A design lover’s guide to shopping in uptown

If you live in Kitchener-Waterloo in 2016, you’re probably already celebrating that KING STREET IS OPEN IN UPTOWN WATERLOO!!! Sorry for the all caps, but I’m just that excited!

If you read my last blog post on Hygge, you know that I try to find ways to make the process of getting ready for the holidays part of the enjoyment. And this time of year, shopping is a major component of getting ready: at our house stockings are huge, and under-the-tree presents are important too. To make that shopping experience as enjoyable as possible, I love to avoid the mall and do my shopping as I stroll around uptown. The twinkly street lights, light spilling out of the shops, the contrast between the crisp outdoors and the cozy decorated shops… I love it all.

And, what I’ve found is that uptown is packed with wonderful, unique shopping opportunities. Since it’s open for the season with gloriously huge sidewalks perfect for strolling and browsing, I am bringing you this guide to my favourite places to shop for art, designy sorts of gifts, and decorations. Check them out, possibly during the Uptown Waterloo Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 10th, which promises to be a fun Saturday of rides, Santa, music and shopping. Maybe I’ll see you there!

The shops on my list have a variety of one-of-a-kind gifts and they often carry a mix of fine art and more functional pieces, so I’ve arranged them in order of location. I haven’t included specific price ranges, because each shop carries a wide range of items, many starting from a few dollars going to a few hundred or more. Check out their webpages for hours and social media links and more. And if you don’t live in Waterloo Region, don’t despair! Most of these shops have great online stores and will ship to a variety of distant locales.

The shops

Kultrun Market (8 Regina Street North, 519-884-4949)

img_20161201_113842 img_20161201_113749

This lovely shop carries a wide variety of fair-trade artistic items, with a generally South-American theme. It was really hard to narrow things down here, but I especially love these spherical pottery sculptures. I also love the hand crafted jewelry.

Ten Thousand Villages (80 King Street South,  519-888-7180)

Ten Thousand Villages - display Ten Thousand Villages - Stag pillows

A classic fair-trade shop, with handicrafts from around the world. I especially love the variety of Christmas decorations, and this is my go-to place for unique stocking-suffer gifts. It’s also where I get fair trade – and tasty! – chocolate gold coins.

Words Worth Books (96 King Street South, 519-884-2665)

Words Worth Books - Swatch Words Worth Books - eeboo

For the budding design-lover, Words Worth carries a wide variety of beautiful children’s books, that will inspire parent and child. If you’re stuck reading a book a hundred times, it’s good if it can be beautiful! They also have a small selection of eeboo games, puzzles, and art supplies.

Write Impressions (95 King Street South, 519-883-7183)

Write Impressions - cashe pot Write Impressions - stags

Specializing in stationary supplies and decor, you cannot help but get inspired by their beautiful seasonal displays. This is also the place to find artistic calendars, address books, cards, and candles.

Cobblestone Gallery in the Atrium (33 Erb Street West, 519-746-5829)

Cobblestone Gallery - Inuit Art Colouring Book Cobblestone Gallery - dish set

Carefully curated, this hidden gem has a wide variety of functional pieces, pottery, and fine art. They carry items across all price points, so don’t hesitate to check it no matter what your budget. One of my favourites for a low-cost, high-quality gift is an Inuit Art colouring book that is suitable for adults or children.

The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery (25 Caroline Street North, 519-746-1882)

Clay and Glass Museum - glass art Clay and Glass Museum - ornaments

See a show and then visit the wonderful gift shop with a huge variety of function and fine art glass and pottery. They also have a large selection of seasonal decorations. December 4th-10th is members week, members get 20% off gift store purchases. If you miss that, you can enter their photo contest by sharing a photo with the hashtag #clayandglassfavs.

Paula White-Diamond Art Gallery (187 King Street South, 519-745-2278)

Paula White Diamond Gallery - birds Paula White Diamond Gallery - squares

An accessible gallery with a huge selection of thoughtfully curated Canadian art, there is fine art here at a wide variety of price points. Since fine art is one of those things it can be hard to buy for other people, they offer gift certificates as well. Check out the square foot show on until December 10th.

By Hand and Fire Pottery & Gifts (187 King Street South, 519-578-2010)

By Hand and Fire - classic design By Hand and Fire - butterfly platter

Sharing space with Distinctly Tea in the Bauer shops, By Hand and Fire imports handcrafted Polish pottery in classic blue and white. They sell complete sets, but you can also buy a single unique piece, such as a teapot or platter. I especially love this butterfly pattern, which is stunning on a large serving platter.

Gifted (181 Park Street, 519-208-4438)

Gifted - paper lanterns Gifted - Scandinavian style mugs

Oh, what can I say about Gifted? I just love this shop. It makes me want to decorate everything! I especially love that they carry some items with Swedish-style designs, like this charming mugs. Located on Park St. near Union, this is a little bit out of uptown, but it’s too great a shop to miss out on.