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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

When it Rains…it Pours!

Art Deco Divo: When it Rains…it Pours!

Such a cute turn of phrase, isn’t it? I’m sure we’ve all used it before to describe an onslaught of either good or bad things happening all at once. Well….this is the phrase I’ve chosen to use to excuse my absence over the past few months.  To make a very long story short (deep breath); the wonderful magazine that I worked for (The Grid) shut down all operations on July 2nd. I had just come back from a fun-filled long-weekend and it was game over. Le triste. It was a sad time as I loved not only the publication and my position, but also the amazing people I worked with.

Three weeks after this sudden announcement, I was to move into a new apartment. As you can imagine, it was an extremely stressful time.  Moving is stressful in the best of times…mix it with unemployment? I’m surprised I have hair, and hair that’s still blonde. I did lose a few pounds though, so I guess it wasn't all bad.

Once the move was complete I had to start looking for a job which thankfully, came rather quickly. I started in late August and well... it takes time to settle into a new gig so getting back to the blog wasn't exactly paramount. Three weeks after starting what I feel will be an incredible and fulfilling position, my partner and I ended our relationship(we were engaged). When it rains…it pours… Hopefully this puts things into perspective and you’re not too angry with me and my uber long absence. Now that all the dust has settled, I’m ready to dive back into the blog, so get ready!

I do have to mention that I was so very surprised(pleasantly) when I logged onto the blog today and saw that people were still visiting during my absence; thank you so much! I’d like to thank my Canadian, UK, and American readers, but also a huge Merci, Spasibo, Danke, and Multumesc to my unexpected friends from France, Russia, Germany, and Romania! 

 I feel like everything in my life is new, exciting, and there are so many things that I want to share with you all regarding Art Deco and the amazing city that is Toronto.

As I begin this new chapter in my life, I’d like to share my new home with you guys. As you can imagine, there is much that remains to be done (I have so many ideas!), but I’m rather pleased with where things are headed. I plan to post a feature on my new place in the next few days, but until then I’ll give you the theme: a harmonization of Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern. Alright alright, I'll also give you a teaser pic:

Let the imagination take charge!

Stay tuned, and thanks for the support!

Your Art Deco Divo,


Friday, 6 June 2014

Art Deco Div-ersion: Stella Artois

Every now and then I’ll post what I’m calling an Art Deco Div-ersion; a pleasant jaunt away from talking about all things Art Deco and instead, covering an event I attended. With all that being said, I thought I’d chat about a fabulous event I went to on Wednesday night.

International beer magnate Stella Artois has teamed up with the Toronto based fashion maven GOTSTYLE to create an incredible consumer experience by way of a Pop-Up Gifting Shoppe, just in time for Father’s Day. On Wednesday night I was present for the the grand opening, and while my head is still pounding from the hangover, it was a fabulous night!

Nothing says Stella Artois more than a Stella Artois chandelier. I say fill all the chalices!

Located at 399 Queen Street West, this snazzy little joint took over the space that B2 used to occupy and have they ever done it justice!  The space has a light, airy feeling to it as all the walls and fixtures gleam with fresh white paint. The merchandising strategy is on-point with tight little collection pods displaying only a few of each piece. The concept of the shoppe is all about piecing together the perfect gift for Dad paired with a custom etched Stella Artois Chalice, naturally.

Some summer styling from GOTSTYLE

Muff and Beaver Cufflinks from Simon Carter, you cheeky devill!

The event itself was just fantastic. After some Red Carpet photoshoot action, I was greeted by the incredible vocals of Carissa Kimbell who seduced the crowd with old jazz classics from the likes of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. I was then presented with an interesting fact that I hadn’t previously known about Stella Artoi: Did you know that there are 9 steps to pouring the perfect pint of Stella? Learn more about that here. After watching a full on How-To, I received a pint of my very own (the first of many) and cruised the collections available.

I was a lone wolf that night as le beau had to work, but I found myself in a sea of familiar faces. I had some fabulous Art Deco chat with the lovely Gail McInnes and some man talk with Christian Dare. I bumped into the wonderful and gracious Melissa Austria, and the ever so stunning Charlotte Jenkins of GOTSTYLE where I heard all about how this whole experience came to be and chatted about all things fashion. Charlotte also rocked some stunning Art Deco jewellery. What a babe – a live-action Jessica Rabbit if I ever saw one. 

