living room sofa.
On the other side of the sofa, I discovered a super cool lamp which, to me, looks like an old fashioned movie camera. It's a playful design element, but it also throws a lot of light which is important to me.
When my designer Meghan Carter told me that she's going with an off-balance approach with these two lamps in my living room, I balked. I always thought symmetry was key when decorating a space. What I've learned is that this is true...to an extent. Playing with the concept of balance can add an extra level of visual interest. So, rather than having matching lamps on either side of my living room sofa, Meghan convinced me to go rogue and mix it up.
On one side of the sofa, Tara from Decorium sourced a round marble side table for the table lamp. The five foot high black and gold "movie camera" lamp will sit on the other side of the sofa, with that cute little black ottoman sitting between the lamp's legs acting as the side table. Funky, right?
I'm very careful with how I spend my hard-earned dollars. While I initially gravitated to less expensive furniture shops, when it comes to furnishings, you get what you pay for. What I decided to do is spend more on key pieces of furniture at Decorium and then fill in the other pieces at more moderately priced stores like Ikea. Both my arm chairs, side table, coffee table, and living room lamps are from Decorium. My kitchen stool, a couple of coffee tables, and a simple white glassy desk are all from Ikea. I'm matching the Ikea desk with this very chic black and gold accent chair from Decorium. They're going to look awesome together.
The art of furnishing a living space has been a series of push and pulls for me. Cost has been huge concern between what I'm prepared to splurge on and where I can save. Expensive or not, no matter how chic I want my space to be, I won't choose style over comfort. Ultimately, no matter how pretty or stylish my Mom Cave may be, if the chair, bed, or sofa isn't comfortable, neither I nor my guests won't be happy. That's why I took the time to spend hours in Decorium to find just the right pieces, as well as brave the Ikea maze to experience each piece first hand.
I still have a couple of small accessories to buy, but for the most part, I've now ordered everything for my little Toronto condo. Thank you Tara and the staff at Decorium for being so patient and professional while I waffled on making those big purchases. And hats off to my very talented designer Meghan Carter. Your guidance has been invaluable so far. I can't wait to see it all come together next month!