The shop is a veritable Pinterest mood board.
“We try to hit the five senses,” says Julie Wu, speaking to the aesthetic of her homewares store Örling & Wu.
The veteran buyer and her husband Fredrik Örling are in the business of “selling household goods for everyday living.” The Art majors met at London school Central Saint Martins, and after working in the city’s design industry, they decided to bring colour and texture to Vancouver homes. Nearly a decade later, the duo maintains a curated selection of quality goods at their Gastown and Kitsilano outposts, including oak-and-moss-scented candles, coveted Normann Copenhagen lamps, Japanese waffle towels, and 4-piece flatware sets inspired by European bistros.
On a crisp fall day, we caught up with Wu on Water Street to chat about the early days of Gastown’s design district, the hottest colour of the season, and a few simple ways to update your space.
On being a design pioneer in Gastown:
“We opened the shop in 2010. And there was no one on the street. I remember when we first sent out a press release. We invited industry people and one of the designers replied, but [the reply] wasn’t meant to come to us: ‘They’re not going to make it in Gastown. There’s no way.’ Back then there were [few] stores here. But we had a vision and we knew it was here.”
On the shop’s “unpretentious” name:
“It probably took about 30 minutes in a pub—that’s how it was decided. We didn’t want to be pretentious. We like to have stories behind products and we like to know the roots of things. So we thought, ‘Let’s just use our names.’ Then there’s a challenge because people want to see you at the store. They ask “Who is Örling [the Swedish name is actually pronounced Er-ling)]; Who is Wu?” Still today, we probably get asked 10 times a day.”
It’s a ____ store.
“You know what? It’s been the toughest thing for us to define who we are because in Europe you can say you are a homewares store or a lifestyle store, and people will understand. In Canada, it’s only caught on recently. In the beginning, we had to call ourselves a ‘furnishing’ store. But we’ve sold bags, clothing, and jewellery. It just depends on the season. And the beauty of it is we are very nimble.”
The top three products:
“Sömn is our number one—the [in-house line of] bedding. And Pappelina rugs made from recyclable plastic—indoor and outdoor reversible rugs designed and manufactured in Sweden. And then Fermob, the outdoor furniture, [rounds out] our top three products for this year.”
“Clay” orange is hot (but will it be bought?).
“The earthier colours are very strong this season: orange, tan…desert colours; the pink has transitioned into a more dusty pink. And a very strong colour this season is bright “clay” orange. I’m not sure how it will resonate with people. People like to come in because of these poppy colours, but what they actually bring home is another set of colours.”
“Don’t buy it, if you don’t love it”:
“First of all, it has to make you happy. And we don’t force people to buy things here. If I have a client who comes in every week and just wants to buy for the sake of buying, I’m like, “Did you actually use the jug that you bought last week. If you haven’t, you’re not allowed to buy any more [pieces]!” I’m not sure that I’m a good business owner in that sense [Laughs], but I really think that people should experience the products they bring home.”
Simple ways to spruce up your home:
“I would invest in a few products that really mean something to you and that really make you happy. A space is not really just about how it looks—it should be how you feel with the products in there.
“If you’re a minimalist, you don’t really have to have a lot of products—it comes down to the finishes… If you’re buying a couch, [choose] fabrics that make you feel comfortable and reflect your personality. A splash of good quality paint brings you the colour and the vibe that you’re trying to achieve…a piece of lighting brings mood to the space…and [don’t forget] good music.”
Örling & Wu Gastown
28 Water Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1A4
Örling & Wu Kitsilano
1563 West 6th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6J 1R1
Photography by Francis Lai