The stunning Charlotte Jenkins of GOTSTYLE and Yours Truly

There are no words...

Love this cuff!

A very cool part of the night was bumping into the founder of Baffi Collection; check out their ever so unique collection of wooden pocket squares. Designed and manufactured in Canada and using strictly Canadian wood, these pocket squares aren’t only unique and fashionable but 100% Canadian. Love wood? I also chatted with the founder of Bo by Mansouri, who has a dandy collection of wooden bow ties. In case you didn’t know, wood is the new black.

Melissa Austria of GOTSTYLE (Middle) flanked by the gents of Baffi Collection(Right) and Bo by Mansouri (Left)

After way too many pints of the golden liquid, I took off into the night with my mega-babe and fiercely talented friend Megan Mane, along with her charming beau.

She's basically a modern Marilyn.

Pictures and memories aside, I have my very own custom etched chalice which will always bring me back to the Stella Artois Gifting Shoppe. If you're in Toronto, head down to Queen West and treat your daddy right. Hurry though, it’s only open until June 15th. Also, a huge thanks to Veritas for inviting me!

Ci vediamo!


Friday, 30 May 2014

Art Deco-rating 101

Let’s Art Deco-rate!

Okay, so last week we covered the rise and fall of an Empire, and by Empire I mean a Bus Station. Same difference.  This week I thought that I would switch it up and talk a bit about decorating…er… Art Deco-rating! Now, I won’t be directing you to dealers or high end furniture stores but I will be giving you advice on how to Deco-rate without breaking the bank. After all, I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at a high end dealer presented living room set and I don’t think I’m alone there. I do however, wish that I had tens of thousands of dollars to throw at  high end dealer presented living room set, so let’s be clear on that. I mean, I would LOVE this.

$18,000 for both...seems reasonable at only a years worth of rent!

 A main reason for my doing this is because I have seen so many people buy reproduction pieces at outrageous prices, not to mention sub par quality. Yes, Art Deco is coming back in a big way and that makes it trendy, but wouldn’t you rather own a small piece of genuine history, something that’s got soul? Why I love Art Deco furniture and décor as much as I do(apart from style) is in part due to the fact that these pieces were built to last lifetimes, not a few years. Now, those close to me know my secret but now I’m going to share it with the rest of you. Two words: Craigslist & Kijiji. To my American friends: Kijiji is like Craigslist, but better. I’m sorry you don’t have it…

What’s really great about Art Deco is that it hasn’t hit antique status yet. This means that prices aren’t yet astronomical unless you’re hitting up dealers or stores like The Art Shoppe. What’s more important is that with these buy and sell websites, most people just think they’re selling their grandparents junk and that it holds little value. These are the people you want to encounter.

My first success in this realm was when I was looking for a set of dressers for our bedroom. After searching through the bowels of Craigslist, I found a pair for $60. Yes, that would be both dressers for $60. Did I mention that included cross-town delivery? I was absolutely floored. Don’t get me wrong, they were in horrible condition and needed major TLC, as you can see.

Scratches, paint splatter...she had seen better days.

This one fared no better....

Circa 1940, these are a great example of what is known as Waterfall Style. They feature soft, rounded edges and simple streamlined details that inspire movement. I saw the potential in them and decided to execute a full-blown restoration. Using a sheet sander with a 60 Grit paper, I stripped these dames down to the grain.

Grain and bear it!

Once that was complete, I smoothed them out with 220 grit followed by two coats of stain in Dark Walnut and two runs of semi-gloss polyurethane to seal the deal. I sourced out some original Art Deco pulls ($15), cleaned them up and there you have it.

Like a phoenix from the ashes!

Cat cameo bonus!

 Check out this link. Not quite $30, but for $300 this is a real beauty.

 Now, these babies are for keeps but I was curious to see how much they would fetch for in the open market. Re-listed at $400 a piece, I was contacted by two eager buyers. To their dismay, I said they had already been sold. It’s perhaps unfair to get one’s hopes up but I was curious! Needless to say, it was certainly a testament to the value of furniture restoration. After the original cost of $30 per dresser and approximately $30 on materials, they cost me a total of $45 each; talk about a profit margin!

Our home is a mix of Art Deco and Mid-Century (hubby’s favourite) and we’ve done quite a few restorations since, you can see Adams favourite chair below. All of the items here were found on either Craigslist or Kijiji and I’ve included the prices for your bewilderment. 

