Located on the corner of King Street East and Walnut, white bunting flags form an aerial corridor between the exterior of Studio 205 and adjacent sister-store, The Thrifty Designer. Owners Melanie and Vito Amato opened Modify Your Closet (now The Thrifty Designer) in 2010 and introduced its neighbouring brick-and-mortar boutique, Studio 205, in 2015.
Reminiscent of a life-sized dollhouse, whimsical dream catchers and macramé planters sway in the sunny display window. Tiny wooden stools are stacked with plush crochet pillows, antique treasure trunks are topped with cozy knitted blankets and children’s books surround Studio 205‘s enchanting storefront.
Stepping into the split-level space, an aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the lofty room. Wiry amaretto fixtures suspend from the ceiling casting a dim hue over the espresso bar, while natural sunlight drenches white walls and pinewood furnishings. Gracie, a portly golden retriever, sprawls across the honey-wood floors, while her Mom Judy (the pastry supplier) delivers a homemade pumpkin loaf.
Make no mistake, this isn’t your ordinary café. In fact, the mom-and-pop-shop specializes in handmade gifts, the cookies and lattes are only intended to sweeten the shopping experience. “Whenever my husband Vito and I travel or shop, we always grab a coffee before we browse,” explains Melanie. “We decided that’s what we wanted to do, and so, we learned how to do it.”
With no formal barista training, Melanie’s main priority is to create a consistent cup of joe. “It’s all about the process. We follow the timing: when to steam the milk, when to tamp it, when to put the water through the puck. We stick to the same method and don’t change it.” And as Melanie self-deprecatingly admits, latte art isn’t necessarily her forte. “If it looks fancy, we’ll give it to customers without the lid. If it doesn’t work out as planned, we put the lid on it.”
Yet, as you wander through the treasure trove, Melanie’s attention to detail and artistic vision is evident. Each unique piece is thoughtfully placed on every nook and cranny – from succulents housed in porcelain tea saucers to handmade earrings propped on choppy birch logs. Chunky leather bracelets dangle from decorative antlers and knitted throws hang from distressed wood ladders. Although everything is delicately placed, the room’s rugged charm invites you to touch, taste and smell without feeling like a bull in a china shop.
A mothership for local artisans, Studio 205 curates Canadian crafted jewellery, bath and body products, home decor and gift ideas for kids and pets alike. More than 50 vendors supply handmade merch from British Columbia all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland, though most of the showcased items are Hamilton-made. “With all of the up and coming local talent, it’s not hard to find vendors in the area,” Melanie says.
At the very back of the shop, rows of vintage sewing machines dress an eight-foot window (its siblings are subtly propped on shelves throughout the store), an ode to Melanie’s roots in retail fashion and design. “My husband and I are makers too. I have a sewing and design background, so it’s nice that I can still sell my pieces here at the studio.”
And the duo are also keen on leveraging the beautiful space for community events; on weekends, they host painting, sewing and macramé workshops in the lower level of the shop.
*Appeared in YP.ca.