Toronto Creative Melissa Cutone on Sourcing Vintage Decor

At its core, the Verano Collection was designed to act as an exercise in connection between one another through the shared appreciation of ever-changing surroundings. As we shift our focus and intentions as a shop to preserve and protect this place we call home, we are excited to re-introduce curated vintage pieces, starting with The Verano Collection’s Shell capsule. Vintage has always played a special role at CAMBIE, as the first products sold by the shop were smaller home goods that Camille picked from the east coast of Canada, followed by the introduction of the vintage woven textiles from Peru. We plan to incorporate vintage home decor into all of our upcoming collections and hope these unique pieces inspire others to act thoughtfully and intentionally when introducing items into the home.

For our latest CAMBIE feature, Melissa Cutone, a vintage curator and buyer for CAMBIE, shares a few tips she's learned in her years of vintage buying and inspiration behind the objects she selected for Shell. Enjoy! 

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Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Melissa Cutone and I am a Toronto-based creative and freelance vintage buyer.

What first inspired your love of vintage?

I consider myself a very curious person and have always been fascinated by exploring how others live and have lived. I could spend hours in museums and consider second hand stores to be small time capsules filled with small glimpses into others’ lives. When I was quite young, my mother would plan day trips into the city and we'd walk down every street and pop into every shop that caught our attention. The highlight of every trip was always when we'd finally zig-zag our way to Kensington Market, with its dozens of vintage shops packed within every block. I was far more interested in adding vintage to my wardrobe than anywhere else back then, but my interest in picking through heaps of secondhand goods grew from there.  


What do you enjoy most about shopping secondhand? 

First and foremost, buying secondhand plays a key role in minimizing waste, which is extremely important to me. Shopping secondhand helps keep objects out of landfills that have years, sometimes decades, of life left in them. I really love the mystery of not knowing what I might come across and the thrill of finding something really interesting and beautiful. I find digging through racks and shelves of random oddities really fun and therapeutic and enjoy imagining what each item’s previous owners were like, which deepens my appreciation for object I find. 

Where do you do most of your sourcing?

Anywhere and everywhere! I've found some of my favourite pieces at garage sales, estate sales, antiques markets outside of the city, and hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop-style second hand shops. 

Which items are you most excited to find?

Ceramics and glass objects, for sure. Specifically ones that are clearly handmade. Knowing that someone invested their time and creative energy into creating something from nothing and that it may be the only one of its kind in existence makes it extra special. It feels like a great privilege each time something handmade winds up in my possession and becomes a part of my life and home. 

What are your current favourite pieces you've found?

I like objects that have a playful element to them, whether that be an interesting form, colour, or are made from an unconventional material. It feels like choosing a favourite child, but my current favourites include my yellow "Vaseline" glass decanter set, shell mosaic tiled vase, handmade tortoiseshell glass vase, ceramic pin-up figurine, handwoven cushion cover, and vibrant red vintage wool rug (which is probably my greatest find to date). 

What is your planning process when sourcing vintage for a shop?

I like to imagine each shop as its own little ecosystem, with elements that are unique to each, and pieces that may work well for one may not suit another. With this in mind, the key things I consider when sourcing for shops are: What would make a great addition to/compliment their current line of offerings? Which pieces would resonate most with their customers? What is an appropriate price point? 

What inspired your vintage selections for Shell and which is your favourite?

When sourcing pieces for Shell, I made sure to consider the three key elements mentioned above and found a lot of inspiration  Definitely the Spiral Glass Vase! The ribbons of rose pink spiralled around the vase remind me of the ripples often found on shells and I knew the moment I saw it that it would be perfect for the collection. 

Do you have any tips for those looking to get into thrifting? 

  • Never leave home without a measuring tape! You never know when you might come across a piece of furniture or art that you'll want to take home, and thrift stores often don't accept returns. If I'm ever in search of something specific, I always measure my space before an outing and keep the dimensions in a note on my phone to reference, should I need to. 
  • See the potential. Often, I’ll come across a piece with great potential but it might not be exactly what I’ve been looking for. If it’s the wrong colour, I’ll repaint it and if it has the right look but a different intended use than what I'm looking for, I’ll repurpose it (ceramic bowls make great shallow planters!).
  • Explore, explore, explore! I’ve recently grown to appreciate the fabric and craft odds-and-ends sections of thrift stores and often come across raw materials that will inspire fun projects. One of my most recent DIY projects is a teal cushion cover made from a secondhand scrap of velvet. That being said, I highly recommend washing and disinfecting every secondhand purchase before using it, especially textiles.
  • If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. It can be easy to get carried away and I could act as a case study for thrifting FOMO. I’ve had a few moments in recent years when I’ve had to take a critical look at my collection and decide which items are contributing to my wellbeing (sparking joy) and which are simply taking up space and weighing me down. If I ever feel like I’m reaching that point, I’ll go through anything not on display or being used and gift or sell pieces that no longer serve a purpose in my home. I also find the “one in, one out” rule is a helpful way to minimize wasteful spending and clutter.

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We are excited to have Melissa contributing to the CAMBIE Journal for an ongoing series on sourcing and upcycling vintage for the home. You can find her current selection of vintage wares for Shell here as part of our limited edition The Verano Collection and follow along on her buying trips via her Instagram. If you have any vintage decor-related questions, please share them in the comments below! All photos courtesy of Cindy Ciccodemarco

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