Helsinki: Day two – day trip to Porvoo!

June 17th, 2011

We woke up day two with a smile on our face, because we were going on a day trip out of town. We had already planned to have some breakfast at Cafe Bar No. 9 located on Uudenmaankatu. The only problem was we were way too early! Breakfast isn’t served during the week until 11:00! Thankfully there was a beautiful little cafe called Cafe Fleuriste just a few steps away.

The cafe is a brilliant concept, a flower shop and cafe in one! The inside felt like a real authentic Parisian cafe, and the coffee was fantastic.

How could you walk by this place without peeking in?

Well we killed some time and walked over to Cafe Bar No. 9 for some much needed breakfast.

A really good platter of food, I had just finished a coffee a few minutes before so I opted for fresh squeezed orange juice, always a good decision.

A cool art installation was happening down town.

After breakfast we met up with Milla and Hiro from Kauniste and Minka, Milla’s sister at our hotel. We piled in Minka’s car and headed for our day trip to Porvoo.

We were really excited to meet Milla and Hiro because we never had a face to put to the people we talk to through emails! Kauniste is a special brand for us because we were the first retailers in North America to carry their linens, and it’s always been our go to gift recommendation. I mean they’re $20 bucks and they’re hand screened!

We were in Porvoo to check out the local antique shops, and of course the beautiful old city. Milla told us that a lot of tourists forget that the city is real and people actually live in all of the homes. Many tourists end up peeking through windows and hanging out in resident’s backyards.

It is really easy to think that way, it feels like an open air museum. Plus the gaggle of teenagers on school trips add to the congestion in narrow alley ways.


We really loved this painting.

A big collection of Finnish glass, the purple i-glass decanter (top left…can you see it?) was really tempting but it was still over 100 euros.

We tried our luck at the local Salvation Army type place. Minka and Milla found a book on foraging mushrooms. It was so interesting to hear how connected to nature a lot of Finns are, they told us that it is not uncommon for neighbors to lie about having mushroom patches to keep all of the mushrooms for themselves.

Mushroom season in an exciting time!

A vintage Wirkkala vase for 17 euros.

A quick stop to get some chocolates.

Lunch time, there is one really good place in Porvoo for lunch, I’m not sure what it is called but it was the perfect place to sit outside and have some lunch, and a pint.

The interior was warm and woodsy, there was a little salad and soup bar set up inside.

Juli had the quiche.

I had the roast beef with root vegetables. The Marimekko dishware was a nice touch–love this line.

This shop wasn’t open. What a tease! It looked like it had some of the best selection…

Peeking in the resident’s backyards, like a bad tourist.

We’re sad that we didn’t get a proper shot of Hiro and Milla! We thought we would at the end of the day but Hiro left us before the end and we missed our opportunity.

We love white plaster covered bricks, it reminds us of Alvar Aalto.

Afterwards we headed over for some tea and biscuits at Milla and Hiro’s studio.

In the studio each of the tea towels are hand screened and hung up to dry.

Milla, Minka, and Hiro: Thank you so much for spending the day with us, we had a wonderful time with you guys! Hopefully we’ll be able to return the favor if you ever come to Toronto!

After our visit we headed over for an early dinner at Ateljé Finne, the former studio of famous Finnish sculptor Gunnar Finne. There are those white plaster walls again.

The restaurant is really beautiful but we didn’t get any shots of the inside because we didn’t want to weird out any of the other diners.

Juli started with a salmon and sesame spring roll.

One of the most delicious things in the world – white asparagus soup, so good, so buttery.

For the mains Juli had the fish of the day, which was caught that morning.

I had the protein and starch dish, delicious.

We walked our dinner off and headed back to the hotel.

There’s a little more travel posting to do, but it may get spread out among other content. Thanks for traveling with us!

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Helsinki: Day one

June 13th, 2011

My thoughts about Helsinki writing this first day post is that Helsinki has everything going for it. It has a design district where everything is within walking distance from each other, it easily has the best coffee, and has the best food for the best prices in all of Scandinavia.

When we last visited we arrived near the beginning of mid summer, so we had to rush to see everything before things shut down for the holiday. This time we wanted to really sink our teeth into this city, and see as much as we could in our few short days.

We stayed at Hotel Anna, which is a small hotel in the middle of the design district (this is a return visit – comfortable, wifi, tv, great location, big rooms). We arrived, checked in, and immediately headed towards Ravintola Tori for some lunch.

