Kitka: Toronto Style Finders
We wanted to feed our creative appetites, and blogging and then the store gave us focus.
Sometimes a blog is more than a blog – it's a project that crystallizes your worldview and becomes your life. Which is exactly what happened with Kitka. John and Juli Baker started blogging about their travels and things they like, and they now own a shop in Toronto that feeds that passion. Called Mjölk (Scandinavian for milk), the shop is a carefully curated collection of their design finds from their travels to Scandinavia and Japan. Among their muses are Naoto Fukusawa, Jasper Morrison, and (of course) Dieter Rams.
John and Juli's home and designs are frequently featured on Remodelista and John and Juli are influential design voices in the SAY 100. We checked in with them about their blog, their shop – and what Canadian artists and crafters they're interested in right now.
You're based in Toronto and you blog about Scandinavian design – what compels you about Scandinavian design? Visiting Scandinavia you realize the similarities between Scandinavia and Canada. A lot of the designs are inspired by nature, so I think we instinctively connect with the aesthetic.
You're also interested in Japanese design – what's the connection there? There is a rich relationship between Scandinavia and Japan. In the 1930s designers like Alvar Aalto took a lot of inspiration from Japanese architecture and in turn his interpretations went on to inspire a generation of Japanese designers and architects. There is a lot of give and take, even to this day.
What are some Toronto-based artists and crafters you're interested in right now? We really admire the work of Markus Uran from Metsa, he makes these beautiful concrete earrings and ceramic buttoned clothing. We are also huge fans of Sarra Tang from Hoi Bo, with whom we recently worked with on a travel bag for the store. It was fascinating seeing the development of a product.
After blogging for a few years, you opened a shop called Mjölk. Where do you find all the amazing things in the store? Most of the products we find in the store come from our experiences traveling. It's a bad way to make money for the business but we take multiple trips every year. We try to make personal connections with the artists we represent in the store, and in a big way the products in our store reflect where we have just traveled to.
Any favorite items in the store at the moment? Ceramics by Masanobu Ando. When we were in Sapporo on our honeymoon we spent most of our wedding money on pieces by him, because we felt like these functional art pieces would provide us with years of memories. We visited his studio over the summer to talk about exhibiting his work in our store, and I'm happy to report the exhibition will be held at the end of February.
Are there any other design blogs you read and admire? Who's doing it right? I wish we had more time to read blogs but right now there are a few key blogs we still check in on everyday. Remodelista is a big inspiration, Door Sixteen, and The Brick House are like family to us after all these years, and our newest favorite is OEN which is written brilliantly.
What would readers of your blog or customers in your store be surprised to discover about you? I think people are really curious about our backgrounds, they always ask us if we are design students or architects. It's quite flattering because we're two young people that struggled with what we wanted to do with our lives. It was never as simple as saying "I'm going to be an architect." We wanted to feed our creative appetites, and blogging then eventually opened the store and gave us focus.
Follow John and Juli on Twitter @mjolkshop.