'Shibui' is a Japanese word referring to an aesthetic of simple, subtle and unobtrusive beauty.
This small West End store lives up to its name, offering a beautiful collection of vintage and contemporary Japanese ceramics, furniture, fashion, jewellery, and more.
It's the kind of store where every item has been carefully chosen and artfully arranged, where beauty can be found in the smallest details and the finest finishes.
Shibui is a work of love for husband-and-wife owners Justine Llewelyn and Shozo Terauchi. Since setting up shop eight years ago, they've gradually built up a rich collection of vintage and contemporary stock, much of which is sourced on their twice-yearly trips to western Japan.
They also craft some items themselves, with Shozo restoring furniture and retro lamps, and Justine transforming vintage silks into everything from handbags to framed artworks. I own two handbags from Shibui (both purchased for under $100), and they are as versatile and practical as they are gorgeous to look at.
The couple also sources occasional pieces from local designers, which blend seamlessly with the other stock (they're currently selling minimalist stools by Brian Steendyk, for example). This is one of the nicest aspects of Shibui -- its individuality and surprising eclecticism, united by a common aesthetic.
Justine and Shozo fit a lot of stock in a relatively small space, and manage to keep their prices very reasonable. A brooch crafted from Japanese newspaper will only set you back a little over $10, while a six-piece vintage tea-set retails for $165, and an antique Meiji platter for $295.
You can buy Japanese wrapping paper for $4.50, Japanese tea for $12.95, and Japanese incense for $15.50. A 1970s yukata (a sort of Japanese cotton dressing gown) is $95. Framed silk artworks start at $69.95, which is less than you would pay for framing if you were to do it yourself.
With cushions, purses, earrings, and other small items to choose from, Shibui is a great place to discover interesting and affordable gifts that you won't find anywhere else. If you have a bigger budget and a taste for antiques, it also has some of the loveliest wooden screens and cabinets that I've come across.
Justine says that the store has a loyal following, and she and Shozo have been gratified by the support that they've received -- affirming their decision to follow their hearts, and their aesthetic, in opening Shibui.
As for me, I feel grateful that they chose to set up shop in my neighbourhood. In a world of mass-produced 'stuff', Shibui is a serene corner where craft and beauty endure.
P.S. To discover more local gems, read my article on Christmas Shopping in West End. Christmas may be over, but these cool and creative retailers are still offering great deals.