Take note they also offer a great breakfast here during the week!

I think this was fried herring and root vegetables.

I had the ragu with eggplant and potatoes.

The interior is nice and bright with a good amount of seating.

The must see of Helsinki design is the Design Forum shop, which stocks everything from ceramics, to glassware, modern puuko knives, and always has an interesting exhibition going on.

Too bad we’re not allowed to take photos in here!

A window we always like walking by is the counter-part showroom to ““, except this carries more of their rare furniture pieces. If you visit Helsinki you will walk down Annankatu and pass “Modern Design” and you will be curious enough to enter. It’s a store that has everything that you’re looking for, but at a very high premium.

I love the Wirkkala coffee tables, and the Aalto side table with rattan handle. I’ve never seen that piece before.

Another favorite spot is this underground Antique market, a couple of years ago it had an amazing assortment of cool things, including old Aalto exhibition posters and Finnish glass. This time around they looked more spare, I regret not grabbing some posters last time we were here.

They had a couple 1950s Spanish chairs that were just beautiful, it’s a piece that ages like wine.

A quick snack across the street at Cafe Succes.

They serve arguably Helsinki’s best Cinnamon buns on plywood trays, super tasty and the coffee is pretty good after all the bad cups we’ve been having!

We stumbled across a beautiful little Japanese gift shop called Common, they had an amazing collection of Japanese stationary and ceramics.

A bunch of cast iron pot by Timo Sarpaneva.

For dinner we went to Lupolo which was only a couple blocks from our hotel.

It’s a cosy local place which had some interesting vintage details, including a teak paneled ceiling. Plus the Kartio glasses are a nice touch.

Watermelon salad.

We followed with a melt in your mouth delicious scallop with a white asparagus puree.

Our main was a hamburger with potato wedges. The burger and lager really hit the spot for us. We really loved this place, and if you visit Helsinki, you will love it too!

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Stockholm part 3

June 9th, 2011

We arrived at the Iris Hantverk shop for our next meeting.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Iris, it is a brand we have been carrying in our store since the first day we were open–in fact, our first sale was the concrete shaving kit by Lovisa Wattman! Iris Hantverk employs visual impaired craftspeople to create beautiful handmade brushes as they were made in the 19th century. Each individual bundle of bristles are bound to hardwood handles with wire as opposed to adhesives, and all of the bristles are natural from horse and goat hair bristles, to tampico and palm fibers.

It’s a very exciting time for Iris Hantverk after collaborating with industrial designer Lovisa Wattman to create a collection of new and refined brushes that were both functional and beautiful.

We met with Lovisa at Iris Hantverk’s Kungsgatan location.

The shop carries an amazing assortment of everyday living products along with their entire collection of handmade brushes.

I kind of like that there are multiples of everything readily available to be snatched up and be placed in a shopping basket, it just makes you want to buy it all.

They even make their own soap to sell through the shop.

We got to see a bunch of large push brooms that we haven’t been able to import because of prohibitive shipping costs.

Vegetable scrubbers so you can clean root vegetables without removing the skin, which is where a lot of the fiber and nutrients come from.

Broom root, washing up whisks.

We asked Lovisa whether or not she takes inspiration from the brushes of the past. She told us that she tried to approach designing the brushes from a purely functional stand point, and their forms come from the relationship of how the user holds and uses the brushes. Each brush sits comfortably in your hands, and brushes that need to be dried like bath brushes and kitchen brushes come with holes for hanging.

Waiting…and famished!

Our next stop was Café Valand, which is steps away from the beautiful Stockholm Public Library designed by Erik Gunnar Asplund.

Café Valand opened in 1954 by Magdalena Åström, and it was designed by her husband architect Stellan Åström, both of whom still work in the Café! Our one snag was that the cafe is cash only, and our cards weren’t working at the bank kiosks. After a bit of begging on our part, they graciously allowed us to pay with euros (Magdalena was heading off on a vacation and needed the Euros anyway–talk about timing!).

We chatted a little and mentioned we were from Canada, I really wanted to talk with Stellan, but his hearing isn’t very good and along with the language barrier, it just didn’t work out. We ordered some sandwiches, coffee, and some dessert and sat down to take in the space and have some much needed sustenance.

The cafe is remarkably preserved, the couple used only the best materials.

