We’ve been followers of Toronto-based John Baker and Juli Daoust Baker since 2010, when we first featured their design shop, Mjölk (see our original, now pretty low-fi Shopper’s Diary post). Since then, we’ve kept a close eye as they built out their Scandi meets-Japanese apartment above the shop (including one of our favorite all-time kitchens) and overhauled a whitewashed cabin on the shores of Lake Huron; and we’ve sought their expert advice on getting Scandi-style floors.
So when John emailed to say that he and Juli had designed their first cafe, we were intrigued. “It’s a redesign of one of the most beloved cafes in Ontario, and a cultural hub for the city of Dundas, a lovely little historic town that’s a little over an hour’s drive from Toronto,” he wrote. The space is a reopening of Detour Café in tandem with the launch of its new bakery component, Dear Grain, and a new line of preserves, Preservation Society. For the redesign, “We’ve attempted to create a soft, mature space,” John says, “with moldings, clean paneling, fresco limewashed walls, vintage Josef Hoffman chairs, antiques, plants, and even a handful of objects from Svenskt Tenn.” Turns out, the new space is also a spinoff of another of our Trends of the Year, the “shoppable” restaurant: Many of the design details—small brass candleholders by Frama, a glass ikebana vase, and soft green and milky glass pendant lights—are available to buy directly from Mjölk. Take a look inside the newly reopened cafe.
Photography by Juli Daoust Baker, courtesy of Mjölk.
John and Juli took a twofold approach: first, updating the somewhat tired design elements of the original cafe, then introducing some of their favorite Scandi and Japanese products in little ways throughout. The original cafe “was absolutely a cultural beacon for the city and thriving—full of people every day and packed to the brim on weekends,” John and Juli say. They built off of the space’s “very good foundation,” taking cues from the history of the town and of the building. “We wanted to bring in some more traditional appointments, like the tall paneled bench, and also introduce the texture of an old-world plaster wall. Essentially, the feeling that the cafe is original to the building, but just lovingly maintained and updated.”
The vintage Josef Hofmann cane-seat chairs were another reclaimed find: they were originally from the Toronto Public Reference Library, but John and Juli bought them from Williams just down the street from Mjölk. The maple tables were repurposed from the original space: the tops were sanded and finished with white pigmented oil by Woca. The lights are the Mass Pendant Lights by Norm Architects (available from Mjölk for $450 CAD).
For many more of the Mjölk duo’s artful projects (and to get the look), see: