Making Sense of HomeSense

This week’s Fall Home Show in Toronto has an amazing roster of workshops featuring TV celebs like Bryan Baeumler, Janette Ewan, Scott McGillivray and Cheryl Torrenueva, above. When I saw the title of Cheryl’s talk, Luxe Living For Less, I knew I had to get her on the blog to share some of the secrets she’s used to such great effect on Colin & Justin’s Home Heist and before that on HGTV’s Rooms That Rock.

When Cheryl suggested we meet at HomeSense I was thrilled. I’ve been wanting to cover this national, discount decor emporium since I started styleNorth but frankly, every time I go to one of their stores I feel like the prices are cheap but so is the quality.

“You have to know what to look for,” advises Cheryl, who’s just as pretty and effervescent in person as she is on TV. She’s also refreshingly down-to-earth: “I grew up in Scarborough [a not-so-fashionable Toronto suburb],” she says, “so I know where I came from.”

Short of the store managers, nobody knows HomeSense better than my tour guide. Cheryl says she’s there at least once a week, two or three times if she’s shooting a season. “When we’re trying to finish off a space and we’ve blown the budget on all the big stuff, HomeSense is my go-to source because I don’t have $400 to spend on a lamp but I can manage $60, which is what this one costs. And a lot of my clients have kids and pets — if a HomeSense lamp gets knocked over and breaks, well, it’s not the end of the world.”

Cheryl says her overriding mandate is to find items that look expensive. Lacquer, crystal, great shapes, current patterns and colours, things that feel handmade as opposed to mass produced. And HomeSense stocks some serious name brands: “I’ve seen Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, even Missoni,” says the designer.

As we tour the Etobicoke outlet (one of Cheryl’s favorites along with Toronto’s Warden and Eglinton location) we spot luxurious Mongolian lamb cushions for $30 — “I’ve seen them elsewhere for $150” — and a king-size Ralph Lauren duvet cover for $90, originally priced at $470.

Cheryl’s best advice? “Whenever you come to a place like this, always bring a plan. The prices are low so it’s easy to make impulse purchases then get home with a case of buyer’s remorse. Write down dimensions of pieces you’re looking for and try to stay focused on what it is you need.”

Of her five home senses, Cheryl relies most on her sight and touch — if the fabric feels cheap, forget about it. “I only buy down-filled pillows,” she says, “and I prefer natural fibers like cotton, linen and wool.”

She scoops up a fun, felt cushion ($40), below, that she’ll use in a Home Show booth she’s designing and working in for Future Shop. She also snags an architectural Brian Gluckstein vase that’s a bit scuffed up so we negotiate an additional 10 per cent off the sale price. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

If you want to attend Cheryl’s Home Show workshops sign-up soon — one of her sessions is already at capacity. My sessions about buying and displaying vintage furnishings are slated for October 2 at 5 pm and October 3 at 11 am.

To win a pair of Home Show passes be one of the first 10 people to leave a comment below (I’ll email you for your mailing address and post the tickets today). The Fall Home Show runs October 1 – 4 at Toronto’s Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

30 Comments For This Post

  1. Marilyn Jenns Says:

    As you know Home Sense has been one of my favorite stores ever since they opened however Cheryl is right on in that some are better than others. I check out the one in Kingston everytime I’m there. However. again Cheryl is right in saying keep checking if you are looking for something in particular. The last few times i’ve been in I’ve come out empty handed. Now that could also be because downsizing has become a priority and I’m finding that there is a lot that I can live without. You can’t beat their prices on bedding and linens and the quality is good.

  2. Karen Says:

    Yes, a plan is a good thing when shopping at HomeSense.
    Perhaps that should be the HomeSense shopper’s mantra – STAY FOCUSED.

  3. drs Says:

    Thanks for these tips!

  4. Abby Says:

    me please – i’d love to go!

  5. Marla Says:

    Well, that’s enough to make me come out of lurking!

    I may have to poke around a HomeSense soon, even just for a cute pillow – I haven’t been in years. The issue of quality you brought up follows my thinking that it’s a store full of stuff I could find at places where I get to shop for other things too.

  6. Alex Says:

    Any recommendations on which locations are better (selection and stock level)? I think the ones I go to aren’t that great as I usually walk out with nothing.

  7. Chris Says:

    Hi Alex,
    Cheryl says she avoids the downtown location because it’s “picked-over” daily by lunch-hour shoppers. She says the very best HomeSense she’s been to is in Aurora, ON, and she had great things to say about the Calgary and Vancouver outlets. In Toronto, her faves are the ones mentioned here, Etobicoke (North Queen) followed by Warden and Eglinton.

  8. Cheryl Says:

    Good morning!

    Chris, thank you for kind words! I had a blast on Saturday!

    I did go to the Newmarket location yesterday and was able to find all of the missing pieces that I was looking for! The smaller white vase which was from the same Gluckstein collection and a funky skull pillow with lots of character! It was definitely worth the drive!

