Whose House? Abi’s House.

photos by Chris Friesen

You may have noticed a certain vintage aesthetic housed in the Good Will Social Club, be it in the tastefully mismatched chairs, a distinct mug or a water pitcher. But that assemblage of artifacts are not there by coincidence. They were hand-delivered by Abi Torquato, one of the Good Will’s owners.

“If I find something that looks like (it’s) going to last forever, and it’s really nice, I’ll bring it there. All the chairs there, they’ll last, and if they break, who cares. I’d rather just furnish it with vintage pieces that look really great and will last forever, and it just feels like they’ve been there forever,” Torquato says.

You’ll find Torquato serving up espressos behind the bar most days, but he also operates under the moniker Origin Unknown (@originunknownshop), an Instagram-based venture where he sells the finds that he’s willing to part with. It’s a natural progression from the habits he developed as a child, when his mom would pull him out of school to go antique shopping downtown.

“She would always go for Italian brass and really kinda gaudy Italian stuff, really old beautiful Italian pottery and I hated that stuff. And I’d go in there with her and then I’d find something that I’d like ... like a more modern piece, and I’d find more colourful stuff that I liked,” Torquato shares. “Later in life, I found myself buying really nice Italian brass pieces, Austrian brass pieces and like, oh my god, I’m turning into my mother.”

While they still shop together, Torquato has found his own nearly indescribable niche that fills the surfaces of his house. Some pieces he’ll sell, often to finance a larger purchase, but mostly he’s just looking to fill his spaces with beautiful design items he enjoys.

“I think that if you just create your own little palace, you just never leave. Which kind of sucks, but it’s great for me because I love everything around me.”

1) Alexander Calder Mobile

This mobile was hanging in a mansion on Palk St. that Torquato walked past every day, even as a kid. “The guy had it forever. And it was a beautiful modern architecture house.” When they had an estate sale, Torquato showed up at 7 a.m., but the mobile had just sold. 

Years later, he arranged a trade (lamp for bowl) over Kijiji, and when he went to meet the bowl’s owners, he saw the mobile. “I ended up getting it. I told him the story and he’s like, you need to have it, it has to be yours. I’m like oh my god, that’s like forever. It’s super old and it’s never going anywhere. I’m going to be buried with that,” Torquato says.

2) Michael Dumontier piece

“It’s pretty amazing, this was at the Plug In actually but he gave me this piece.”

3) Bowl of letters on the table

“I found a big box of those, and those are all ... for stop motion, and they’re all ceramic, beautiful letters, and I bought ‘em for 6 bucks,” he says. “They’re just ceramic letters for film. And I love them.”

4) Ernest Wilson 1976

“This is a Winnipeg artist, Ernest Wilson, from the 70s, and I found 16 of those pieces. They were bringing them out at the Goodwill on Empress ... It’s early in the morning, 9:30, and I freaked out, I was like ‘what?’ And he was like ‘there’s so many, did you want them?’ and I was like ‘yup’. And then I started doing research, asking my friends if they knew who he was ... Rob Taite reframed these pieces for me,” Torquato says. “If I find really good stuff from Winnipeg I will never ever ever sell it, ‘cause I love it.”

5) Italian pottery

“I’m really drawn to Italian pottery. I love that stuff ... and I kind of like Danish stuff but I just mix it with Italian, French, American. This is like, the world. But mixed together.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 22 of The Uniter (February 25, 2015)

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