STORE PROFILE: Curiosity shop Wunderkammer expands to feature more home decor, jewellery, and other quirky treasures

This week Shop Talk welcomes guest blogger Ashleigh VanHouten

A 16-foot yellow canoe in the front window (also for sale) beckons shoppers.

A 16-foot yellow canoe in the front window (also for sale) beckons shoppers.

Heard of Wunderkammer? It’s a hidden gem of a place, though not so hidden anymore — the curiosity shop recently re-opened in a bigger and better spot just down the block from their original space on Dalhousie Street.

Tamara Steinborn and Nathan Dubo, partners in life and work, moved from Montreal  a few years ago to open their Lowertown shop and are already enjoying  steady success — to the point where their intimate store could no longer contain the volume of jewelry, home decor, and vintage finds that their customers were asking for.

Wunderkammer’s new spot has the same warm, well-curated vibe as the original, just with a bit more breathing room — and a lot more baubles. The new and improved store houses much more in the way of home decor and accents, including bigger pieces like wardrobes and wall art.

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SHOP TALK: Elite Draperies features gorgeous fabrics, high-tech gadgets, and Sarah Richardson!

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven 

Working on the annual Interiors issue is always great for home inspiration. It’s mostly pipe dreams, but once in a while an idea resonates all the way to my to-do list. And this year that idea was floor-to-ceiling curtains as a way to add warmth to a room.

I’d make them myself, of course. My MIL made beautiful drapes for my daughter’s room, just as my mother had for my childhood room. A tradition!

This cute sofa

This cute sofa was reupholstered by Elite Draperies’ expert staff in a multitude of fabrics.

I found some nice fabric — deeply discounted, no less, so I got a lot — at the end of November and set about making the curtains.

Grommet-style seemed the easiest option. Just measuring and cutting took about a week. There was the possibility that they would be ready by the end of 2013, but no luck. Our bungalow and general clutter-filled/ toddler-led lives meant that I could carve about an hour or two, twice a week, for this project.

Then the bathroom reno started … and kept going … and it was all I could not to stew about the lingering dust/logistics/lack of shower. I wasn’t spending my evening at a sewing machine!

Meanwhile, I was hearing great things about Elite Draperies new place. In 2012 they moved out of their cramped Bank Street quarters and took over two units on Colonade Road, an area burgeoning with home reno showrooms. I was curious to see how the pros do it, so I paid Greg Birtch a visit.

I was greeted by a striking modern-industrial showroom with lots of cool re-upholstered furniture, bookshelves of fabric swatches, and a very chatty co-owner. I soon learned that Greg left his job as a firefighter to help his wife, Mary, build their store into the go-to place for custom curtains.


Greg Birtch of Elite Draperies

One of the coolest things I saw was their custom solar-powered blinds. My dream home fantasy includes a few key remote control items — like blinds. Who hasn’t entered a room in their PJs only to realize the across-the-street neighbours are staring out their window, coffee in hand, watching the parade of life go by? (My neighbour doesn’t even have curtains. He’s what we call a Neighbourhood Watch-er.) I always figured that kind of thing meant rewiring, but Elite makes their own solar-powered units, which means they are not only easy to install, but they’re easy on the energy bill.

Also, their new place provides their in-house seamstresses with a bright, spacious workshop. It’s a mix of old faithful sewing machines and state-of-the-art setups that allow their staff to work more efficiently. When I visited the area was abuzz with activity, cool textiles abounding.

More than anything else, Greg’s enthusiasm made me realize that curtains (or drapes, or blinds) are one of those important but oft-forgotten elements of interior decor. Unlike funky accessories and cool chairs, they aren’t very photogenic on their own.

Since visiting Elite Draperies I still haven’t finished those curtains (bobbins?!). Meanwhile, Greg and Mary have organized a fundraising event with Sarah Richardson about home decor for spring. Not sure there are still tickets, but do check out Elite’s showroom if you’re looking for some home decor inspiration — or someone to rescue you from your own DIY nightmare ;)


SHOP TALK: Textile hub + training centre EcoEquitable opens sparkling new space in Vanier

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven 

Since becoming involved with  EcoEquitable, Anouk Bertner looks at frogs in a whole new light. And by frogs I mean the current exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

“Every time I see that banner I think, ‘where’s it going?’ I want that vinyl!” she laughs.

Eco Equitable ... photo by

The EcoEquitable Boutique sells recycled fabrics and upcycled fashion accessories including totem bags and infinity scarves.

