On yet another monotonous drive down the 401 (thank goodness for audiobooks!) from Montreal to Toronto, I broke up the trip with a stop in Kingston. Living Rooms, owned by two brothers, John and Michael Sinclair, is a mixture of healthy lifestyle products and green building materials.
The brothers had started their professional lives as painters. But the more they interacted both with the paint and with clients who were becoming concerned about what they were putting on their wall and breathing in the air, the more research the brothers did, the more they sought out alternatives to traditional paints. They started searching for paints that were less toxic to human health with little to no off-gassing of toxic chemicals. Fast forward to the present and low and zero VOC paints are so yesterday. You won’t find any petroleum-based paints in their store, rather, they’ve sourced some really interesting alternatives.
When they began developing their store concept, they worked not on the philosophy of supplying green building products, but rather, they source products while living by standards developed by Bau-Biologie and Permaculture. Bau-Biologie was developed in Germany and is all about creating a healthy indoor environment. The movement focuses on using building materials and home products that don’t off-gas toxic chemicals. Permaculture (which I have written about before), recognizes that all biological systems are closed so that one living thing’s waste product is another’s food source. To that end, on their website they note that their store is not so much about green building materials as it is about sourcing products that are low impact, responsibly-made and better for your health as well as that of the planet’s. In other words, they stay away from a lot of what might be considered electronic green gadgets. The kind of items they stock focus on healthy sleeping, healthy eating and fresh interior air.
Building products: In addition to paints, there are several other better building products to choose from. To name a few that I’ve already written about, there is American Clay, Log’s End flooring (timber salvaged from the bottom of the Ottawa River), IceStone, PaperStone, (for counter tops) Nature’s Carpet (100% wool carpet), Safecoat paints and sealers, Ultratouch cotton insulation….
BUT, they also introduced me to a few new and intriguing products such as insulation made from leftover sheep’s wool, paint made from linseed oil, an intriguing exterior stucco-like product that’s made in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and a new concept: modular built strawbale homes. I’ll discuss each of these products in future posts.
Because they are located in a building which also has artisans and trades, they can also set you up with cabinetmakers and contractors who will take care of any building project work you want done in the Kingston area. Their objective is to source better building and living products as locally as possible and to use local trades and craftsmen to complete their customers’ projects.
Lifestyle products: Another aspect of this store that is the selection of lifestyle products they offer. When John took me around the store he was most enthusiastic about Xtrema, the ceramic cookware and baking line they’ve brought in. He explained that the problem with ceramic cookware in the past has been that it can’t be used over direct heat or it will crack. The manufacturers of this line have solved that problem and Xtrema cookware can be used directly over gas or electric elements (However, it can’t be used with induction cooktops, which use a magnetic pull between cookware and energy source). The cookware is also reasonably priced compared with high-end stainless steel pots and pans. A 24 piece set sells for $530.
Also within the kitchen category, there were tea and coffee makers, and my personal favourite was Presso, a manual espresso maker — perfect for cottage living (although you still have to heat the water).
There are plenty of products that focus on sleep as well. A buckwheat pillow by Eco et Eco, is as local a product as you can get. Except for growing the cotton, all parts of the pillow are made in Quebec. Apparently, buckwheat is a great material for people who sweat a lot around the head and neck area at night as the buckwheat wicks away moisture and heat and allows the sleeper a more even body temperature.
Other bath and sleep products include organic cotton towels, mattresses and mattress pads, and duvets.
In the household cleaning category, Living Rooms carries natural coco scrub pads, natural luffa sponges and soap nuts. Soap nuts look a bit like acorns and are the fruit (called a drupe) of the Sapindus genus of bushes and trees, which grow in tropical climates. The drupe produces a natural soap substance that can be used as a laundry soap. Soapnuts are very versatile and can also be used to make household cleaners, shampoo and even toothpaste! Usually soapnuts can be reused four or five times before they lose there effectiveness. At end of life, they can be composted.
To explore the products they offer on line, visit their website.
If you’re in Kingston or surrounding area, Living Rooms is located at:
12 Cataraqui Street
|Regular Store Hours|
|Monday||10am – 5pm|
|Tuesday||10am – 5pm|
|Wednesday||10am – 5pm|
|Thursday||10am – 5pm|
|Friday||10am – 5pm|
|Saturday||10am – 5pm|
|Or by appointment.|