A beautiful brass and glass case for sandwiches and desserts. The teak paneling is gorgeous.

Ring for service.

A collection of pitchers and a little wrapping station.

“Please order here – dining at the tables”

The coffee here is actually quite good, a welcomed change from most of the mediocre coffee we’ve been having on this trip.

I wonder if this rotary phone has always been here?

Our last stop of the day was to meet Lincoln Robbin-Coker at PR firm IBEYOSTUDIO. The entrance is an obscure black painted facade which you might walk by without hesitation.

Inside is an industrial space featuring art, clothing, and Stockholm’s Fredericia furniture showroom. IBEYOSTUDIO’s concept is a really interesting one, not only do their offices offer PR for their clients it also acts as a space to display their work, and a place to put on events and exhibitions. The enviroment is like a high-end clothing / furniture store.

The Nara coat stand by Shin Azumi, we have one on display in our showroom if you want to see it in person.

A seating area with a Børge Mogensen sofa, and wing chair and an Icicle table.

Believe it or not, one of our favorite places to eat in Stockholm is a Czech restaurant called Soldaten Svejk, located in Sodermalm. It’s a locals only kind of place (don’t expect amazing service as a non-local), but it’s great food for a great price.

We really love the illustrations on these menus.

We’re creatures of habit so we stuck to our favourites: Above goulash soup, which is spectacular.

Juli got the pork schnitzel.

I got the scary good deep fried cheese.

After dinner we took a walk around taking in our last night in Stockholm.

Mobler means furniture, it was a name we were originally considering for our store name.

Well, next stop Helsinki!

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Stockholm: Day 2 part 1

June 2nd, 2011

Our second day in Stockholm we started the day by walking to Skaningen Kaffebar for a quick coffee and croissant before our day of meetings.

Too bad we only have a few days in Stockholm, I would have loved to come back and try some more of these treats.

I loved the small white tiles along the bar, and the seafoam counter top.

That morning we were eager to get to our first meeting to meet Claesson Koivisto Rune, one of our favorite architect firms and a collaborative that may even be Sweden’s greatest contemporary designers. If you are not familiar with the name, you have probably seen their work:

The No. 5 house and The Råman house

CKR consist of three founding members: Mårten Claesson, Eero Koivisto and Ole Rune, but now they have a team of talented designers designing anything from napkin rings and shampoo bottles to residential and commercial buildings.

It was Ola Rune that took us into a back room where all of the prototypes and models were kept.

Such an amazing collection of different materials, the piece they had just finished mocking up was a new cell phone for the Chinese market, a simplified version of a phone without a touch screen, it’s made for one thing: talking.

I can’t help getting distracted walking through the studio.

During our sit down I had the opportunity to nerd out on some of our favorite designs and builds. We also inquired about a modernist bracelet called the “Eve bracelet” that I thought was only sold for a short period during an exhibition. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the bracelet was still being produced and we only needed to walk a few blocks from our next destination to visit the Gallery where it debuted and is still carried.

Thank you for spending the morning with us CKR! We’re exciting to bring in a slew of your new products soon.

We headed over to Gallery Pascale to meet with Pascale Cottard Olsson. Ola Rune had called her up beforehand to let her know we were coming. It was a pleasure getting to meet the person who runs the only design gallery in Stockholm.

The current exhibition was displaying a series of mouth blown vessels by CKR. If I didn’t have another country to visit I would have loved to pick up a white glass vessel.

Here are the Eve bracelets which won the S-design award. Juli picked up a black piece while we were there. We’ll be getting a bunch of these in the shop next week hopefully. Stay tuned for an update on twitter when they come in!

Just a short walk away is Sibyllegatan which boasts some of the best design stores in Stockholm including Modernity, Jacksons, and the Asplund store.

We had to rush over to our next meeting at Asplund. This year in my opinion they really showed everyone they do more than just amazing storage pieces.

In this photo the Vass cabinet designed by CKR, coming this August to Mjölk.

You can see in this photo many of the beautiful new pieces being showcased. The far top left is a set of leather mail boxes called ‘Brev’ which means letter in Swedish. It is finished with natural leather that will get darker with age. Designed by Emma Olbers, it’s still in the prototype stage. Also, seeing in person the FUNK cabinet (top right, wall mounted in blue) with the natural leather handles was really great – we picked up a small bed side table version for the shop, but any combination is available.