It’s one of the many ways that EcoEquitable transforms the way we think about clothing, consumption, and community.

EcoEquitable started in 2002 as an organization focused on helping immigrant women learn to sew. Informal groups honed skills on theatre costumes and children’s clothing. Four years ago, EcoEquitable launched a five-month course that provided new Canadians with skills that would equip them to work at an industrial textile facility, or as tailors, or even designers who create their own labels. Classes not only covered hemming and pleats, but also job hunting tools and basic literacy. 

But more than that, EcoEquitable opened up a space for women who spend much of their time alone — or with only young children. It created a community space through potlucks and a jovial, productive atmosphere.

That atmosphere, however, was a bit cramped and quite dark. Located in the basement of community centre on Chapel Street, it was tough to find and — despite all the laughter that was going on when I visited the space in 2010 — didn’t do justice to the great things that were happening.

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DRESSES! Rent Frock Repeat pop-up shop open until March 30

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven Sarah Fischer. 

A few years ago, we wrote about Rent Frock Repeat, a company that allows users to rent designers dresses for important events. It struck us as a cool idea and a fun way to have a never-ending supply of amazing dresses.


One of my favourites, an Emogene Couture sheath, retails for $600 and rents for $90.

Then we heard of their expansion to Ottawa! Okay, for now it’s a pop-up shop in Gatineau, open until March 30. But when we heard they were bringing hundreds of couture dresses to a funky chalet across the river, well, we had to investigate.

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INTERIORS 2014: Bespoke furniture with a global narrative

This story appears in Ottawa Magazine’s Interiors 2014 issue, on newsstands now. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.


This beautiful walnut chair incorporates techniques developed around the world (Photo: Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio)

When one wood artist commissions a piece from another, it’s high praise, indeed.

Working with richly grained walnut, Daniel Marciano designed the original version of this chair five years ago as a signature piece for an exhibition. As soon as he saw it, wood turner Malcolm Zander commissioned two more for his home. Although at first glance these pieces have a modern Danish sensibility, Marciano notes that a global narrative runs through them.

Look closely, and you can just spot the artistry of the four joints connecting the five pieces that make up the armrests, a technique developed in China and known as a keyed scarf joint. The backrests are also inspired by China. “I chose pieces with a strong grain that reminded me of a Chinese landscape painting,” Marciano says.

The gorgeous planes and finish he credits to Japan, where he spent three months apprenticing in 1993 and took his hand-planing skills to the next level with sculpting tools specific to chair making. Bringing it all back full circle, Marciano notes that Scandinavian designers were heavily influenced by furniture designed during the Ming dynasty in China.

SHOP TALK: Oscar night style with Erica Wark

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven Sarah Fischer. 

From left: Lupita Nyong’o in Ralph Lauren Collection; Olivia Wilde in Gucci; Naomi Watts in Tom Ford; Cate Blanchett in Armani Privé; Robin Wright in Reem Acra; Zoe Saldana in Prabal Gurung; and Margot Robbie in Gucci at the 2014 Golden Globes.

Ahead of Oscar night this Sunday, SHOP TALK catches up with Erica Wark on what (and who!) is standing out on the red carpet. If you haven’t seen her on the side of a bus or on the OFW runway, Erica is the resident fashion expert on The Social, a fashion contributor on Marilyn Denis, and a regular fashion expert on eTalk.

SHOP TALK: Who are you most excited to see on the red carpet and what do you think she will wear?
ERICA WARK: That’s a toughey. I’d have to say Lupita Nyong’o, Cate Blanchett, and the ever-glamorous Sandra Bullock! I’m hoping Lupita will continue to knock our fashion socks off and rock something big, bold, and beautiful! She’s been wearing colour like nobody else … let’s hope this colour train continues. As for Cate? Well, she’s got haute couture down pat. But she’s a major risk taker, where the risk is ALWAYS worth the reward. I’m hoping she’ll wow us in something from Balenciaga, Lanvin, or Prada. Sandra is a wild card. Her normal “classic” sophistication has been thrown out the window. She’s been far more daring and a lot more fun – maybe a Prabal Gurung or Marchesa?

Jennifer Lawrence in a ho-hum strapless Dior gown.

Jennifer Lawrence in a ho-hum strapless Dior gown.

ST: Who has been the biggest disappointment on the red carpet so far?
EW: Hands down Jennifer Lawrence in Dior, Dior, Dior. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fashion house and I understand she’s under contract, but I’m so sick of the strapless boring dress they keep putting her in! She’s so young and has such a bold personality; it would be nice if her Oscar gown emulates that.

