Just opened: Cubeshops brings Japanese design to Baldwin Street

Just opened: Cubeshops brings Japanese design to Baldwin Street

Colour coded: Cubeshops displays its wares gallery-style 

The recently opened Cubeshops is almost lost in the sea of bars and restaurants lining a popular stretch of Baldwin Street, but the tidy white shelves stocked with unusual knick-knacks catch the attention of curious passersby.

The store resembles a modern art gallery, where customers ponder the design and functionality of colourful curios, a seemingly random mix of household products and office supplies, everything from staple-free staplers to coat hangers. These objects have been carefully chosen by the owners, a group of four young friends from Toronto, along with a team of Japanese partners, to link Toronto shoppers with Japanese artists; most of the products are packaged with a photo and short biography of the designer.

Unusual objects require explanation and demonstration. Robert and Sidney, two of the owners, like it that way. They leave the shelves free of information so that they can interact with their customers and describe the merchandise.

With their uncannily realistic facial expressions, the soft Cao Maru stress balls ($33), designed by Makiko Yoshida, are top sellers. Also popular are the minimalist Tsun Tsun soap dishes ($16), made of soft yet sturdy nubs to extend the lifespan of a bar of soap by keeping it dry.

But it’s the Talking seasoning dispensers ($20–$26) that draw smiles from the shop owners. The glossy white trio have sweet little mouths for pouring: lips form the characters “yu” (for shoyu or soy sauce), “shi” (for shio or salt) and “ko” (for koshou or pepper).

While most of the pieces are for the home, the owners plan to extend their collection to include playful fashion accessories in the next six months.

Cubeshops, 11 Baldwin St., 416-260-0710, cubeshops.com.