Shopping for furniture in Canada is perplexing. Many of the options we’ve found are either insanely overpriced or utterly unimaginative, often both. The resale market is extremely limited unless you are in downtown Toronto. And the convenience factor (aka shopping online) is usually low, with handmade artifacts difficult to find outside of craft shows, which at this point in our lives we don’t have time for. We don’t really understand why no one has solved this yet, but in the meantime the small indy makers are where it’s at.
So a couple weeks ago on the hunt for more rugs and textiles to furnish our new studio, we took to the road, stopping in Burlington, Hamilton and finally, in Guelph. We’ve been more aware of the city since it was named best place in Canada to find work. We’ve also since had a couple friends move to Guelph from Toronto; it seems to have replaced Hamilton as the go-to city for folks looking to escape obscene housing markets.
We don’t know Guelph intimately whatsoever, but luckily Mark knew of Era 66 and Rug & Weave through a maze of Instagram accounts, so we hunted them down as we passed through the city on our way home. The two businesses were hosting a Saturday open house for a rare in-person shopping experience (all orders are usually done online). Era 66 are these two amazing, clean-lined midcentury modern furniture designers, and Rug & Weave are another couple who import crazy beautiful rugs turning many of them into desirable cushions and floor pillows.
The pop-up shop was hosted out of a home in an unsuspecting neighbourhood. We wandered up the street to the bunting-laden facade and Moo immediately made herself at home on the many colourful rugs laid out in front (so much pink!). We later learned the small building (called the “clubhouse”, which was a room really), was a designated heritage property – an old cobbler’s shop, which meant it couldn’t be torn down. It’s owned by Era66 who regularly pair with other makers for events like this, repurposing and preserving the building as a small storefront.
Why do we love couple-led businesses so much? Maybe because it feels like something invisible is buried in the things these couples produce. Every creative couple we meet – these two couples not excluded – seems to have so much care for their craft, an authenticity about the way they want to make a living, and a down-to-earth relatability. So very little bullshit of the kind you encounter in bigger home furnishing stores.
Era 66 was born between the lovely couple, Kip and Alexa. They began their furniture-making endeavour just a year or two ago, catering their custom and beautifully finished work to Toronto condo-dwellers. Kip is a third-generation furniture maker, and never expected to go into the same line of work as her parents, but found herself drawn in and naturally good at it after building a side table for Alexa as a present.
Sarah and Svein, behind Rug & Weave, also have an interesting story. Both work in athletics full-time but after roaming the world felt a strong pull to the textiles industry, particularly as they couldn’t find locally the types of glorious textiles they had seen on their travels. Now with connections in Morocco and Turkey they import more interesting rug choices than classic Persians, eager to share the recycled, bright and handmade textiles they had discovered. They’re keen not to do the class rug salesman thing where every piece has unlisted, “negotiable” prices, so everything is what it is – which we respect quite a bit.
“We were tired of the “throw away” culture that has become the norm in western society, and wanted to curate items that customers could have in their homes for years, or even generations.” – Rug & Weave
While we were visiting, lots of people wandered in off the streets to see what the event was all about. A large pitcher of Sangria gradually lowered, and the vibes were friendly and good for what was a diverse range of customers (from our two-year-old to random ladies on the street). We loved catching a glimpse of these handmade artifacts in-person and feel keen to support other local random ‘experiments’ like this in the future. We’re sure we’ll be back to Guelph soon too to explore more maker nooks and crannies.