Four Ways of Giving: Holiday Gifting Ideas From a Local Resident and Interior Designer in Toronto’s Riverside

Shop local in Toronto’s Riverside and save time while offering more with unique gifts. Elaine, local Riverside resident and interior designer, highlights lots of ideas under four different ways of Gifting to help you save time, money and add value to your Giving this holiday season.

Do you hear what I hear? Seasonal tunes and that fluttering panic which sets in with the countdown to gift thinking, buying, packaging, spending & sending ….and the traffic, the line ups, pre-season sales, comparison shopping, lists, wraps, bows and baubles. Should you make or buy? Get certificates or ‘things’?

It’s early December and the desired ‘peace on earth’ will once again be transformed into a ‘piece of worth’.  How much time and energy do many of us spend in convoys in and out of our own neighbourhood, when the beauty of the season is right here to enjoy locally? Plus shopping and giving LOCAL contributes to the value of what we give.

As a local Riverside resident of (the famous!) De Grassi St and an interior designer, my goal is adding value and originality to sensible solutions. For this blog, I put my thoughts together to suggest easy ways to stroll and save yourself gas money, parking lot dings, time on the Don Valley and playing ‘customer crush’, while getting beautiful local gifts at any price point right here in the Riverside neighbourhood. Just  plan with this simple strategy:

  • Easy walking shoes, your shopping list, and a bundle buggy or knapsack to keep your hands free to whip out your card (and save enough time to reward yourself in the process!)

Here’s my take on Gift Giving in four categories: if you are like me, you have people on your list who like 1) Bright & Shiny new gifts, some who like to 2) Participate in gifts, and others who appreciate 3) Creating their gifts, and folks who need nothing and get by with 4) Giving. Here we go:

#1 The New & Shiny Gifts

Wrap and be done! The gift receiver can just open the heavenly wrapping paper and bows. These gifts can be small (jewellry from Brika) or large (Hello Toyota!)  and are things  that stand on their own all boxed and bowed.

I suggest: a classy boudoir peignoir for her at Sash & Bustle or next door’s Bergstrom carries Fly London shoes or choose from their own Toronto-made clothing designs for the modern woman. For kids of all ages, find inventive toys and accessories at Little Peeps.

Sash & Bustle Bridal Boutique

Bergstrom Originals

Little Peeps


How about rustic European beauty: The Irish Design House has beautifully designed newly woven fabric made in-store, made into clothes, blankets and accessories to pair with imported delicacies.  For Anglophiles pining for candy and accessories there is a passport to England through the door of Empire by Bullet.

Empire by Bullet, owner Creig


Or, for the North American retro appeal of pre-loved, there is Common Sort which has beautifully curated time warp clothing & accessories. Next door, you’ll find beautiful small gifts at Token and memorable vinyl sound tracks at The Tiny Record Shop (or up cycle some precious items from your own collections for store credit or handy holiday cash!).  Browse the  Arts Market,  for a clever card and one of a kind jewelry and accessories (p.s. they’re a year round market with artisan offerings from local Toronto vendors, with 100% of the sales going to vendors –  voted Best Unique Gift Store in the NOW Magazine Readers’ Choice!).


Tiny Record Shop


Love wood and fine craftsmanship? Step back in time and have Elbers refinish your own heirloom chair or look for a companion bookcase or side table from the 1800s.

Elbers Antiques and Refinishing


#2 The Participation Gifts

Open and Anticipate! These are gift certificate-able in a beautiful card, to enjoy together or solo, or enjoy NOW on your own! Be good to yourself after all:

New to the area? Help you giftee (or yourself) to get acquainted with a foodie tour before you settle down to final dinner decisions with Toronto Food Tours’ Riverside/Leslieville Tour!  Did you eat somewhere delicious? While it’s still freshly in your mind, get the certificate for a meal out!

Need something to relax and enjoy? Start at the bottom with feet for a relaxing pedicure at Barefoot Beauty (or some serious support at the same location with the East Toronto Foot Care) and work your way up to soothing hands on treatment at Oma Chiropractic & Wellness, and skin care at Clinique De Mode.

Clinique De Mode


Or why not a cut (and colour?!) from Untitled by Flaunt, Hair Code, Lone & Co. For him, try the venerable Broadview Beauty Parlour where a game of chess with the famous George is part and parcel. (Quick tip: Waxon can take care of any hairy issues so you are ready for a big night out….or in.)

For a unique experience why not tickets at The Opera House.  Let’s include Streetcar Crowsnest  and Red Sandcastle Theatre  because all local theatres need support, have amazing variety (and besides they are just on the friendly Riverside/Leslieville border)!

For a special night to see the city lights from the rooftops, a certificate for drinks, dinner and people watching at The Broadview Hotel’s Rooftop Bar, will be much appreciated.

Creativity is yours for the keeping too. Dimensions artistically frames any personal item or can suggest a new fabulous piece for the holidays from their own gallery (p.s. get on their mailing list for beautifully staged art show openings at their gallery for first dibs on original art). Silhouette Tailoring designs and makes new outfits or reinvents yours to their best possible condition….hemmed in? Don’t delay for the holidays! A beautiful plant in an architecturally inspired container to enjoy all year or statement floral arrangement for the holiday’s from Quince Flowers, is a fragrant art piece you create together or leave it to the master to get it just right!

Dimensions Custom Framing Gallery

Quince Flowers


There are also creative gifts of time: certificates for interior design, painting, sewing, cleaning and fixing – and if you are not handy there are plenty of local crafts people who would love to work with you making wonderful home spaces together. Co-ordinate with yours truly at Applecart Design.

Or try going the route of…

#3 The Making Gift

Sometimes packed into a reusable basket or jar! Collect the ingredients of something to make and do:

Dry ingredients in a beautiful jar (thanks Dollarama and Riverside Market, ) with your recipe card and novelty wooden spoon and bow for a future pan of brownies or spicy nutty treat..

A box of cookies tied with a bow from Mary Macleod’s Shortbread, combined with a with fashion-inspired magazines from Starbank and slipped into a Here & Now tote.

Mary Macleod’s Shortbread

Here and Now, owner Harold


Why not stuff a sweater from Irish Design House with a wine bottle into each sleeve from our friends at LCBO or The Wine Rack.  Wouldn’t that look cozy in the passenger seat of a Toyota Camry!  Don’t open until you get home!

A little much? Try a beanie from the Art Market stuffed with a bag Dark Horse  coffee beans!

Looking for a green and healthy gift? Get prime bike, accessories and expert advice for the pro or novice alike from Switchback Cyclery (a social enterprise and 360 degree vendor!) and stay fueled with gift certificates from award-winning juice bar Pulp Kitchen.

Switchback Cyclery


And finally:

#4 The Gift for Others

We are lucky to live in Riverside, one of Canada’s most vibrant communities. Help others share, create and make fond memories all in one with a gift of your choice to of the neighbourhood’s many community organizations such as Nellie’s, The Ralph Thornton Community Organization, Fontbonne Ministeries, Woodgreen Community Housing, or the Rivertowne Breakfast Program.

YOU will be helping provide essential services in ways countless others will appreciate all year round.

However you celebrate, take time to appreciate a beautiful time of year and enjoy your local experience in Riverside. 



Elaine Bergen is a fully accredited interior designer specializing in Residential projects for individual private homes and large scale new development and retirement renovation properties. She has been a resident and a home-based business on De Grassi Street in Riverside for over 25 years and is amazed at the great changes on Queen Street East and looks forward to working with local residents and businesses on any special projects! Applecart Design wishes you Happy Holidays and a successful 2018!