An interview with Tonic Living’s Janine Morrison
On October 20th we attended/sponsored the Blissdom Canada 2012 social media conference for women in Toronto. This was a big deal for us and we wanted to make a good impression. If you don’t already know, when we go to events we like to create a pop-up living room furnished with items bought from a local Used site—UsedOttawa for this event. We decided to go with a Mid-Century Modern theme for Blissdom and I think we pulled it off rather nicely and affordably, I might add. See below. Pretty swank, non?
I fell truly, madly and deeply in love with a lot of the furniture and accessories we found which made it a little heartbreaking to let it all go—the bigger pieces went into storage while most of the decor items were given away as prizes to Blissdom attendees. But the hardest good-bye for me was bidding adieu to five, gorgeous custom-made pillows from Tonic Living.
I’ve been a huge fan of this Canadian fabric company for a while so I was thrilled when owner/co-founder Janine Morrison agreed to donate the fabric for an awesome chair makeover that the lovely Jennifer Flores of Rambling Renovators created for our booth. But when Janine also agreed to whip up some custom pillows to give away to a lucky winner, I was over the moon.
After spinning my moral compass north, south, east and west I concluded it would be wrong to fix the draw in my favour (considering, I’m not even allowed to enter)… And although it hurt to hand them over, I’m pleased to report the pillows went to the awesome Brooke Berry and they’re reportedly quite happy with her in their new home in Calgary.
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I’m still dressed for mourning (mostly because it’s slimming) but let the healing begin with this nifty little interview with Janine about the family business, upcycling and the stupidity of short shower curtains.
Interview with Janine Morrison of Tonic Living
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How long have you been in business?
We started out on eBay a few years before our site was built and launched… so, all together, around 10 years.
On your website you say you’re a family owned and operated business…what family members are you putting to work?
No children …yet! ; ) My husband Jon and I started our business while he was still working in the film industry, but he’s been full time with Tonic Living for the last five years at least. Our youngest son shows quite a bit of interest in the “numbers” part of our business (Liam’s only 8, for goodness sake) and our oldest shows a lot of interest and promise in the marketing/graphic design end of things (Darin’s 12 and rather talented I must say!) Also, I have my first cousin Linda who comes in from Portugal once a year to work for us when she’s here for her annual Canada visit.
Why the textiles business? Are you a seamstress yourself?
Seamstress is a very strong word! I can sew, but in a basic way. But did I mention I mastered putting a zipper in a pillow? And did I also mention that Jon was the one that taught me how? We once had a big order for a 75 pillows roll from BCBG in LA (with a tight deadline, of course) and wouldn’t you know it our chief pillow sewer had just moved to another city. And so because we didn’t have a replacement lined up yet we learned together… And fast! The origin of our company was selling vintage collectibles and textiles on ebay and we had a tip from our friends about a “stash” in an old store in Toronto which led us to a gold mine of 30 and 40 year-old fabrics still on the bolt! From there we were sold on choosing fabric as the next, clear direction. Besides, the world was being drained dry of actual vintage fabrics so we began sourcing reproduction prints.
Do you remember the first item you sold? What was it?
On our website it was a single yard of fabric in a multi colored dot. On ebay, a few years prior, it was a pair of gorgeous old wall sconces from the 20’s that I picked up from Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. What a rush!
You sell custom fabric and you also make custom pillows, cushions, draperies and futon covers… Any other plans/creations in the hopper?
SO many ideas it could take an evening to discuss it… BUT, off the top of my head as far as products go, we want to launch a line of ready-made shower curtains with fabrics that we carry but in a longer length that means it would just almost kiss the floor. A pet peeve of mine is to see how short they are traditionally?! I mean, we don’t make our drapes short by 8″ do we? Of course we do custom shower curtains already but having them ready to go on the site would be smart.
Where do most of your buyers come from? Are they Canadian, American, International?
Slowly Canada is beginning to tip the scale where it used to be mostly American (we never advertised, so all of it was organic traffic) and there’s always been a good steady stream from the UK, Australia and New Zealand etc.
What’s been your favourite or most memorable project to date?
Doing Jennifer Flores’ (from Rambling Renovators blog) master bedroom drapes. At the time we were buried so deep in work and business that we were still wondering what the word ‘blog’ even meant. We had no idea her drapes were going to be blogged about, on the Nate Berkus Show and in Style at Home Magazine. The response was overwhelming and to this day a few years later we still get many inquiries on those particular drapes. She has done such a great job with so many of our fabrics and custom items and we’re downright lucky to have her support.
What’s your favourite fabric pattern in your collection?
Currently i’m loving the Spring Mix in Aloe by Robert Allen. There’s something about it that reads a little vintage but not overly and works so well with some contrasting geometrics and glazed metallic linens. YUM!
If you could give one decorating tip to people working with a snug budget, what would it be?
We’re huge supporters of re-using or up-cycling furniture and frankly that’s how 95% of our home is decorated (OK, minus the window treatments and pillows) so part of going that route is taking your time and staying committed to your vision whether it’s clear cut or more eclectic/organic. If you prefer to buy only new things then at least try to wait until you can get a quality item rather than buying “landfill” quality items. And you see that’s why I mostly buy used furniture that was meant to last the ages because it’s affordable and you don’t have to wait to save up!! (and… the soul it gives, such soul!)
Big plans for the future?
Yes, expansion for sure. In fact we’re currently hunting high and low for another commercial space but it’s been really difficult to find just the right building. There we’ll be able to offer even more selection of fabrics and spread out on larger work surfaces when designers and decorators come to visit. We’ll also be able to host design and industry related events which would be SO fun I think!