Condos Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay

Shopping Vancouver’s Gastown with Designer Sophie Burke

Globe-trotting designer Sophie Burke searches Gastown for world-class style.

Designer Sophie Burke in Gastown
Sophie Burke’s Gastown Guide

“What I love about Gastown,” says designer Sophie Burke, “is that it’s constantly evolving.” Yes, there are the tourist-baiting souvenir shops and shabby, if buzzy, hostels, but hip boutiques and modern coffee shops are quickly changing the face of the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Having spent her early career exploring the world—Burke completed a BA in art history at UBC, studied design in London and later worked on projects in Paris, Tokyo and Delhi—she finds the neighbourhood’s diversity appealing, a tidy fit with her eclectic approach to interior design.

For the recent winner of the Western Living Robert Ledingham Memorial Award for an Emerging Designer, good design is all about contrast: high-end pieces mixed in with more affordable ones; old, distressed items alongside sleek new elements. And, as the mother of three young children, practicality and comfort are an important part of her own space, she explains, as she points out a few of her favourite pieces around the neighbourhood. At Old Faithful, she loves the soft Faribault throws and sturdy but chic woven rugs by Swedish brand Pappelina (spotted at Örling and Wu). For the big pieces, Burke favours clean, classic lines (she’s a fan of Montauk’s customizable sofas) alongside a few carefully chosen statement pieces. But for Burke, shopping Gastown isn’t just about finding the perfect piece: “The shops here have such beautifully styled displays—they even smell beautiful,” she laughs. “These spaces are so welcoming. You want to come back over and over again.”

The Juice Truck 200 Abbott St., thejuicetruck.ca

The Juice Truck is great if you’re running around and in need of a rejuvenating pick-me-up. The Green Smoothie is my favourite.”

Old Faithful Shop 320 W. Cordova St., oldfaithfulshop.com

Old Faithful is a great place for buying products that you know aren’t going to break on you in 20 years. I love the rustic, camping vibe they have going on. This grey articulated desk lamp would be great as a bedside lamp in a kid’s room—it has a very cool, industrial vibe. These galvanized buckets would be perfect garbage cans for kids’ rooms too. These Faribault wool blankets feel like they would last forever. I love their cottage-y look, and the blanket-stitch detailing. These canvas laundry carts are look like they’d be hard to damage! They’re sturdy but cool—perfect for families with kids.”

Inform Interiors 50 Water St., informinteriors.com

Inform has a wonderful selection of items that put a modern twist on old classics. I always find products that catch my eye here! This Giorgetti four-poster bed is so light and fresh. It’s a very architectural piece, and I love how the volume fills the space. These George Nelson lights are great—they give such a warm glow. I love this grey Cassina felt chair—it would be perfect for an office set-up. I love updated takes on classics, and this Fritz Hansen Ro easy chair is a new take on the traditional wingback chair. I could see these DGB sheepskin chairs in Whistler—they have a very cozy, Scandinavian feel to them.”

Örling and Wu 28 Water St., orlingandwu.com

“The owners of Örling and Wu, Fredrik and Julie, are super helpful—they’ll drop stuff off for you, and they have an amazing eye. They’re always bringing interesting new things in—the stock is never stale. We’ve used these organic cotton Kontex Japanese hand towels quite a few times before. I love their vintage check pattern. I love these Pappelina rugs from Sweden—they’re so practical and perfect for families with kids. I’ve got one in the Linn pattern. We order pendant lamps from British brand BTC quite a lot through Örling and Wu. They have a cool, industrial vibe and come in a range of muted tones. These cushions by Swedish brand Stockholm Bombay are great—they’re made from recycled textiles like vintage Indian saris. Fermob does great patio chairs in beautiful colours. I’ve just ordered two rocking chairs in a really pretty blue. I love this Frida pattern from French brand Destombes…maybe because I love black and white!”

East Van Roasters 319 Carrall St., eastvanroasters.com

“What I love about East Van Roasters is that it’s a non-profit organization that helps at-risk women—and that everyone who works here is so friendly! All of their chocolate is made on-site—the cacao beans are husked in the back.”

Litchfield 38 Water St., litchfieldtheshop.com

“It always smells so good when you walk into Litchfield. Their Urban Forest candle by Lite and Cycle is a mix of fennel, juniper and coffee, which seems to sum up Vancouver perfectly! The store is so well designed that it’s inspiring to buy products here. Jonathon, the owner, grew up in Japan, and you can really see that Japanese influence. I love how so many items here were made by his family members. This Litchfield-brand jam is inspired by the Nanking cherry bush his mum grew up with. I absolutely love this chunky-knit cream and black alpaca throw—I want it on my couch! I love the clean look of these Japanese vases, which were originally meant to be sake cups. The pop of the green succulents against the white is beautiful. I love the idea of repurposing items—you could also use these for serving dips in. My mum collected Mikado china. I find it a bit too traditional, but the combination of blue and white still resonates with me. These Japanese plates and mugs can be used in so many ways—I love the idea of using the mug for toothbrushes.”

Montauk Sofa 228 Abbott St., montauksofa.com

“The Montauk Sofa showroom is such an amazing space. We get a lot of sofas from them, but they also have great coffee tables, too. They can be custom-sized and are perfect if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more distressed-looking. This grey Sara sofa is new in, and I just love its finish—it’s almost like denim—and the black leather Francis chair is a great piece: it’s a modern take on a classic.”

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