The Armoury District's Metropolitan Home brings vintage chic to the 21st century
Fine art. Refined interior designs. Gourmet eats. Welcome to the Armoury District, the coolest up-and-coming area in Vancouver. A creative hub for interior designers, architects and gallery owners, it's just a stone's throw away from Granville Island, between 1st and 3rd Avenue. In this ongoing series, the Vancouver Observer will profile the unique people and businesses that make up the lively community at the Armoury District.
It's a design geek's fantasy come to life.
Right around the corner of 2nd Ave and Fir is Metropolitan Home, a furniture shop filled with exquisite furniture, lighting and collection items from the 40s, 50s and 60s.
Famous names like Herman Miller, Charles and Ray Eames, Finn Juhl, Ercol, Hans Olsen and Noguchi populate the store. It's a hangout for vintage design. If these chairs and tables could talk, they'd have incredible stories to tell about where they came from and what they've seen.
The store's co-owner, Mary Watson, knows some of those stories. A walking encyclopedia of design history, she points out a Japanese poster on the wall that was used for a Godzilla movie and a charming set of 1960s glasses that were used for cocktail parties. Listening to her, you can even glean a sense of world history through the lens of design.
“See this table?” She points to the table where she's having her morning coffee.
“This table is Ercol, and was made in 1956 in England. The English had a hell of a time during the war. But they had this wonderful elm. They didn't do a lot of modern, but they designed furniture that was utilitarian and would last a long time – 'cause that's the kind of people they were – and this was an example of what they did.”
Ercol furniture, now back in popular demand
The design is simple, streamlined and elegant. The value of Ercol has shot up the past few years, since designer Margaret Howell bought the license to reissue them. Once, when Watson once had 24 pieces of Ercol furniture in the store,14 were snapped up by a buyer on the second day.
A plain-spoken, friendly owner who greets neighbours with quips like “What's cookin, good-lookin?', Watson and her longtime partner Dana Coburn, have run Metropolitan Home since 1990.
With the Mad Men frenzy in full swing, their store has become a unique resource for anyone who loves the art and aesthetic of the mid-20th century.
One of her trade secrets is that if she's buying an item herself, Watson insists on seeing the item and its owners at their home.
“When you visit someone at home, you get to see what their house is like, how they clean and what their energy it like,” she says.