Saturday, January 21, 2012

Toronto Gets a CB2

I’ve been a fan of CB2, Crate & Barrel’s cheaper, hipper, condo-oriented chain, ever since I walked into its New York City SoHo location several years ago. I love the store’s design aesthetic and how a good chunk of its stock uses the same colour palette. While some people might find CB2’s offerings too matchy-matchy, I find them to be an easy way to have cohesive look in one’s home, from the hand towels in the bathrooms to the place mates on the dining room table.

So, over two years ago, when I heard that it was finally opening a Toronto store, I was thrilled. But then I had to wait. And wait some more. And then wait even more.

But Friday night, CB2’s first international store finally opened at Queen and Bathurst and I and at least a couple hundred other people got to check it out first.

It was a packed party, but despite that people were shopping away. As I had another engagement to attend later on, I skipped buying anything but that didn’t mean I didn’t look.

I was really curious to see what CB2’s Canadian prices were going to be like. Would they be in line with the US prices or would the store pull a J. Crew and jack them up? Well, it looks like they went with the latter option. See the photo of the Ernest Bar Cart? In the US, it retails for $149 while here in Canada, it sells for $179 (same price as on the Canadian website).

Of course, this price increase doesn’t thrill me but I do understand why it exists and at least it’s modest.

Overall, CB2’s items are reasonably priced. Yes, it’s generally more expensive than Ikea but it’s cheaper than West Elm.

Style-wise, CB2 shares a lot in common with those two stores, with a strong preference for clean lines, contemporary styling and eye-catching colours and fabrics. But I find that CB2’s offerings tend to be a bit more urban and “different”. For example, check out the Skyline Bed Linen (I would totally buy this item).

From what I could see, most of what’s offered on CB2’s website can be found in-store, nicely displayed for your shopping pleasure. While the store was packed for its opening party, under normal circumstances, shopping in this open, two-level, shop should be quite pleasant.

However, before you pick anything up, I feel I should issue a caution when it comes to quality. While I’ve been quite pleased with my previous CB2 purchases, I can’t say the same about some of the items I’ve bought at Crate & Barrel (and since it owns CB2, I would think that CB2's furniture is coming from the same sources as Crate & Barrel's).

While I’ve never bought any furniture from CB2, only linen and glassware, I have bought a desk and two shelves from Crate & Barrel and unfortunately, they bang and scratch up far too easily. All three of these items are made of wood and to be perfectly blunt, my Ikea wooden furniture stands up better to wear and tear than the stuff I purchased from Crate & Barrel.

Because of that experience, I won’t be picking up any wood furniture up from CB2. But I will be returning to get some smaller items, ideally before February 29, so that I can try my luck at winning one of the $500 gift cards that the store’s giving away every day.

Another reason why I’ll be heading back to CB2 is because I want to take a closer look at its new home, the former Big Bop music venue. As these BlogTO pictures show, the whole place underwent a huge transformation and it’s hard to believe that this building use to be a dark, grungy, three-level box that was purple on the outside.

Yeah, the inside is very stereotypical loft-style but I really like that look since it’s quite similar to my own home, it will make buying stuff that much easier.

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