So Canadian eh? : Tonic Living

My fabulous Canadian this week is actually a business {run by Canadians, of course}! 

Being a fabricaholic I always love searching for fabulous fabric,  I was ecstatic when I stumbled across this online fabric store because they are CANADIAN!

Please welcome,Tonic Living.

Tonic Living is 

Here is the fabulous Janine, the dynamo behind Tonic Living!

Run by Janine and her husband, 
this stupendously wonderful fabric store has supplied fabric to bloggers such as Jen from Rambling Renovators, Kate from Centsational Girl and yours truly.

Tonic Living has even generously donated fabric and sewing services to Blogger's Give Back, a Toronto area bloggers charity project. 

Their warehouse..
  {I would LOVE to hang out there all day}


Photos from Janine's home...

Blinds I made using fabric from Tonic Living.

Photos courtesy of Tonic Living, unless otherwise noted

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your education? Do you have a design/sewing background?

I grew up traveling the country, because my father built oil tanks for a living.  Much of my childhood was spent outdoors, exploring the northern wilderness of Alberta, North West Territories, and B.C.  I'm positive that the many hours I spent wandering the tundra, forests and prairies has had an influence on my design sense.

Because our family traveled a lot, I was home-schooled for portions of my younger years.  I ended up doing my junior high and high school years at a private school in Victoria where I graduated. I dabbled with university, and at one point was interested in the Industrial Design program at U of Alberta, although I didn't attend long enough to get a degree. In a way, being raised by entrepreneurs I always knew deep down that I’d be doing my own thing and running my own business. 

Growing up, like many other young girls, I would watch my mom sew various items such as curtains, clothing, and baby blankets.  My mom taught me to use the sewing machine and do some hand stitching, which I always enjoyed.   But my real passion has always been fabric hunting.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved to find fabric pieces and remnants,  dreaming about all the things I could make with my latest finds.

What made you decide to foray into the world of fabric?  What did you do before Tonic Living? 

My mom always liked to stop at yard sales and thrift shops wherever we were so I was snooping around in other people’s cast offs (still largely from the 60’s – 70’s) which had a huge influence on me. All those bright colors, high contrast, geometrics and fun florals. My mother however, had a sharp eye for high quality cotton, wool and silk (as she detests all things synthetic which transferred over to me) and so to find these same bright textiles in soft cotton or a natural fibre rather than a gawdawful polyester was always a coupe. I’ve been hunting for second hand textiles and other household treats most of my life . As the decades pass it’s getting harder and harder to find great vintage finds and that’s where we decided to try to fill that gap with new fabric that gives the same visual impact and feeling to a space.

How has your business evolved to where it is now? 

I run this business with my husband Jon who left the film industry to work full time with me on this.  We started out buying and selling mid century modern home décor items on ebay that we sourced locally here in Ontario. It was a total rush to find the things we did and watch them get bid on from around the world. Lamps and retro fabrics were our main focus which led us to a fantastic stash of vintage fabrics (friends tipped us off on old retail store that was a time vault of thousands of yards of fabric) which absolutely opened our eyes to how many people were after the look of the 60’s.  Once our  stash ran out we quickly started turning our wheels to figure out how we could provide a retail store with fabric of a similar ilk but that was in better supply than 10 yards only!  Our fabric store was born this way and out of it grew the demand for draperies and other home décor items.

What are your hopes and dreams for Tonic Living in a few years down the road?

We have already realized a few dreams so I feel fortunate but next thing that I’m aiming for is to be able to get back to my thrifting roots and hunt for vintage fabrics in Europe (to start). I have been back and forth a few times recently without really making a fabric mission out of it (but rather being distracted by the gazillion photo ops instead) but my next trip will be for fabric sourcing whether it be new or old. Out of this we hope for some genuine inspiration to launch our own exclusive line of fabrics for our company. That is for sure a dream. 

Why did you decide on the name Tonic Living? 

At the time that we created our business I was finishing up my diploma in Homeopathic medicine, which had me very focused on “remedies” and “tonics”. I’ve felt from the beginning that our business could act as a “style remedy” for most anybody with our affordable and cheery collection of fabrics and home décor items. You aren’t going to feel worse after treating yourself to some of our fabrics or products you’ll likely feel invigorated and excited thus acting like a “tonic” for you and your home! 

How would you describe your design style? 

Does it influence the fabric you choose to sell at your store? I love color and the contrast of colors and how they play with each other. I am strongly influenced by vintage Scandanavian textiles and the Danish modern look but I am loathe to commit to any one style or era so my home is a mix of 50’s and 60’s largely but tempered with some soothing neutrals and a few simple, contemporary pieces to give structure.

Has the advent of social media helped your business? How?

In a word? Yes. Totally. That’s two words, sorry. Networking is essential for businesses to bloom and grow. When you aren’t a giant company with millions to spend on advertising you especially need word of mouth, relationships, rapport, interactivity and more. Social media solves that SO easily. I mean face time is important too however it could be said that in this climate of online businesses you need the social media tools to even get you to that point!

