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Beans, Blossoms, Beats & Bauhaus: Blumenstudio

By Stephan Telka on March 13, 2012

Take an Italian café with a contemporary touch serving up ethically-sourced beans and locally-made treats. Add a dairy case filled with milk, butter and eggs from nearby Cochrane’s Dairy and Stirling Creamery for those early-morning milk runs. Layer on a carefully-edited wall of magazines and newspapers. Combine it all in a Bauhaus-inspired floral shop and the result is Blumenstudio.

The brainchild of Katrin (Kat) Kosk and partner Nathan Turner, Blumenstudio is a calm oasis of smooth coffee, colourful blossoms, playful vignettes and subtle beats. Located on an otherwise car-focused stretch of Parkdale Avenue between Wellington Street West and the Queensway, it is celebrating its one-year anniversary in March 2012.

It’s a space to be inspired by the changing palate of flowers and plants that Kosk sources from Ottawa and around the world, to catch up with a friend over Art-Is-In Bakery pastries and caffè lattes, and connect with the news while soaking up the afternoon sun. Your laptop is best stowed safely in your bag and you are encouraged to explore the open-concept room and ask questions (auf Deutsch, if you prefer).

Kosk has been surrounded by flowers forever. Born and raised in the former East German city of Dresden, she grew up helping her mother run a five-store network of floral shops. After a three-year florist program, with placements in Dresden and Berlin, she made her way to Hamilton. She quickly learned about the Canadian marketplace, refined her dreams for a shop all her own and got to know Turner, who led her to Ottawa in 2010 and continues to study at Algonquin College.

When asked how her life in flower shops and formal training influences her style, Kosk said you can learn the techniques at school, but style is another matter.

“It’s either in you, or it’s not. My techniques are traditional, but my designs are definitely different. I don’t do generic things that other stores do. I try to make unique pieces. Whether it’s a $10 or $200 arrangement, my work is always special.”

After exploring different neighbourhoods, Kosk and Turner were drawn to shape-shifting Hintonburg – Wellington West Village and its endless live-work possibilities. When the lease for the 50-year-old Jaguar Grocery store at 465 Parkdale came up, Turner saw an opportunity. But given the slightly off-the-beaten path locale, Kosk took some convincing before she came around.  “If you’re special enough, people will come”, she said.

They took possession at the end of January 2011 and set forth on transforming the old grocery into the modern ‘21st-century variety store’ that Blumenstudio has become. While construction was largely uneventful, two days before opening, a broken water pipe caused extensive damage. Kosk saw this as a blessing in disguise: Her original wish to remove the floor tiles and expose the plywood subfloor, previously dismissed due to cost, was realized. The change gives the space a sense of history and location, with the outlines of the grocery’s aisles still faintly visible beneath the plants and vintage furniture. Designed by Kosk herself, Blumenstudio “takes the best elements of places I’ve been,” creating an environment that’s both functional and relaxing.

With a clear vision of the kinds of floral creations she wanted to bring to Ottawa and a contemporary space coming together, the pair set out to find coffee beans and sweets that would differentiate Blumenstudio from the string of espresso machines bubbling up along Wellington Street West. Their search led them to Classic Gourmet Coffee, a specialty roaster in Vaughan, where they spent three days experimenting with 1,000 settings on the roasting machine to determine their idea of the perfect blend. While mum on the specifics, Kosk describes it as an Italian-style roast, lying somewhere between a light and medium. She prides herself on serving ethically-sourced, organic beans, roasted in a Bullfrog-powered facility.

While Kosk whips up a mean caffè latte (when was the last time in Ottawa you were asked whether you want a double or single shot?), it’s Turner who concocted some of the more creative drinks, including the John Wayne (double espresso, steamed cream and vanilla) and the BonBon (Vietnamese condensed milk and espresso).

The display case of sweets includes treats from across the city, including pastries and cookies from Art-Is-In Bakery, cupcakes from Auntie Loo’s and chocolates from Coco’s.

Kosk also leads 2-hour workshops every few months in the open-concept space. Her November session, for example, taught attendees how to make their own Advent wreath and was complemented by generous servings of pastries, stollen (German Christmas cake from her hometown of Dresden) and glühwein (mulled wine). Her next workshop is planned for in the lead-up to Easter. The space is also available for private parties.

Blumenstudio is located at 465 Parkdale Avenue. Hours of operation (as of March 2012): Tuesday – Thursday 8am-6pm, Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-7pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. For information on workshops, visit their blog or Facebook page.