Monday, May 19, 2014

Meet Matt Stokes, Your Art Deco Divo

We like to call Matt Stokes our brother from another mother, because we share a love of Art Deco and Old Hollywood. About a year ago, Matt started tagging us on Twitter and sharing gorgeous pictures of Deco buildings, and we thought, "Who is this wonderful man?" We could not have been more excited when he approached us recently about starting up a brother blog to what we are doing, and we are thrilled to share this Q & A with you and let you learn a little about Matt, the Deco side of Toronto, and classic furniture restoration. And when you have a moment, hop on over to and check it out!

Not only is he handsome, but he loves Art Deco!
  1.      What is your day job? What can we find you doing in "real life?"
I work for hyper local magazine/newspaper hybrid called The Grid. It’s a lifestyle publication that targets a young, upwardly mobile reader that is interested in all that Toronto has to offer. From Food and Drink, to Real Estate, Dating and Design, The Grid approaches the city from a granular, behind the scenes perspective. We also run several city-wide events like Burger Week, Toronto Cocktail Week, with this year’s new additions being the Beer and Cider Festival and the Toronto Music Run. As we are a free publication, my job as an Account Manager is to generate advertising sales to make sure we keep printing! I oversee a plethora of both Retail and National accounts and also sell sponsorship and participation for our events. A cool fact about The Grid is that we’ve actually been awarded the World’s Best Designed Newspaper 3 years in a row by the Society for News Design, based in New York. Check us out at or on Twitter @TheGridTO.
 2.      How did the Art Deco love affair begin?
It’s tough to pinpoint a moment in time where my Art Deco love affair began, but I can definitely see where and how it cultivated over time. Growing up, we had my father parent’s occupy the second floor of our family home, and as both of my parents worked full-time, I spent a lot of time with them; my grandmother in particular. She was born in April of 1912, just after the Titanic sank, spent her youth partying in 1930’s England and thus grew up with Art Deco all around her. I just loved her stories, her furniture, and her furs, ha ha. In her youth, she was a model for Du Maurier!  Her living room in our home was a time capsule where I always felt comfortable. I guess I didn’t realize it at the time, but Art Deco was a slow burning fire within, and when I started to have my own apartments, I found myself looking at pieces that resembled what my nana had. From there it spread like wild fire and here I am today, Art Deco Divo.
3.      What do you love about the Art Deco era?
Oh, what a loaded question! What’s not to love?! I love the glamour of it all. The luxurious fabrics, the exotic woods, the patterns, the chrome, the lifestyle. I love Art Deco because it reflected a time where everyone took pride in the way they looked. You never left the house without looking flawless. Art Deco literally touched every aspect design, from skyscrapers to a credenza, a restaurant to a hairbrush; it really affected every facet of life. A complete, holistic, all encompassing style that reflects old world decadence and glamour. These are all things I feel that modern society has lost. I guess I’m an old soul!
4.      You're in Hollywood North, a.k.a. Toronto. What are some can't-miss Deco places to visit when in the city?
Toronto really is an Art Deco Mecca, if you keep your eyes peeled. As Art Deco Divo grows, I’ll show the world not only the most notable and grande locales, but the little known, often dismissed buildings that pepper the city. That being said, The Carlu, Tip Top Lofts, The Bank of Nova Scotia (King & Bay Streets), and the Bank of Commerce (CIBC – Yonge & King Streets) are absolute must visits! All these (and more)  will be big featured on Art Deco Divo.
5.      Tell us about your cool Art Deco bar and this business of restoring glamour to previously-loved pieces of furniture, please.
I love that bar, and there will be a feature on it! The back story to this bar is that my fathers’ father Alec was an architect in England. Unfortunately he passed away when my dad was 5, but he too, loved Art Deco and built the bar himself using a variety of woods. It was brought over with my grandmother Amy and her new husband Nathaniel when they decided to live with us. At some point, someone painted it this god-awful maroon colour and it just sat wasting away in our basement. When I moved out, I took it with me and decided that one I would do grandpa Alec proud and restore it.
It was a much bigger undertaking that I had thought, with over 30 hours of sanding, cutting/polishing marble, and multiple coats of stain and varathane, but was it ever worth it. From there I started purchasing beat-up Art Deco and Mid Century furniture for pennies, and would restore them to their former glory. Resurrection. It was at that moment that I realized many people have what they consider junk in their basements or attics, and from there Restoring Hope was born. We accept these cast-aways as donations, restore them and re-sell them with 50% of the proceeds going to a charity of the donators choice. As we don’t have an indoor workshop, it’s a backyard, summertime venture but it is rewarding, and it scratches my itch to restore (it’s almost therapeutic!).
6.      Is there a building you would love to visit in person one day?
I’ve seen a lot of Art Deco in major cities around the globe but there is one building that I recently fell in love with, and it’s the recently restored Niagara Mohawk (Nimo) Building in Syracuse, New York. Seeing photos took my breath away – I can only imagine standing in front of it!
7.      Do you have a favorite classic film or song?
All About Eve, hands down! First of all it’s got Bette Davis and that’s a reason enough, but the writing is incredible. The plot is just amazing and I don’t think there’s another film with as many quotable one-liners. Also, all the wardrobe was designed by the legendary Edith Head. Enough said! When it comes to music from a bygone era, I have a sweet spot for the ever-tortured Billie Holiday. I used to listen to her a lot with my mother, so it takes me back to those memories.
8.      How can we follow all of your adventures? (Twitter, Instagram, Blog, etc.)
My personal adventures can be followed on Twitter: @mattdstokes, and Instagram: mattstokes
Then of course there is Twitter: @ArtDecoDivo, Instagram: @ArtDecoDivo, and the blog

And a bonus question...
9.      We'd love to hear about the fabulous cat whose pictures we see on Instagram.

He’s a little rascal, but I love him to pieces. His name is Percival, he’s 7 months old and I’ve had him since he was a mere 6 weeks new. From 0.8lbs to the 9lbs he is now, I wonder if he’s part Puma as he’s lean but really big. I’ve been really affectionate with him since a young age and as a result, he is incredibly cuddly and has turned such a handsome young man! He loves to jump all over the furniture which gives me heart palpitations as I’ve personally restored every piece in the house and don’t want anything scratched. Luckily, he’s really well behaved apart from his 4:00am- 7:00am witching hours where he feels the need to run around the place at 90MPH, like a cheetah after a gazelle. I’m sure he’ll make an appearance on the blog at some point.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Album Review: Jumaane Smith's "I Only Have Eyes For You"

Jumaane Smith
"I Only Have Eyes For You"

Let me say up front that I (Lara) am not a musician, nor do I claim to be a music expert. I don't even know a lot of the lingo! I am an eager student, though, and I can tell you that while listening to Jumaane Smith's new cd, "I Only Have Eyes For You," while driving through Coldwater Canyon in Los Angeles on a sweltering day in May, I felt my heart soar. Being a huge fan of The Great American Songbook, it's really cool to see a talented young artist embrace this music and help bring it to a new generation. 
You may know Jumaane as Michael Buble's trumpet player, but this album should definitely help launch him to a place where he is known in his own right. "I Only Have Eyes For You" actually made me really dig the trumpet; Jumaane's playing seems to capture the feel and intensity of hearing a great trumpeter live in concert. I swear, his trumpet was singing, hitting the notes that a vocalist would and really making me hear classics like the title track, "The Way You Look Tonight," and "Yesterday" (you know, that little hit by The Beatles!) with fresh ears.

Jumaane also has quite a nice voice; maybe at his shows he could sing along with a hologram of himself playing trumpet? I think it was a great move to invite the aforementioned Mr. Buble, Naturally 7, and Jackie Evancho to sing on "Come Rain or Come Shine," "I Only Have Eyes For You," and "La Vie En Rose," respectively, and it was nice to hear their familiar voices. "La Vie En Rose" is my favorite song on the album, and I definitely heard the angels sing and went to the place where roses bloom as Jumaane's trumpet and the vocals captured the exquisite longing in the Edith Piaf tune. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of "La Vie En Rose!"

Grab Jumaane Smith's new cd, and then tell all of your friends about it; it's fun to feel like you have discovered a new artist, and you will look like a musical genius when his career explodes. "I Only Have Eyes For You" is the perfect cd to put on when you need to calm down in traffic, relax after a crazy busy day, or when you are setting the mood for a special night with wine, cheese, and candles. Jumaane is definitely an artist to keep your eyes on!

You can hear Standards 24/7 on, and catch me playing them Saturdays and Sundays from 10a-2p Pacific Time.