Being a fabricaholic, I love your store. I love that you carry on-trend fabric at a fantastic price.  Where do you go for inspiration in order to keep up with the trends in fabric? 

Media is a definite influence. The home décor magazines with decorating and design shows now make it pretty easy to figure out what the newest interests are for most people.  I do believe in decorating from the soul, however, and I feel that spaces should evolve in order to have any character. Spaces that are ready-made and instant leave me cold . With that conviction (and some trend forecast seminars) I try to feel my way thru all the options without departing from my style or what I truly “LOVE” in my guts. If I get goose bumps from a sample its going in the store!

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I like to hang out with my two son and love to get together with friends and family over good food  and drinks. Cooking and food is a big passion for me and the local food community is a very exciting and meaningful prospect (would be so cool if there was more locally sourced food eating going on ). I have good friends down in one of the wine regions of Ontario which is an unbelievably beautiful setting filled with farmers and a fantastic lot of foodies and growers so needless to say I love to go down their way to visit and take it all in.  In the summer I tend to steer away from the kitchen mind you and head outdoors with my camera where I like to capture everyday life/objects (especially set in nature).

If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?

 Do we get to hang out? If so Barbara Kingsolver.  Her Animal Vegetable Miracle book was my summer read a while back and it solidified all that I know to be true and am passionate about (on the topic of Food), where it comes from and the “price” we pay to ship it in from all corners of the globe.  Eating locally as much as possible is a stretch sometimes but wherever I can do it I will. I think she would be a total hoot and as well inspiring to be with.

What are your views on the role Canadian design plays in the world design scene? Do you feel that Canadians have a unique sense of style and design, and if so, what is it that you think sets us apart?

Hey, if you’re going to be cooped up for what feels like at least 3/4s of the year in your home it had better one that you like to be in! Id say Canadians are a pretty resourceful and creative. I’ve learned, after these years in business, that the reason we don’t get the same selection and options as our neighbours in the US do is because we’re a massive country with a small population. Up until the Internet and online retail we had to make wow out of mediocre because retailers were nervous to import anything too trendy or bold or they might go bankrupt! But there were so many of us that were dying to bust out of beige and had to dig deep and local and make it happen with what we’ve got. I think this has something to do with Canada’s design roots.  Now I think we’ve exploded and are now making our mark in the world proving to come up with some flat out gorgeous, mood elevating design statements (because you GOTTA get by in these sometimes eternal winters). Sometimes I get customers in the deep south of USA asking rather excitedly if Sarah Richardson has ever come into our warehouse because they know we’re in Toronto! We’re definitely on the map now as leaders in home décor and design and we're so fortunate to be working with some of them. 

Thanks Janine!
It was fantastic to "meet" the dynamo behind the company that fuels my addiction to fabric!  
I love checking your site to see what new arrivals have made their debut at Tonic Living.

And just for you my loyal readers, Tonic Living has graciously offered a 10% discount!

Enter the code: hodgepodge to get 10% off your next purchase.

Happy Sewing.

XO Barbara


  1. What a fabulous interview! I love Tonic Living and so enjoyed this peak into the companies history/ beginnings. Fabulous!!

  2. Love her living room! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Love Tonic Living!!! They carry the most gorgeous patterns and colours ;) Still hoping to order some for my Living RM - ahh, someday.

  4. Interesting how she came up with the company name! Such a great company! Yay for 10% off!!

  5. Great awesome of you to feature "local" talent!

  6. I love Tonic Living - so many wonderful fabrics :)

  7. So great of you to feature Tonic Living and Janine! I've always loved their products and their customer service is top notch. Its nice to learn more about them and how the business evolved.

  8. It's so nice to meet the face behind the business. I love Tonic Living. They have awesome products and outstanding customer service. Glad to know more about them.

  9. What a great feature. It is great to read about the backbone of Tonic Living and how she came about to her success. I love that you feature Canadian talant. Thank you!

  10. Great profile. So interesting to learn about the roots of the company and the motivation to drive it forward!

  11. What a fab interview Barbara. I love it that her husband helps out and is a part of it. I also love the story behind the name "Tonic Living"

  12. Barbara, this is a FAB interview ...... get it? I love how her husband left his job to join his wife. I also love how they came up with the name "Tonic Living"

  13. great site, didn't know about this one. I've just ordered 10 swatches, can't wait for them to arrive!

  14. So happy to be introduced to a new source for fabric. I could look at fabrics all day!

  15. Another fantastic interview Barbara! All I knew about Tonic was that they had great fabric choices, they had done a brilliant job on Jen bedroom drapes for a great price, and that they were generous enough to make the cushions for the Bloggers Give Back project. To read the backstory is fantastic - of course now I love them even more - I may have to find a fabric project just so I can use them! What a great answer to your all important Canadian style question. Thanks for the feature.

  16. Such a wonderful interview, I loved learning more about everything behind such a fabulous company. And yay for Tonic Living been featured as an editor's pick in a recent H&H issue!! Loved this :)
    Nancy xo

  17. Love tonic living. Great interview! I have some of the "Sweet William, white" fabric that I'll be sewing drapes with soon. Can't wait!


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