Under My Thumb's Homey Tattoo Studio

Creative Workspace Tour

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Name: Chris MacDonald, Under My Thumb Tattoos
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 350 square feet
Years occupied: 2.5 years

Tattooer Chris MacDonald’s one-room studio in Toronto’s west end is one of the city’s best kept secrets. The climb up the wooden staircase to a well-hidden Under My Thumb Tattoos adds to the feeling that you just might be sneaking into someone’s vintage-flavored living room. From the fireplace mantle whiskey collection, to the balcony overlooking busy Dundas Street West, to each perfectly placed salvaged piece, you can easily make yourself at home and forget that you're about to spend the next few hours getting poked with needles and ink...

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Wood rafters, exposed brick, hardwood floors, and an unexpected skylight contribute to the open concept loft vibe of the room, with plants, books and artwork adding splashes of colorful personality to this laid-back studio. The single room layout allows for very little storage space, making each design choice matter that much more. But Chris made it work, finding a way to create space for his office area, drafting area, sterilization and supply zone, waiting area, and of course tattoo station.

Much of the framed artwork is a product of Chris’s other passions, painting and drawing. The demand for his works has recently led him to produce and sell prints of his favorite pieces. Which is no surprise, when you consider that a 12-year career in expert realism tattooing may have taught him a thing or two about making great art!

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic.

Inspiration: Tiny barber shops, San Francisco.

Favorite Element: The balcony with the doors open during the summer, and the vintage "Waitin" sign.

Biggest Challenge: Space. Definitely the struggle of form over function. It's a very unconventional use of space for a tattoo studio, but a blessing in the end, I think.

What Clients Say: "I love it, I want to live here!" It's sometimes difficult to get them to go home...

Proudest DIY: The vintage pheasant lamp that I made the shade for. I picked out the tassels and fastened them to the shade all by myself!

Biggest Indulgence: The bourbon collection.

Best Advice: Make it good!

Dream Sources: Vintage flea markets.

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Resources of Note:


  • Coat rack - designed & built by Megan Tilston at Merganzer Furniture
  • Original prints "YOUTH", "F*CK BEING COOL", "FAITH" - ink on paper 22" x 30" by Chris MacDonald, available for sale, inquire via email: undermythumbtattoos@gmail.com
  • "Waitin" sign - Post and Beam
  • Orange leather chairs - vintage find on craigslist.com
  • Hanging lights with exposed bulbs - Home Hardware
  • Larger hanging bulb light - original to the space
  • Room dividers - Plaiter Place, Chinatown, Toronto
  • Steel tables & carts - Ikea
  • Massage tables - Wal-Mart
  • Automatic hands free garbage cans - amazon.com
  • Computer desk - craigslist.com, then customized to fit the space
  • Drafting table - Curry's Art Store
  • Black desk chairs - Staples Business Depot
  • Floor lamps - Ikea
  • Tibetan skulls on fireplace mantel - Japan
  • Sink, countertop, cupboards - Ikea
  • Horse head door knocker - Texas, gift
  • Pheasant lamp - St.Lawrence Antique Market, with DIY lampshade
  • Red Jesus limited edition screen print - Henk Shiffermacher (Hanky Panky), Amsterdam
  • Fireplace - original to the space
  • Glod framed mirror - Winners, then DIY paint job
  • Framed Constantines screen print - gift
  • Gold Budha head - Homesense, then DIY paint job
  • White bookshelf - Ikea
  • Side table - score from previous tenants
  • White skulls - gift from client


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Thanks, Under My Thumb Tattoos!

(Images: Justice Darragh)

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