ST: Which man’s style will stand out the most on the red carpet?
EW: It’s a tie between Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. They’ve not only been cleaning up the awards for both best and best supporting actor, they’ve also been nailing the red carpet scene. Looking forward to seeing what they pull off on Sunday night.

ST: If you could dress any celebrity, who would it be and what would you put them in?
EW: Ha ha! Wow… I don’t know, there are sooo many. I’m a huge fan of Diane Kruger – she’s a fashion maven. I also love Gwyneth’s style — and Lupita! She’s been a star this award season. I can’t wait to see how her style evolves.

ST: Who’s your favourite designer for red carpet attire?
EW: Can’t say a favourite, but I’m obsessed with the fresh designers out there like Prabal Gurung, Peter Pilloto, and Mary Katrazou. But I also love the classics like McQueen, Gucci, and Armani Privé.

ST: Who is the most daring celebrity on the red carpet scene and do you like the risks she is taking?
EW: I’d say it’s definitely Cate Blanchette. You can tell she dresses for herself and herself only. She oozes confidence and grace like no one else; and she’s always wearing something spectacular.

SHOP TALK: Getting serious about the headshot

Shop Talk is written by Ottawa Magazine editor Dayanti Karunaratne and Ottawa Magazine account executive and fashion maven Sarah Fischer. 

After a months-long, post-holiday, hibernation-induced hiatus, SHOP TALK is back! ‘Cause there’s nothing like a headshot to push us to examine our style, talk about clothes, and generally obsess about insignificant details and reveal our egomaniacal aspects.

For me, headshot update time is unnerving — not only because it means organizing another detail into the calendar, but also because headshots involve staring into a camera. This is something I’m very wary of — so much so that I elect myself event photographer at family functions. When I am forced in front of the lens I make a face that ruins the scene. But in my new role as editor I did want something that gave off a little “talk to me” vibe, rather than a “what you said, too funny!” that I usually go for. So that meant another photo shoot.

We get some great afternoon light in our office — and I was excited to ditch the tights, if only for a few minutes!

We get some great afternoon light in our office — and I was excited to ditch the tights, if only for a few minutes!

Luckily, people know this and rally around me come headshot day. Photographer John Kealey pep-talked me via email for weeks in advance and Sarah Fischer took me to Ça Va De Soi, where Francine coached me into different outfits (Francine is one of those amazing retail gems who acts as a pseudo-stylists and helped me to feel confident about my own personal style, not to mention my body).

When the day arrived, John met me at The Whalesbone on Bank Street with his entourage — assistant Matt Brunet and makeup artist Lauren Bartoli. I had a good feeling: Whalesbone holds such great memories and I was pumped from a morning run. I was ready to exude a more serious, earnest tone in my headshot.

After some MAC makeup magic I ducked downstairs to change. (Would you believe I even thought to put on my white top before my lipstick? Gotta thank my mom for making me paranoid of white clothing.) The outfit — white Anne top, beige Eve skirt — was an excellent and subtly surprising combo. I probably could have worn any white shirt and old blue jeans, but this outfit really elevated my spirit. It virtually transported me to a summer patio, which made smiling into the camera a whole lot easier.

Laughing shots are fun, but we managed to get a few serious ones in too.

Laughing shots are fun, but we managed to get a few serious ones in too.

We returned to the office to do some atmospheric shots — holding a magazine at my desk, looking out the window, etc. Here I wore the striped Tainac Ça Va De Soi dress and the amazing Koryne cardigan — which, I learned, can easily be worn as a top, no need for layering (which, for some reason, paralyzes me).

Headshots are always a weird experience that bring out my insecurities, but this day involved a lot of laughter too. I did try to keep a straight face — not a mock smile, or a laughing smile, but a sincere, interested smile. I thought of my daughter falling asleep on my arm, and I thought of my most recent interview subject, who commanded my attention and sparked my interest — something I’m hoping to do with the Editor’s Letter that will accompany the photo.



SHOP TALK: Tasty Tidings

This story appears in the Winter edition of OTTAWA Magazine, on newsstands now. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

Product sourcing by Sarah Fischer and Erica Wark
Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio


Photo by Marc Fowler/ Metropolis Studio

Photo by Marc Fowler/ Metropolis Studio

Gourmet Gifts
For the home chef on your list, nothing beats top-of-the-line olive oil in wild flavours to incite creativity in the kitchen. $32 for a 750-mL bottle. The Unrefined Olive, 151-A Second Ave., 613-231-3133. This wicker basket makes the gift-giving moment a beautiful thing. $95. J.D. Adam Kitchen & Home Accessories, 795 Bank St., 613-235-8714.  