ZOO tables by CKR, a collection of small coffee tables made from copper, brass, and stainless steel. Only 100pcs will be made so if you are a big fan of their work and want something uber special you can order a piece or three through us.

It was a beautiful day and we wanted to have lunch in the park so we headed to Nytorget Urban Deli to get some gourmet take-away.

This place is what every grocery store should be like, wood bins holding fresh produce, and a amazing collection of  cheese, and cured meats.


Fresh orange juice anyone?

In the end I picked up a meatball with tzatziki and root vegetables dish, and Juli got a salmon salad. Both were fantastic, and I heard their restaurant/bar is phenomenal.

Well we’re getting close to the end of our trip, we wish we could post more often but we’ve been in the middle of a big move, but more on that later…

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Stockholm: Day 1

May 30th, 2011

We arrived in Stockholm and everything is sunny and warm. We stayed at the Scandic Malmem hotel in Södermalm, the hotel itself was great, it’s clean, modern and in the perfect location.

On a trip to Stockholm you could spend most of your time exploring Södermalm. There are countless cafes, boutiques, and some good eating as well. On our first day we visited String Cafe, a busy retro cafe that was packed for their weekend breakfast buffet. If you’re hungry on the weekend and want to find some good breakfast this is a really good pick.

The Ramones hang in the window near an I heart SOFO t-shirt.

There was also a little crepe station with a generous mix of berries and creme fraiche.

On any other day of the week you can stop in and order a cafe latte and help yourself to one of these delicious looking baked goods.

Cafe String

Nytorgsgatan 38
116 40 Stockholm 116 40 Stockholm

After breakfast we walked over to a couple of shops in the neighborhood. This one is called Grandpa. From what we remember it used to be more vintage but now it has a lot of great new brands, similar to RAC in Yorkville.

A couple doors down is a cool record / vintage shop called “An Ideal For Living” There was a bowl full of vintage leather “FIAT” key chains that were pretty cool. They also had a collection of Stig Lindberg pottery, and Moomin books.

We spent most of our day walking around Södermalm and happened upon Thomas Bernstrand’s studio. We totally creeped his window and he spotted us peering in, I bravely gave him a wave and he opened the door for us. We gave him a card and told him about the store and he graciously offered to take us on a tour of his studio.

We were thrilled.

When you enter the space you get a feeling of what has been occupying him and his studio. Public spaces, in fact he had the honor to design park spaces including a large installation in Rosenlundsparken. (More on that later) The concrete seat is called the “Gnone” and is also used to partition roads from parks.

Something that I really wanted to see while in Stockholm was this piece, “Ivy” a stackable bookcase made from pine. I would love to put one in our own home.

A wall mounted park bench called “Kajen mini”, it is used as a spot for a quick rest and is mounted higher than most seating so you can easily get back up when you’re done. Thomas mentioned that these would be great all over the city, for tourists and elderly people who need to stop for quick rests.

A pair of “Strand” chairs inspired by the classic beach chair.

We fell in love with these log and magazine holders, I’d love to get some in for the shop.

We were curious to see the outdoor spaces Thomas had designed so we got out our map and he marked where Rosenlundsparken park was, we had some time before dinner so we headed there.

Here we are! This installation is called “Stranden” which means the beach. The park has a huge lamp outside that lights up at night and during the dark winter Stranden reminds the deep frozen Swedes of summer, and lazy days at the beach.

For dinner we headed to Östermalm to eat at PA & CO. Which is super cosy and popular, you definitely need a reservation to eat here, we saw people turned away at the door all night.

The first thing we saw and ordered was the “S.O.S” platter. One of our favorite things in the world. It comprises of different pickled herring paired with different toppings, our favorite of course being cheese and dill.

One of the issues we had with this place was the menu. It was HUGE with dishes from Indian to Thai to traditional Swedish… We opted for the Swedish classics. Juli had meatballs which were delicious.

I had the Beef Rydberg, which I wasn’t too crazy for. Maybe it was just an off night, looking back at the photo it looks really delicious but there was something off about the meat.


Riddargatan 8
114 35 Stockholm

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Copenhagen part 4

May 25th, 2011

We started our day off right and headed over to the Vesterbro neighborhood to visit Cafe Bang og Jensen for some breakfast. This is easily one of the favorite spots for a morning meal in Copenhagen, and they even offer a Smorgasbord from 8:00 – 10:30. We were a little late for the buffet and opted for the breakfast platter with soft boiled eggs.

