On a sleepy stretch of Dundas West, a fashion-industry exile has transformed her studio into a retail storefront for her home-decor line.
Textile designer Bev Hisey has recently converted her Dundas and Shaw workspace into a full-fledged showroom and retail destination. With a mix of her own multi-hued creations and vintage finds displayed against a stark white interior, Everyday Housewife makes for a vibrant outpost on an otherwise quiet little block of the city.
This isn’t Hisey’s first foray into retail, although it has been a number of years since she’s been in the game. “Thirty years ago, I started doing fashion,” she explains. “I had a store on Queen Street [until] probably 23 years ago.” Between the onset of the early ’90s recession, her own pregnancy, and the degree to which her Queen-and-Manning neighbourhood was still in development, it seemed like a good time to get out. “At that point, they were like, ‘Queen is going to happen soon!’ But that was 20 years ago. Now, it’s really happening, but it has taken 20 years to get to that insanity. So, I said at the time, ‘I’m going to have a baby, let’s get out of here.’”
Leaving the fashion world was an eye-opening experience for Hisey. “When you’re into fashion, you’re only into fashion,” she says. “But when you’re not right into fashion all the time, you see the possibilities to maybe do something else that you might enjoy doing. So I got into the home stuff at that point and went to George Brown and took the upholstery class that they had there.”
Hisey initially launched her new business on a small scale. “I did my own cushion collection that I started to sell and it went very well,” she says, “so it’s just kind of been growing from there.” She now designs a full range of rugs, handmade in India, instantly recognizable for their bold use of colour and pattern.
Just as important to Hisey as aesthetic appeal is a sense of ethical responsibility. “I’m a GoodWeave member,” she says, “so there’s no child labour that goes into the makings of my pieces—they monitor the looms there. A portion of everything I sell goes to GoodWeave. They also open schools and they rescue kids and they do all this stuff to end child labour.”
Of her Dundas West storefront, Hisey says, ”I’ve been in this space for seven years and it was just my workspace. And I work at home, too—I have an office for carpet design and stuff like that. That [work] all happens at my office at home anyway, so I was just kind of like, ‘This space isn’t being used enough.’”
Taking the name Everyday Housewife from a favourite Glenn Campbell song, Hisey opened her doors to the public two months ago. “I can better represent myself better here,” she says. “People can come and see the goods in person. I can control how they get shown and I can control pricing.”
Given that Hisey deals in a product that can represent a major investment and commitment, the opportunity for a customer to touch and feel what they’re purchasing is paramount. “Someone can see the quality,” says Hisey. “The pieces that are hanging here, I’ve got hand-knotted quality that someone can see, I’ve got hand-tufted quality that someone can see.”
With a space so small, Hisey is only able to display a fraction of her product range. “Obviously, my space is limited in here,” she says. “I’ve probably got 60 carpet designs. As I sell, I put new ones up.”
And beyond the many standard options, Hisey also offers custom fabrications. “Often times, people love this design, but they want it in a different colourway or they want it in a different size—so that’s why I do things to order,” she says. “Most of the designs I’ll offer in three different colourways. And then, of course, you’ve also got a host of different sizes. So I offer custom sizing and I offer custom colour—I have 1,200 different colours that clients can choose from.”
As for the inclusion of vintage goods at Everyday Housewife—from glassware and ceramics to a reupholstered cockfighting chair—they provide a context for Hisey’s own goods at the store. But, perhaps more importantly, it lets her see her collectables on display rather than packed away in boxes at home. “I’ve been collecting for a long time—to a degree, it’s a little bit of an obsession,” she says. “At some point, in your cupboards at home, there’s too much stuff. I’ve been collecting for years, so I just thought, I can make room for more stuff this way. So let’s do the vintage, because it works with the stuff that I do.”
The vintage items also strengthen Hisey’s ability to reach new customers. “I want to bring more people in,” she says. “I don’t just want textile people coming in. I work with architects and designers a lot, so I do a lot of custom work for different people, but I’ve never really been available to the public like this before. I’ve got dudes coming in here on their bikes buying three of these cushions—I’m actually a little but surprised.”