Fair Fare
Divine chocolate bars are made with fair-trade cocoa butter, fair-trade sugar, and real vanilla to ensure a taste that truly is divine ($4.60 each). These lemongrass sticks are produced by small-scale organic farmers in Sri Lanka and India ($3.20 each). Himalayan salt, from Solay Gourmet, is a pretty pink colour thanks to 84 essential minerals ($10 for 227 g).  Ten Thousand Villages, 371 Richmond Rd., 613-759-4701.

Time Out
Take a moment to unwind and refuel. Get Relaxed Tea, from The Republic of Tea, features calming aromas of lavender and rose petals, as well as chamomile and passionflower ($14.95 for 36 bags). Polenta crisps, in caramelized red onion and balsamic vinegar flavour, are low-fat crackers that are free of wheat, gluten, and nuts ($7.59). Ottawa Bagelshop and Deli, 1321 Wellington St., 613-722-8753.

Blush Bubbles
Celebrate in style with Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut, an elegant sparkling wine made in classic tradition. Sip by the fire for a refreshing and delicate holiday experience.  $29.95. LCBO, 275 Rideau St.,  613-789-5226.

Sweet Treats
For an all-natural warm-up that will satisfy your sweet tooth, try chocolate truffle hot chocolate by Vermont’s Silly Cow Farms ($7.99). Cocomira’s pistachio crunch combines Belgian dark chocolate with toffee and pistachios for a tasty treat that happens to be gluten-free ($9.99). Rainbow Foods, 1487 Richmond Rd., 613-726-9200.

SHOP TALK: Stocking Style

This story appears in the Winter edition of OTTAWA Magazine, on newsstands now. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

Product sourcing by Sarah Fischer and Erica Wark
Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Triangle Toes
Björn Borg cotton socks for men are the perfect way to add a festive pop of colour to a suit-and-tie affair. $18. Stroked Ego, 224 Bank St., 613-667-3008.

Toasty Toes
SmartWool women’s socks offer trail-tested comfort and exceptional tailored fit. Made from merino wool, these socks wick moisture away from the body and keep toes warm in any weather. $20.50. Mountain Equipment Co-op, 366 Richmond Rd., 613-729-2700.

Stripe Style
Those who love BabyLegs, the funky leg warmers for little ones, will love these socks by the same company. $8.95 for two pairs. Baby enRoute, 416 Richmond Rd., 613-695-3416.

Graphic Gift
Combed-cotton Happy Socks are designed in Sweden for colourful men and women. Reinforced toe and heel panels mean these accessories will be enjoyed for years to come. $12. Roadtrip, 24B York St., 613-562-0992.

Lipstick Legs
Inject a bit of frivolous fun with these knee-highs. The two-tone lipstick pattern and grey background mean endless wardrobe possibilities. $12.50. Fancy Sox, 50 Rideau St., Rideau Centre, 613-230-7439.

SHOP TALK: Best baubles for the jewellery-lover on your list

This story appears in the Winter edition of OTTAWA Magazine, on newsstands now. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

Product sourcing by Sarah Fischer and Erica Wark
Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Photo by Marc Fowler/ Metropolis Studio.

Photo by Marc Fowler/ Metropolis Studio.

Blue Heart
This oval pendant, which was handcrafted in Ottawa, features lapis lazuli — a stone prized for its unique, intense blue colour. $45. Strut Jewelry,

Natural Beauty
Agate from Turkey is framed in gold, then wrapped with gold wire, for an embellished oval necklace. $68. Wunderkammer, 238 Dalhousie St., 613-860-3510.

Talisman Taste
This Georg Jensen pendant combines amethyst and silver for a festive look ($669). The Pyrrha Three Graces necklace is a simple way to give style — and luck — to a loved one (far right, $238). Magpie Jewellery, 430 Richmond Rd., 613-686-3989 (and two other locations).

Wrapped Up
In this stunning choker by Studio Gi, carefully crafted metal embraces a large semi-precious stone to create a dramatic piece sure to elevate any outfit. $135. Davidson’s Jewellers, 790 Bank St., 613-234-4136.

Exotic Elegance
These intricate earrings mirror ornate Christmas wreaths. Influenced by Morocco and the markets of Marakesh. $26. Urbanite Jewelry,