WHERE Do You Furnish Your First Home?


6 minute read

January 4, 2012

Here’s a good follow-up to yesterday’s post.  And this might serve as good insight for those furnishing their second or third homes as well!

I’d love to get some input from my readers on this one too.  We all have our favorites…

This is going to be a VERY opinionated debate amongst everybody who reads and/or comments on this blog, but that’s kind of what I’m hoping for.

One of the greatest features of the Internet is the mass-collaboration of ideas and opinions, and while many of the Internet’s participants are reclusive weirdos living in their mother’s basements and making anonymous comments, there are also a lot of great user reviews as well.

I’m not sure what’s the easiest way to do this – so I’m going to break things down by category.

1) Miscellaneous Home Furnishings

IKEA.  I know, I know – you’re wondering how a professional like myself could start this list with IKEA, but hear me out.  IKEA has very modestly-priced items for the first or second-time home-buyers, but they also have items that I think we could all use.

For example, bookshelves.  If you can honestly tell me that you’d rather go to some upscale, posh furniture store and pay $900 for a bookcase carved from some special type of wood rather than $139 for the Billy bookshelf from IKEA, then I don’t think we can be friends.  I just don’t see the difference in quality, nor do I see a reason for the need in the first place.

When it comes to the “little things” like door mats, can-openers, and bathroom garbage cans – there’s no reason not to go to IKEA.

HomeSense.  This is one of the most underrated stores in the city.  It’s like a better version of IKEA, but without the $0.99 ice-cream (and the crowd it attracts…).  They don’t have as much quantity, but they’re of much better quality.  Throw pillows, dinner plates, mirrors – all these things are slightly more expensive, but far better than what you’d find at IKEA.  Again – if you live in a Rosedale mansion and pay $600 for Egyptian throw-pillows, then this blog post is not for you.

2) “Step Up From IKEA” Miscellaneous Furnishings

Structube.  I’ve heard a lot of people call this “an upper-class IKEA,” but it’s far more than that.  They both have a thick catalogue, but the differences end there.  Structube is a great place for end tables, TV consoles, lamps, and maybe even a dining room table if you find something you like.

EQ3.  I have trouble even associating this place with the word “IKEA” because I really, really like EQ3, but many people consider it to be cheap and common.  As with Structube, you can find some very interesting and very affordable lamps, TV consoles, tables, and maybe even your couch, or bedframe.  They’ve got some cool mirrors and light fixtures as well.

I bought my TV console from EQ3 – about $700 with tax if I remember correctly.  It was pre-assembled (unlike IKEA), and I could feel the difference as soon as I ran my hands over the wood.  Everything from the handles to the legs show the difference.  The wood is thicken, denser, and I can see myself using this piece in another house or condo down the road.

I also like that EQ3 runs several ongoing promotions, ie. 10% off everything in the store one Thursday per month (don’t quote me on the date).  I believe it’s up to 30% off when you spend $5,000, and while I don’t know a lot of people that spend that kind of money at EQ3, it’s nice to know that they appreciate business enough to offer discounts!

3) Couches

G.H. Johnson’s Trading Co.  I promised myself that I’d never plug this company because they delayed the delivery of my couch by about three weeks (it’s a miserable story that involves multiple layers of incompetence, but I’ll save that for another day), however their prices and selection are simply unbeatable.

As I said in yesterday’s post – just don’t go to Leon’s and buy black leather ruffled couches!  I’ve always found GH to have a massive selection on the floor, and I really think it’s important to sit on the couch before you buy it, ie. it’s the one thing you can’t pick out of a catalogue or online.  You can mix around with thousands of different fabrics, and hundreds of colours.  It’s almost overwhelming at times.

They take the base prices from the retailers (all over North America) and add a miniscule mark-up.  I have no clue how they make money, honestly.  If you can do with the potential delays, you can’t go wrong with the prices at GH.

