Many are likely familiar with the Quakers, a religious Christian group traditionally known for its passivism, plain dress, teetotalism, and belief in universal equality. Less, perhaps, would be familiar with the Shakers, an offshoot of Quakerism. In the 1700s, much like Quaker villages, Shaker communities were known for their peaceful, communal, and egalitarian way of life.
These communities provided the unlikely inspiration for a recent project by design firm Ste. Marie, with the creative team focusing on the guiding principles of 18th century Shaker communities in North America to inform their work. Those principles? Simplicity, utility, and honesty.
Located in Vancouver, the client, Flourist, is an artisanal flour miller and farmer-direct dry goods supplier (and the city’s only community-based flour mill). The project was a 2,800-square-foot, 48- seat bakery and café on Commercial Street in East Vancouver.
Design group, Ste. Marie looked to the core of the business’ mission in order to seek inspiration for the space. “Our client, Flourist, works to help ensure farming remains a family business in Canada,” they share. “[In] an industry dominated by opaque supply chains and mysterious origins, they work to re connect people with the sources of their food. This notion of transparency carried into the design process.”
Enter the Shakers, who lived self-sufficiently off the land and who, the firm states, attempted to “create their own heaven on earth.” Seeing parallels between Flourist and the wholesome principles of the Shakers, Ste. Marie approached the project with a focus on warmth and abundance. Aesthetically, they drew from the soft palette of Flourist’s grains and pulse; malty tones evoke wheat fields.
The overall aesthetic of this inviting space, according to the firm, is farmhouse-meets-Scandinavian. “We wanted the space to feel like standing in a wheat field on a perfect sunny day—a nice counterpoint to some of those grey Vancouver days,” says Craig Stanghetta, Principal and Creative Director of Ste. Marie.
Not only did these choices reflect the brand, but they also reflected the spirit of its two co-founders, Janna Bishop and Shira McDermott. “The emotional seed of this place is bread and sunshine,” says Stanghetta, “but we also wanted to somehow reflect the two folks who started Flourist: fun and bright, but also clever, focused, thoughtful, and delightful in all kinds of unexpected ways. That certainly speaks to the space and, I believe, also embodies Janna and Shira.”
The importance of egalitarianism and community is underscored by a large community table at the front of the space, complete with a tiny sink. This was implemented for bread-making workshops. The retail space features a dowelled shelving unit—a detail also seen in Savio Volpe, another project by the firm—and these extend to the front window. This choice makes Flourist’s offerings visible to passersby; just as a pie cooling on a windowsill entices hungry bellies, so too do the wares and plump loaves within this mill and bakery.
At the back of the space is the company’s flour mill, positioned behind picture windows. It is fully functional and in plain sight, a choice that highlights Flourist’s underlying quest for transparency in the food chain. Here, guests can enjoy baked goods while watching the mill grind grains sourced from family-owned Canadian farms. The beating heart of this brick-and-mortar, the mill (the company’s second) emphasizes Flourist’s commitment to integrity, going against the grain—no pun intended—of store-bought processed flour, in which flavour and nutrition are sacrificed in the quest for the longest shelf life.
“This is not grocery store flour,” proclaims a sign over the cold fridge. Indeed—nor is this your average café or bakery. Its Scandinavian influences and fundamental principles all embody the very definition of hygge: a spirit of comfortable conviviality, a place where people come together to be cozy and break bread.
Photography: Conrad Brown @conradbrownphoto
Art Direction/styling: Kate Richard @k8richard
For more content from the west coast, check out this reimagining of a “Vancouver Special.”