Carnation Hall got its name when two people enriched by the art of romanticization saw opportunity in the petals of a symbolic gesture. The carnation is Julia Spiegl’s birthday flower, but it meant something more when Andrew Rees showed up with a bundle of them for their second date. Since then, the two visual artists have worked together to build a platform for their work. Through @carnationhallco, they now offer local thrifted products—and that’s only one layer of the couple’s overall vision.
“The name Carnation Hall kept on floating around in our heads, so we came up with an idea board and spent a lot of time mapping out what we thought it could be,” Spiegl said.
“We went on a drive with no destination in mind and ended up at the Listowel Florist shop … the couple who own it invited us upstairs to see their workspace and sift through some of their favourite items,” she said.
They simply wanted to create something they cared about, together. The decision to start with a thrift store started to take shape inside the charming attic of a local florist. Their fascination for the loveliness of that space inspired them to create something like it for themselves. That space became Carnation Hall.
“Once we had the idea to open our own thrift store, we started walking around our place and picking out pieces we thought we could sell. We’re both avid thrifters and we believe in not giving a lot of power to material things. We approached each item thinking, ‘Yes, this is a beautiful object, but we don’t need to have it in our house. Who else could enjoy it?’,” Spiegl said. “We find joy in sharing the beautiful things we find with those in our community.”
However, when it comes to the objects Rees and Spiegl collect, it’s never solely about beauty. The two invest time, research and energy into every find—including a chair manufactured by local landmark, Krug’s Furniture Company, for example. Their digging revealed that it had originally been manufactured for a charitable event in the early 2000s and that it’s actually the only one around. That’s just one of many nostalgic stories they’ve uncovered along the way.
“There is so much history in this area, it’s incredible. We find so much beauty in the items of the past. They don’t manufacture items like they used to. These items were truly made to last and to be durable and functional,” Spiegl said.
“We spend a lot of time restoring [items] to be as presentable as possible because we believe in old fashioned sentimentality and work ethic. I won’t ever feel comfortable giving something away or selling a product unless it’s absolutely worth the customer’s diamond,” Rees said.
After their first sale and a great deal of reflection, the couple decided to turn this passion project into their livelihood.
“I want to emphasize that this wasn’t a situation where we had a bunch of money saved up and just decided to jump into this thing. It was that I realized I wasn’t happy at work and there was something else I could do that I would love,” Spiegl said. “I’ve learned to go with my gut and now every day is so much fun.”
“For me—and I don’t mean this in a pessimistic way—I’ve been alive 30 years and have been working hard day in and day out for someone else. This year I thought, ‘If I’m going to be fortunate enough to live a long life, how else can I spend that time?’,” Rees said.
Carnation Hall has only been around for a month, so Spiegl and Rees are still finding the balance between putting time into their business and caring for themselves. They’re taking it slow and are always eager to receive feedback from customers and embrace the learning phase. Yet, brimming with passion, talent and the kindest intentions, the couple is already working toward a whole host of goals for the business.
“The vision is to own a physical storefront someday and to turn Carnation Hall into an umbrella company for a number of things we want to provide this community. We are a strong supporter of local businesses and this incredible area that we find ourselves in,” Spiegl said.
Some of their hopes for the future of the business include a community gathering centre and a publishing house for poetry, literature and art. They would also like it to become a space for creating and sharing music. They’re building something of a safe haven for old souls.
“We want Carnation Hall to become a refuge for artists of all different sorts. We imagine a quaint shop with cases full of books and couches where people can unwind while pursuing our collection of items and listening to vinyl spin,” Spiegl said. “All will be welcome—anyone who is kind, that is,” Rees said.
For now however, you can visit their shop on Instagram as well as their personal profiles, @juliaseagullco and @byawgr, to learn more about their art. They will also be popping up at local markets as they return to the city, starting with Stanley Park Community Centre market on Jul. 1.
“Our advice for anyone on a similar journey to us is that it feels so good to start doing something for yourself, to fill your own pockets,” Spiegl said.
“Nothing is certain in life, especially in the world we’re in right now…we refuse to give it any more power than it already has. We would rather spread happiness and kindness and focus on the good things in life rather than the fearful and negative. Carnation Hall came to be out of love and a mindset of abundance,” she said.
Jenna is an artist, freelance writer and programming coordinator working in KW’s tech industry. When she’s not working, you can find Jenna singing around town, picking through the poetry section of used book stores or soaking up the sun whenever she has the chance.