Not long after Canadian couple Juli Daoust and John Baker met, they went on a three-week trip to Scandinavia to explore the idea of opening a store. Six months afterwards they opened Mjölk, translated as “milk” - something that is “pure, honest and essential”. They wanted to create a different type of experience to the usual interior stores you might find, though. Based in Toronto, and housed in a Victorian building reconfigured by local architect firm Studio Junction, Juli says, “Mjölk offers a unique and personal perspective.” They exhibit the work of artist and artisans from Scandinavia and Japan, and stock lifestyle goods too - always with one eye towards simplicity and the other beauty. They have been in business for five years now, an achievement in the current retail environment. One of the highlights has been collaborating with other companies to create products that celebrate daily rituals. One such product was an award-winning milk and sugar set called Ceremony, developed with Swedish architecture and product design firm Claesson Koivisto Rune. Their wares have been exhibited at design fairs around the world, and won several awards.
Which five words best describe you? I’d say these apply to all areas of our life: classic, minimal… actually, it seems all the words I can come up with are synonyms.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I worked in children’s publishing, then went back to school for art curation and photography. I was going to become a freelance photographer for interiors, but then decided to leave school and join John with opening the shop. John started in advertising, and then became a salesperson at a local furniture maker and retailer, in preparation for opening a shop of his own.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? We’re still learning, always. I guess the best is to be flexible and open to change. Things happen on a regular basis where you have to temper automatic rigid responses and instead figure out how to learn from the experience.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Our shop is over five years old, which is an accomplishment in the realm of retail. There are a lot of things that we can be proud of. We have built some incredible relationships with artisans and designers that are personal and always growing. We have created special projects such as our books, and collaborations with CKR, Luca Nichetto and Anderssen & Voll, which help to keep things fresh and interesting. We are honoured to have worked with such internationally recognised designers.
What’s been your best decision? Buying a building to live and work in. It affords us control and proximity and allows us to connect with our children throughout the day.
Who inspires you? Masanobu Ando, Claesson Koivisto Rune, Ingegerd Råman, Børge Mogensen, Sori Yanagi… this is just a sampling!
What are you passionate about? John is into studying the Japanese tea ceremony, and enjoys collecting beautiful everyday objects. I am in between, where my focus on the kids has distracted me from personal passions. I am hoping as they get older, I will be able to make more time to explore.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Alvar Aalto is a natural choice for us. John is also throwing in Sen No Rikyu, the pioneer tea master.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? There are always dreams, but they are best kept to ourselves, or they have trouble coming to fruition.
What are you reading? John reads a lot of Japanese literature. Essays in Idleness is his current bedside read. I’m currently reading a book by my friend Andi Teran, called Ana of California, a modern take on Anne of Green Gables. I like coming of age novels in general.