The cafe is a nice and modest spot with some great patio seating if you’re lucky enough to get a seat. On the walls hang lots of “Old sailor” prints.

After breakfast we headed over to “The Art Of”, a brand new shop in Copenhagen and a store that I instantaneously connected with and admired the second I walked in the front door. It was randomly recommended to us by a fellow diner at Relæ the night before.

When you enter the store you see a curated collection of small products placed meticulously on grey industrial storage containers. The products range from bull horn combs, Swedish Military knives, and German espresso makers but the collection of products all fit a central theme that is always changing.

The current themes that were being explored in the space were The Art Of Cooking and The Art Of War.

The owner Rasmus Barlby graciously told us amazing stories about many of the products he carries. I think you’ll be hearing a lot about this store in the near future.

We took a walk to visit Keramik og Glasvaerkstedet, a studio / shop that features some of Denmark’s most prominent ceramicists and glass artists. We were definitely on a mission this trip to bring in more from both of these mediums and after a bit of searching we finally found the beautiful corner studio.

During our visit we met with artist Annemette Kissow. The studio had an exhibition featuring her beautiful flower vessels with sprigs of “baby’s breath”.

We really loved the matte white storage containers, salt and pepper bowls, and oak wood handle tea pot.

A little peek into the studio.

With a bit of help from Annemette we were pointed in the direction of our lunch destination.

Aaman’s, arguably Copenhagen’s best destination for modern Smørrebrød.

The restaurant was recently renovated with some beautiful wide plank douglas fir floors, Aalto pendant lights, and Tom Dixon chairs.

They even have white oak Rocket Stools by Eero Aarnio.

If you like this look you can get both the Rocket Stools and Aalto lights at Mjolk!

All of the smørrebrød are displayed with just the essential ingredients on them. When you pick your smørrebrød they take it to the back and dress it up really beautifully.

We ordered 4 to start and some beer. While we waited we checked out their stocked shelves and fridges full of ingredients and prepared take-away food.

We sat down and our 4 smørrebrød arrived soon after.

We had:

Beef tartare with capers, pickles, and potato chips

Pork belly and walnuts

Roastbeef with horseradish and fried onions and

Halibut with dill and cucumber

They were so delicious, easily one of the most enjoyable lunches we’ve ever had.

We decided that everything was so good we wanted to have the chance to try every single style so we ordered 2 more.

left: chickensalad with chives and baked prosciutto

right: baby potatoes with cream cheese, chives and radish.

You may notice that there is always a “crunch” factor with every sandwich. Texture is crucial in a good smørrebrød, you can get a bit of everything in one bite.

Looks like we stumbled across Muuto’s office. We didn’t buzz them (but maybe we should have considering the extreme delay on us getting our Dots shipment).

Guns & Gents, an interesting menswear concept in shop form.

Our last meal in Copenhagen was Fiskenbaren, a new-ish restaurant that had been so hyped and talked about we made a point to get a 8:30 reservation on a Friday to make sure the place was packed and we could fully appreciate the Copenhagen bar/dinner experience.

Tucked away in the meat packing district among some of Copenhagen’s most vibrant and interesting bars Fiskenbaren was once industrial space, and now has an award winning interior with a big fish tank and large square bar in the center of the restaurant. It’s lively and the place you want to be for a casual bite, or drink. I have to admit however the dinner itself didn’t blow me away as much as the reviewers (from all sorts of prominent places) would have lead me to believe. Too much hype can just give you unrealistic expectations.

we started with Danish oysters which were large, fresh, and delicious a great start paired with Juli’s mojito and my gin and tonic. They do cocktails splendidly, although I have heard they have a great collection of wines as well.

We decided to share our entrees so we could have a bit of range with the food. We had the butter cod and mussels.

The cod on it’s own was fantastic, the butter and dill sauce was melt in your mouth delicious. The sides were very unappetizing, and had a taste of burnt lettuce and cigarettes, such a shame for such a delicious fish.

The mussels were good, it was served under cooked apples and bacon. Although dinner didn’t leave a mark with us as much as Relae, I would still recommend Fiskenbaren. You get a glimpse of Copenhagen night life with some good eats, and the atmosphere is great. Plus you can always walk down the street and stop in at Jolene Bar it was crazy busy so much so that there was a guy taking a piss in front of it.

Next stop Stockholm!

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