Boa Boutique teams up with Beach architect Sapphira Charles to create new and refreshed look for the Queen Street East store

Architect Sapphira Charles, left, and Boa Boutique owner Daphne Nissani, right, in front of the shop on Queen Street East in the Beach. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

Beach-based architect and designer Sapphira Charles and Boa Boutique owner Daphne Nissani will be celebrating the makeover of the Queen Street East store this week.

Boa Boutique has been selling fashionable clothing in the Beach for the past 18 years. When it became time to refresh the store’s look, Nissani was excited to team up with Charles to take on the task.

Nissani knew Charles as a customer and felt they had similar senses of style that would work well together.

“I knew she was fabulous with style and we are similar free spirits. I knew Sapphira would be a good fit for this,” said Nissani.

The result is a brighter, more open-feeling store with large front windows that help create a sense of more space.

“It really is the High Street of the Beach here and it deserved a new frontage, and a newer, fresher look,” said Nissani.  “It was absolutely a pleasure working with Sapphira, and her style was a perfect fit.’

Nissani said she had talked with Charles about a new look for the store “that was more Spanish influenced, and had lots of curves. Sapphira helped so much with that and did the designs to give it such a modern European look. I am just very happy with the new space. The customers say it looks much bigger, especially with the new window frontage. It’s so much brighter and even friendlier.”

Located on Queen Street East just east of Wineva Avenue, Boa Boutique will be holding an already sold out Grand Opening celebration of the new space on Thursday, April 20.

For Charles, it was a pleasure to be able to help with the redesign of a store she loves and is located in her neighbourhood.

An architect, artist, designer, performer and activist, Charles founded her own company – The Architecture Revolution Inc. – in 2018. Prior to that she had worked with other architectural firms in Toronto including G. Bruce Stratton Architects Inc., and Hanson + Jung Architects Inc.

Charles said according to her research with local architectural associations, her firm is the only one in Toronto that is solely-owned by a Black woman.

“I think that is a big and exciting point of interest here in Toronto in 2023… I’m so honoured, and it also scares me a bit, but I’m excited and honoured to be able to forge forward to make history. I think it’s a pretty big deal. I’ve been pretty quiet about it up until recently, but now it’s time to boldly put myself out there,” said Charles.

She pointed out that according to BAIDA (Black Architects + Interior Designers Association), Black women make up only 0.4 per cent of the architecture and design community.

Like many, she has spent a good part of the pandemic and its recovery period trying to get through but now Charles said its time come out the “long-lasting” isolation and start letting people know more about her self and her firm.

Post-pandemic, she said things are starting to move forward. “Thus far I’ve been pretty blessed, and there has been a lot of work with women in business. Some of the contacts were because I was local and some because I was a woman running her own company.”

Charles grew up in North York where she went to high school at Cardinal Carter Academy of the Arts. After that she took architecture at Carleton University for her undergrad, and then her masters at the University at Buffalo.

Charles said she decided to study architecture in university after seriously considering the pursuit of a career as an artist and attending the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).

“There is a lot of art in architecture, though not all architects consider themselves artists. Not every architect has that creative edge,” she said. “I was at a bit of a crossroads at the end of high school as I loved architecture but I also considered going to OCAD. It was a tough decision for an 18 year old, but I felt I wanted to make an impact on the world and I could do that through architecture. I love space and looking at space through architecture, and I wanted to use my skills as an architect and really light that fuse.”

Charles said there’s a saying that architecture is civilization since it has such a profound impact on how people live. “It shapes civilizations and it shapes cultures too,” she said.

“I’m always considering light and colour and the effects it has on psychology in spaces. Colour is a big, big thing for me as it inspires a space and its function. As architects we need to consider the aesthetics of space and how it all works together for human wellness,” said Charles.

A resident of the Beach since 2012, Charles said she loves living in the community as a single mother to a five-year-old son who she co-parents with his father who also lives locally.

She had lived downtown before moving east to the Beach.

“I didn’t really see myself then as wanting to live in any particular neighbourhood,” said Charles of making the Beach home. “I liked it downtown before I moved, but I’ve come to love it here. The beauty and creativity of the area has really grown on me. There’s nature and green spaces, and the beach and the water. It’s a beautiful place to live in the city. There’s so much creative energy and it’s a great place to raise a child.”

She said she also appreciates the family nature of the Beach community. “There’s a strong mom base here and I just love the neighbourhood. There’s so many parks and so much greenery and it’s inspiring to be out in nature.”

Along with her work as an architect and designer, Charles is also the founder of the Beachers for Black Lives Facebook group (which began in 2020 when the death of George Floyd who was killed by a Minnesota police officer brought issues of racism to the forefront) and is a member of Friends of the Beach Parks, a group of residents dedicated to enhancing and animating parks in the area.

For more information on Charles and her firm, please go to https://www.thearchitecturerevolution.com/

For more information on Boa Boutique, please go to https://shopboa.ca/


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