Stunning Danish Mid-Century Teak Chair: $35

Even the smaller décor pieces can be found for unreal prices.

c.1929 Solid Brass Statuette of a Woman Dancing  $40

Streamline Moderne Chrome Lamp w/Milk Glass Shade $45/Pair

 Craigslist ALERT!!!!! Art Deco Dresser for $30!!!! A real fixer upper - great details!

There are even times when you’ll find a piece that doesn’t need a lick of restoration and looks amazing. Honestly, I still can’t get over the price of this one; the details are just stunning! All we need now are nightstands…Summer mission?

Late 1920's Double Bed $100 + Cat Cameo Bonus!
Amazing details!
Well, here is a steal for one nightstand, check it out for $30! Kijiji baby!

While using a search term like “Art Deco” is a surefire way to find what you’re looking for, I prefer to use “vintage” plus whatever item you’re seeking i.e. Vintage Dresser. I do this because it generally means that the seller isn’t aware that what they’re putting up for sale is Art Deco, which usually means a lower end price and results in the “OMG look at the deal I got!” euphoria. Win!

The Art Deco era is known for is grandeur, opulence, and glamour. Art Deco-rating your home to reflect this isn’t necessarily reserved for the wealthy; all you have to do is dig, and be willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

Until next time!


Friday, 23 May 2014

Riches to Rags - What Ever Happened to the Gray Coach Lines Terminal?

Bus Travel. It used to be the bee’s knees. Now? Not so much. Personally, I loathe traveling by bus; long lines, no guaranteed seating, the fact that you are on a bus... It all sucks. To boot, I’m one of those born and raised downtown Torontonians that never bothered to get his driver’s license. Now I’m 30 and well, if I want to travel somewhere that isn’t accessible by plane or train (My favourite being the latter; old soul, remember?)then my only option is good old Greyhound. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem as the places I tend to visit have airports and train stations, but my Fathers whereabouts have neither. Visiting Collingwood means the big wheels keep on turning and Proud Matty has to suck it up and take the bus. There is one saving grace to this otherwise lackluster experience, and that’s that I get to spend some time at the Gray Coach Lines Terminal, circa 1931. It opened on December 19th to be exact and only 4 days behind its scheduled Grand Opening of the 15th. Only 4 days late? That’s unheard of these days. 

The Vision

Construction leading up to the grand opening, c. September 1931

All done!

The terminal was built to service the ever increasing need for mass transit to and from smaller cities and well, did they ever do it with style! Built at the height of the Art Deco boom in Toronto, The Gray Coach Lines Terminal boasted travertine walls, a vaulted ceiling featuring a wonderfully geometric skylight in vivid shades of blue, green, and purple, framed by five tiered chandeliers. All that, combined with the grand staircase with monel metal railings and an inspired glass window that lead you on your way up to the mezzanine lounge made for a truly remarkable coach terminal. 


Sadly, she no longer looks quite like she did. After a series of modifications in the late 1960’s followed by a botched "Restoration" in 1991, she was robbed of her glamour. While the skylight and four of five chandeliers remain intact (phew!), the mezzanine has since been closed to the public and the rails modified to feature glass paneling(Gasp!). The original wooden benches have been replaced with some pretty vulgar seating arrangements, with walls blown out for an expanded ticketing area and snack bar. They also ripped out the doorways to the Arrivals and Departures area that in my opinion, finished off the main room and rendered it complete. There used to be symmetry and style at the Gray Coach Lines Terminal, but that’s all gone now. Standing in there 83 years later, it feels as if it’s unfinished, defiled, and defaced; a truly beleaguered venue that merely shrugs at its past rather than celebrating it. Le triste.

The exterior hasn't changed a bit!
As you can see, the upper monel railings on the North (right) and South(left) sides were replaced with half transparent, half translucent glass, with offices now occupying what once was the mezzanine level. The staircase railing was modified to include glass panels for some unknown reason. Ugh.

At least the skylight remains vivid, 83 years later.
She hardly exudes the grandeur she once did. What a shame that they removed the centre chandelier....

