Life’s best moments are around the table,” says Martha Grace McKimm, one-half of elegant tableware purveyor Hopson Grace, in Toronto’s tony Summerhill neighbourhood in Rosedale. When this PR powerhouse decided she was ready for a totally different career challenge, she knew she wanted to open a shop connected to the foodie-entertaining world. “The idea was ruminating for quite some time in my head,” she explains, “but I couldn’t move it forward because I didn’t have the retail experience.”

McKimm’s aha moment came in the dark of night, and it included veteran luxury exec Andrea Hopson, formerly VP of Canada for Tiffany & Co. “I woke up and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s Andrea! I need her.’ ” The duo had met two decades ago, when McKimm worked at the PR agency that repped Tiffany, and stayed in touch as friends. Over lunch at Holts Café, in midtown Toronto, McKimm pitched Hopson on “this crazy idea” and found a kindred business partner.

“We felt committed to doing whatever it took, including selling our homes, in order to realize our dreams,” says Hopson. Their shop opened in 2015, stocking tableware, décor and kitchen accessories with exquisite form and function. You’ll find designs both traditional (William Yeoward’s 19th-century-style crystal salt dish) and contemporary (Dede Johnston’s whimsical china with tiny illustrations of skiers), and prices both high and low. But what everything has in common is a sense of joyfulness. “From the table setting to the food and wine, it’s not about perfection or formality,” explains McKimm. “It’s all about the warmth you bring, making people feel comfortable and creating a shared memory.”

01 Hopson Grace

Everything you’d want to throw the most chic dinner party is at this boutique. Among the founders’ favourites — a salted-maple salad bowl by Jim Lorriman (“It’s a piece of art on my table,” notes McKimm.) and bird-themed porcelain dishware from Richard Ginori (“It makes me very happy,” says Hopson.). New launches include Richard Brendon’s The 1 Collection, a collab with wine critic Jancis Robinson. The line offers just one wineglass option, designed to be the only shape you’ll ever need for any type of vino. 1120 Yonge Street, Toronto; 416-926-1120; hopsongrace.com

02 Villa La Rotonda

“Venice holds a great deal of my heart,” says Hopson, who studied art and architecture there in her early 20s and became enamoured with la dolce vita. “One of my biggest thrills was visiting Villa La Rotonda,” she recalls of the Renaissance estate located just outside Venice and designed by one of her favourite architects, Andrea Palladio. “It’s the most perfect example of symmetry and beauty in a single building.” Via della Rotonda, 45, Venice; villalarotonda.it

03 Le Bon Marche

“We go there on every buying trip. They’re incredibly curated and thoughtful about what they bring in,” McKimm says of the quintessential Parisian department store. The Hopson Grace duo appreciate the impeccable assortment, in particular the German bone china by Dibbern and linens from the likes of Lisa Corti and Le Jacquard Français. “We always find something new and inspiring there,” adds Hopson. 24, rue de Sèvres, Paris; +33 (0) 1 44 39 82 80; 24sevres.com

04 The River Cafe

Still as beloved as ever after more than three decades, this London institution is famous as the training ground for scores of acclaimed chefs. It’s credited with defining Italian cuisine for Brit palates, prioritizing fresh ingredients. “I’ve had one of the best meals of my life there,” enthuses McKimm. “They re-create and perfect Tuscan cooking outside Tuscany, and no one’s done it better in the world.” Given that she spent a year in Italy, guiding bicycle tours in Tuscany, that’s high praise indeed. Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London; +44 (0) 20 7386 4200; rivercafe.co.uk

05 The Hess Collection 

Sip cab sauv and chardonnay, this acclaimed Napa Valley winery’s best-known varietals, as your preview to lunching on farm-to-table fare while overlooking Mount Veeder. Before you go, explore the on-site modern-art museum curated by winery founder (and passionate art collector) Donald Hess. His featured artists include photo-realist painter Franz Gertsch, abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell and sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. “It’s a rich cultural experience and a spectacular setting,” says McKimm, “and they produce unbelievable wines.” 4411 Redwood Road, Napa; 707-255-1144; hesscollection.com


By Wing Sze Tang –  *This article originally appeared in INSIGHT: The Art of Living | Winter 2018

 

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