    Have a great week everyone!


  9. Claudia Says:

    thanks for the tips. I almost always end up with something not on my list (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!).

  10. Christine Says:

    Homesense is great. I do find I can’t go in there without buying something, but some stores tend to have a better selection than others. The Newmarket store is usually very good.

  11. Hogtownmike Says:

    Cheryl always did a great job on “Colin and Justin” — nice to find out out about one of her secret spots. Thanks, Mike

  12. Allison Says:

    I’d love to go as well!

  13. Ava Says:

    Excellent post – I always go into Homesense and get worried about quality because of the proces too!

  14. Deb Says:

    I am really liking that silver pine cone lamp! I’ve not been to HomeSense in a long while either but as I’m near the Newmarket store I’m definitely going to make a point of going this week. Thanks for the great tip!

  15. kristegrace Says:

    Hi Chris … WAIT??!!! Am I too late for a pass?!!! DARN and I usually log on in the am and this morning (of course) I was side-tracked!!! :(

    LOVE the post though and think Cheryl is great. Looking forward to seeing you at the show Chris – I will be one of your StyleNorth groupies in the audience!

  16. Nat Says:

    Just in case I’m still in time for tickets…

    Love the blog, Chris. I read it weekly : )

  17. RenGrrl Says:

    How lovely to see Cheryl when I opened the blog this morning! Always enjoy her on TV. Didn’t know she was from Scarborough, that’s great! This is a very useful post and now I’m better equipped to go hunting at HomeSense when I have the opportunity (or make one). Great tips!!! Thanks both of you!

  18. wanderluster Says:

    Great tips from Cheryl! HomeSense can be overwhelming (and tempting) when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Darn, she mentioned my favourite HomeSense (Warden & Eglinton)… now I’ll have to fight some of your readers for the deals.

  19. olya Says:

    That’s what I get for working and not browsing at work. Darn it!!

  20. Chris Says:

    Sorry Nat, tickets are all spoken for and have been mailed out but if you click through on the ad link, above, you’ll save $3 on admission.

  21. Alena Says:

    I loved this post about Home Sense. I quite frankly don’t know what I’d do without it. I do however vigorously disagree with your initial opinion that Home Sense is cheap in quality. While I do agree that there are items that are definitely of poor quality, there are many items like the Mongolian lamb pillows and the Ralph Lauren duvet cover that you can find there. For an example, there is a big rage over ceramic drumstools. I purchased a metallic silver ceramic drumstool from Home Sense for $49.99. I found the exact identical drumstool only in gold metallic for $149.99 at another store. This is the not the first or only time that I have made such a discovery. Sometimes you have look through quite a few things but there are definite treasures to be found at Home Sense and i find as the years go by there are more and more of them. I think you should try to do more high/low style posts and include Home Sense in the mix especially since I and probably alot of your other readers frequent this fantastic store. It is a gift to those of us who love style but can’t always afford to pay the big price tags!

  22. infernalmachine Says:

    when did you do this interview? i am vigorously coveting those lamb cushions – the perfect complement to my sofa!

  23. Mayling Says:

    Great article. I love both Cheryl and Homesense. My only regret is that the show and Cheryl are both in TO!! I’m in Vancouver, and love browsing Homesense for great finds.

    PS. I have emailed Cheryl before and she had personally replied to it. She is not only talented, but very nice and down to earth!

  24. Chris Says:

    Infernalmachine, Cheryl and I were at the Etobicoke store last Saturday so run, don’t walk and you might still score one of those fluffy beauties.
    Mayling, you’re in luck; Cheryl is appearing at the Vancouver Home Show Oct. 15 – 18 at BC Place Stadium.

  25. Heather Says:

    Hi Chris,

    One of my favourite HomeSense purchases is a tall, wide mouth tortoiseshell glass vase that I got for $10.00. Second favourite is a large black framed wall mirror that was $24.99 because of a small scratch that I renewed with a careful dab of black magic marker.

    I’ve also taken friends and clients there for gorgeous lamps — like Cheryl said, if they get broken, it’s no biggie — and other accessories. Their area rugs are also a steal.

    Love your website, Chris. Take care.


  26. Toronto condominiums Says:

    Hey Chris, I’ve just started my own online presence for my business, but there are some great ideas in the list that I really could do and hadn’t thought of at all. I would like to add this to my real estate FB , not sure how to do it yet, but I will figure it out somehow.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    yeah i think i’ll go to homesense to score cheryl’s fluffy beauties and if i am lucky cheryl’s lamb cushions can complement my sofa !!!! damn cheryl

  28. Gerard Deignan Says:

    The fool passes for wise if he is silent. – Portuguese Proverb

  29. Stop gotowcom Fan Page Says:

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  30. Bridget Says:

    She only uses down-filled pillows? Does she realize how cruel that is? Or does she just not care?

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