There are whispers that the now named Toronto Coach Terminal's services will be relocating to another venue and one wonders what will happen to this old girl if that becomes a reality.  With the condo boom in this city, it’s not a stretch to assume it’s fate will land in the hands of a Real Estate developer which could (could being the operative word) be a wonderful thing. What I would love to see is a full restoration of the main building with original ticketing area being the concierge. Behind the re-produced Arrival and Departures doors would be hallways featuring historical photos and facts leading the way to the elevators. The mezzanine would be re-purposed as a lounge, cocktail bar, and restaurant giving the public an opportunity to revel in the beauty. The existing bus bay would be torn down and that’s where the residential tower would rise up to the skies. They could call it Coach House Condos or something equally catchy that pays some hommage to its roots.  It’s for these reason that when I do have to travel by bus that it’s a lot easier to deal with. I get to think about what this place used to be like, and imagine what the future has in store.

Note: All historical photos in this article are from the City of Toronto Archives, with present photos Copyright of Matthew D. Stokes 2014

Monday, 12 May 2014

Art Deco - A Tribute to Mom

Well, Happy Monday everyone!

I know, Monday has a bad reputation. It’s the worst day of the week, by far. That being said, Monday is the start of a new week which means there are all kinds of wonderful things that can happen. Say for example, the first themed post of Art Deco Divo!

At the tail end of last week, I was thinking intensely about what my first post would revolve around. Would it be a landmark? Some furniture? A cocktail? I decided to sleep on it for a few days and resolved that the idea would come naturally. Well, it did. In the spirit of Mother’s Day, the first post of my blog will feature an Art Deco tribute to my late Mother, Mary-Beth.

My mother and I were incredibly close. I have fond memories of us sitting in the surf at our summer home in Florida, chatting about life under the stars. She was a remarkable woman, loved and admired by many, and wise beyond her years. She even knew I was gay before I did, and in her own way let me know at the tender age of 11 that it was okay to be a boy and like boys. We used to stay up late and watch James Bond and classic films, or on a sunny day in June she would tell the school she forgot that I had a doctor’s appointment and we would sneak away to golf. She loved life. We are a lot alike, her and I.

Other times, we would just chat like best friends while wrapped up in the haunting vocals of Billie Holiday.  She taught me all about jazz and cultivated my love for music. She encouraged me to do whatever my heart desired to do and taught me to believe fiercely in myself and my capabilities. Sadly, she died of a brain aneurism at the age of 36. That was almost 17 years ago. The good do die young, it seems.

We erected a bench in her name at a local park, and I still have some of her ashes. For years and years, I wanted to do more than hold onto her ashes and visit her bench, I wanted something permanent that I could see every day to remind me of my love for her, something that others could see and in a way, be introduced to her. The idea came to me last summer.

 A good friend of mine had just gotten a tattoo on his chest; it was the classic sailor heart tattoo with “Mom” inscribed on a ribbon.  It looked awesome on him, and it got me thinking. I loved the idea, but I wanted something incredibly unique, something personal. I decided that I would get a heart tattoo, but it would be Art Deco inspired and would say Mary-Beth instead of Mom. I stumbled upon a photo of an Art Deco apartment with the most amazing windows (see pic) and that was part of inspiration (you’ll see why). 

 I decided to start the design myself before going to my tattoo artist in order to best communicate my vision. You can see my original design, which was pretty basic, but it was a great starting point.

I then met up with my tattoo artist Chino who loved the idea and said that it was the first time in his 30 years in the business that he'd being approached to design something like this, nor had seen anything similar anywhere else. It was truly unique. He wanted a month to research Art Deco and prepare a design based on my inspiration. The wait near killed me but on Friday September 9th, 2013 I walked into his shop and he showed me this:

Honestly, I felt a lump in my throat and had to choke back some tears. It was breathtaking.  It was perfect and I knew that she would love it. A total of 9 hours went into this piece and it truly exhibited everything I love about Art Deco; it had amazing line work, it was elegant, it actually reminded me of a Film Studio logo that would be displayed at the beginning of a classic film. How appropriate, I thought. It wasn’t cheap, as no tattoo should ever be, but it was worth every penny.

Yesterday may have been Mother’s Day, but I look in the mirror every morning at my tattoo and am thankful for being able to have had such an incredible woman in my life, if only for the first 13 years. She will be with me forever, and immortalized in this beautiful piece of Art Deco body art. 

For those who love Ink, check out my incredible talented artist Chino's shop 

I hope you enjoyed today's post! 

Your Art Deco Divo,