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An Antique Stone House Revived, from John and Juli Baker of Mjolk in Toronto


An Antique Stone House Revived, from John and Juli Baker of Mjolk in Toronto

January 6, 2020

John and Juli Baker, the couple behind Mjolk in Toronto, have a refined, specific take on design, centered on a mix of Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics. The two of them curate what we consider to be one of the best design shops anywhere (proof: it’s where Julianne Moore found her flatware a few years back).

When we launched Remodelista in the aughts, we communed with John and Juli online, and when I was in Toronto a few years ago, I stopped by to take a tour of their apartment above their shop (see A Scandinavian-Inspired Kitchen with Hints of Japan). So when John emailed me a while back to tell me the couple had impulsively bought a decrepit stone house in the countryside north of Lake Ontario, we were curious.

“We shouldn’t have even been looking,” John says. “At the time, we had a weekend cottage on the shores of Lake Huron (see O Canada: Mjölk’s Renovated Scandi-Style Cabin on a Lake), which we’ve since sold, but we were longing for a rural Little House on the Prairie kind of experience for our children. Juli and I both grew up with a strong connection to nature and rural life, literally washing laundry in the stream with a washboard.”

Join us for a tour:

Photography by Juli Baker.

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Above: The house was built in the mid-1800s by a Scottish farming family and had fallen into disrepair when John and Juli first toured it. “Juli said, ‘This is terrifying, this is a disaster,'” according to John. “The parlor still had a bit of its former glory, that was enough for our imaginations to spring into action. We put an offer in the same day for an almost scarily low price. It felt like the last great deal in real estate.”
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Above: John and Juli and their two children, Howell, five, and Elodie, seven.
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Above: John and Juli are longtime admirers of Swedish tiled stoves (kakelugn), so when they set out to renovate the house it was a first priority; their reconstructed kakelugn anchors the living room and provides warmth in the colder months.

“We sourced the salvaged fireplace surround tiles from Lindholm Kakelugn, a Swedish reclamation company, and we worked with our builder to install a new masonry firebox and a flue channel. There’s no industry around this type of project, you have to engineer it yourself. Once the interior was completed, we reassembled the tile according to a template that Lindholm provided us with and added a brass hearth.” (For a full account of the process, from start to finish, read Juli’s account on Mjolk).

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Above: The Brushed Brass with Oak Fire Tools by Thom Fougere are available through Mjolk.
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Above: “We tried to use romantic materials to soften up the space,” John says. “The Arne Jacobsen Mayor Sofa, for instance, is covered in a cotton velvet from Kvadrat.” The Nero Maquina marble topped Fly Coffee Table is from Space Copenhagen. The Märta Måås-Fjetterström Snäckorna rug, designed by Barbro Nilsson in 1943, was won at auction.
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Above: A pair of Peacock Chairs by Hans Wegner for PP Møbler anchors a corner, with a Hase BL Brass and Leather Floor Lamp. The vintage light fixture is by Vilhelm Lauritzen. “We sanded the original floors and applied lye and soap to get the pale natural look,” John says.
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Above: Working with Toronto firm Studio Junction, John and Juli installed free-standing kitchen components. The matte marble countertops were repurposed from a salvaged shower surround. A pair of Diamond Pendant Lights, designed by Oji Masanori for Mjölk and made in Toronto, hangs above the kitchen worktop. A handsome solid brass pulley and counter-weight allows the pendants’ heights to be adjusted.
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Above: A  Mjölk Made Enfield table in white oak, surrounded by an Ilse Crawford bench and a trio of Ercol chairs, anchors the kitchen. A Dagg Vase for Svenskt Tenn by Swedish designer Carina Seth Andersson holds a floral arrangement (for more, see Pure Simplicity: Glass Vessels from Carina Seth Andersson). The wood fired cooker is from Esse.
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Above: “The vintage brass faucet is from Quirky Interiors in England,” John says. “They’re experts with patina and aged brass. The kitchen sink is an old stone marble trough; I’ve been inspired by the work of Axel Veervoordt. I admire the holistic approach he takes to his interiors; they’re very much like film sets.”
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Above: A view of the study.
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Above: An antique Scottish Orkney chair with a Josef Frank Secretaire.
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Above: John and Juli removed flimsy partition walls on the second floor to create a single loft-like bedroom for the family.
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Above: “After Elodie and Howell are asleep we might sneak downstairs and make a Manhattan and sit in front of the fire,” John says.
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Above: The children’s Minnen Beds are from Ikea.
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Above: “In the bathroom, the 200-year-old Carrara marble tub is from a spa in Portugal,” John says. “We went all in on the tub; there’s no shower.”  The walls are painted in Skin Powder lime fresco paint from Pure & Original.
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Above: A Socket Light from Menu sits atop a vintage Belgian barber cabinet from the early 1800s.
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Above: The white oak basin stand was custom made by Studio Junction, and the Carrara marble Botticelli Bath Sink is from Kohler (it’s since been discontinued). The Circle Mirror is from Frama and the brass Gubi sconce is from Bestlite. The towel rack and towels are from Galerie Momogusa.
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Above: John and Juli’s other children: Atla (L), a Scottish Deerhound, and Aoife, an Irish Wolfhound (R).

For more Mjolk, go to:

A Scandinavian-Inspired Kitchen with Hints of Japan

O Canada: Mjölk’s Renovated Scandi-Style Cabin on a Lake

Mjölk Made: A Canadian Cafe Gets a Scandi Revamp from Toronto’s Cult Design Couple

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