4) Televisions

E-Outlet CanadaWe all have our electronic discount secrets, and this is mine.  A friend of mine is a huge techie, and he introduced me to this place a while back.  They sell refurbished televisions at ridiculous prices, and my ‘group’ of friends have bought about ten televisions here and none of us have ever had a problem.

When somebody takes a TV back to Future Shop or Best Buy, it ends up at E-Outlet Canada at a significant discount.  They also have 6-month-old models that are virtually the same as today’s model (different serial number), but cost significantly less.

I purchased a 55-inch Samsung LED 1080P HD TV (I think that’s right – I’m not really a techie) for $899 a few months back.  Comparable models today are still $1200 even with the Boxing Day Discount.

5) Tables

Urban AmishHere’s a new store that I really like!  They’re at Parliament and King, and I believe they’ve been there for a full year now but without much fanfare.  I’ve been through the store several times, and while I don’t see myself identifying with their couches and beds (not enough selection), they have amazing tables.

I bought my coffee table from Urban Amish and I think it’s the nicest thing I own!  We looked through a dozen stores for the “perfect” coffee table, and we found it here.

They’ve got great odds-and-ends when it comes to coffee tables, end tables, hall tables, bedside tables, and basically everything but pool tables.

All the furniture is made by “real, live, Amish people in Ohio,” so you know that somebody named Jeb hand-carved your table before he took a long, cold bath in a sawed-off barrel like they did in the 1880’s.

6) Lighting

Union Lighting.  Again – me and my lighting!  Well, I think lighting is the best way you can add character AND value to your house or condo, and light fixtures say a lot about the style you’re trying to convey.

Located in what I like to call “The Lighting District” up at Caledonia Road, this is the best store of the bunch.  Their selection is frightening!  It’s overwhelming at times, but if you find something that’s far too expensive, you can likely find something identical five feet away that costs less and you won’t know the difference.

7) Wall Art & Mirrors

P.I. Fine Art.  There are several art stores up in this neck of the woods, but this place is incredibly versatile and tailor-made.  If you find something you like, they can re-produce it in any size.  Imagine finding something that is 48-inches long but you only have 32-inches of wall space in your den.  No problems!

The only problem, in fact, is that much like Union Lighting, this place has so much selection that it can be overwhelming.

We purchased a very unique mirror for our front hall and it’s something I never could have visualized had I not seen it hanging on the wall.  They have some items here that jump out at you and say, “This is what you need in your front hall,” when all along you had no idea.

I take after my Dad in that I usually don’t buy “art” unless it’s from the person who created it, say, a peasant girl in Guatemala who carves wooden figurines with her feet, but often that limits your options when you’re going for a more conservative, modern style.  Much of the art I’ve accumulated through my worldly-travels is far too personal and doesn’t really “go” with my contemporary condo.  Sometimes, you just have to buy a large, massively-produced canvas from a place like PI Fine Art because it looks good with all the other furnishings you’ve already spent money on.  I can always hang my antique 1870’s hockey skates and Tibetan dragon painting in my home-office…

8) Outdoor Furniture

DOT Furniture.  I looked long and hard at patio furniture last year when I started to plan the design for my large outdoor terrace, and in the end, I went with DOT.

It’s expensive, but it’s worthwhile, and if you purchase at certain times of the year (like many other stores), you can save significantly.

The selection at DOT was fantastic.  We went to DOT Elite on Davenport and they had about a dozen resin-wicker outdoor seating sets to choose from, whereas most other places I went to had about 3-4.  When choosing outdoor seating, you want to maximize the space (especially if you’re looking at 180 sqft), and you need as many options as possible, in all different shapes and sizes.

There are a lot of ridiculously over-priced “high end” outdoor furniture stores in Toronto, and I really don’t see the appeal.  For those of you that think DOT is over-priced, well you’re already on my side.   But why is it that Loblaw’s can sell a $300 resin-wicker chair, but at Andrew Richards Designs, it costs $3,000?

Studio B sells “nice” chaise-loungers for $9,000.  No thanks..

You can blow your brains out on outdoor patio furniture, but it’s really not worth it.  With our harsh Canadian winters, not only do we have a few short months to enjoy the outdoor weather, but the furniture itself gets a lot of wear and tear over the winter – even if it’s well stored.  The furniture depreciates rapidly, and going above mid-level-pricing just isn’t worth it, in my mind.



Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. B

    at 10:48 am

    Stay the fuck away from Structube, while the styles are more modern, I’d way the quality is WORSE than Ikea. I had a problem with everything I bought from them and when I went to return/exchange items, I asked the sales rep if this was normal and she said it was.

  2. Kyle

    at 6:47 pm

    IKEA is actually a pretty good place to get mattresses too.

  3. Phil

    at 10:26 am

    Totally agree with you on the Ikea part. While I am in general not a fan of Ikea, I bought my billy bookshelf there and some small items (plant pots for example). I will never buy a bed, a couch, a coffee table or a desk there though.

    HomeSense is superb! I live every close to one so I am fortunate enough to be able to go there regularly to find any new additions. Most of the stuff is of high quality and sold 40% off. Can’t be happier with my sofa and lamp purchase from Homesense.

    Structube etc are overpriced IMO.

    Don’t forget the magic world of craigslist/kijiji. For some furniture, it really doesn’t matter whether it is brand new or used, as long as it is in good condition. This is especially true for those with minimum real contact with its former owner. for example, I won’t buy a used mattress or sofa or even chair because it is used daily and God knows what could be left there. However, I don’t mind a used bookshelf, a floor lamp, or a TV console as these once placed, hardly come in contact with anyone afterwards. I actually bought a set of night stands for $200 ($700 +tax when new), a TV console for $150 ($499+tax when new), both lightly used and both of very high quality (very heavy wood). With that price, I could have bought something brand new from Ikea etc, but the quality/design is far from comparable, and in 6 months they would become/look used anyway.

  4. J

    at 9:54 am

    I’ve never had a problem with Structube and have bought numerous things from there.

  5. JacobT

    at 8:51 pm

    David, I cant believe you are giving props to IKEA and simultaneously slamming CityPlace in every other article….I mean, isnt the whole arguement (which I disagree with BTW) is that CityPlace is the “IKEA” of the condo market – modern, non-unique, mass produced, generic, poorly built?

    EQ3 is better than IKEA but still a little questionable.

    Anyways, I see some interesting places that you listed here but I dont know how you missed the best high-quality furniture stores in the city ………

    ELTE – Factory Outlet in Vaughan
    Roche Bobois

    1. Krupo

      at 12:26 am

      JT, but Ikea “works” in the disposable mindframe (as wasteful as it that is), since the cost is so low. A condo is hundreds of thousands of dollars, so you can’t just toss them in the junk pile or your friend’s cottage deck when you’re done with it.

    2. Devore

      at 12:36 am

      A condo is something you live in, and invest a lot of money into, up front and over time. Do you really care where your forks or waste basket come from? You have to be sensible with your money. Spend it where it matters, save it where there’s no difference.

  6. Chuck

    at 11:46 pm

    Cornerstone at Keele/Dundas St W is a fantastic furniture store.

    And I second the vote for ELTE… they’re great.

  7. TWT

    at 9:14 am

    I would say that West Elm is a much better option than Structube, no?

  8. defacto

    at 7:40 pm

    Avoid Structube ,the majority of the designs are copied and manufactured overseas- of cheap MDF and veneer.

    Their furniture is an environmental disaster. Most pieces chrome plated (cancer anyone? -the chrome plating process produces hexavalent chromium, a known carcinigen; see Erin Brokovitch), not to mention the off-gassing of VOC’s from toxic formaldehyde found in Structube’s MDF, manufactured in China.

    Structube is over priced, offers a limited 5 day return, not to mention shit quality other posters have pointed out.

  9. JGL

    at 12:21 am

    Avoid Structube !!!!!

    I bought a table and the veneer lifted on it after 1 week. There are also visible nail head marks on the contemporary table I bought. Poor quality and terrible service

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