Name: Mara Mi Store + Studio + Cafe
14,000 square feet
Years in business:
30 years (2 years in this location)
If there is such a thing as a design wonderland, the Mara Mi flagship store, studio and cafe in Stillwater, Minnesota fits the bill. Cakes get frosted downstairs while the locals read the paper amongst beautiful cards, candies and table wares. Upstairs, the design team works on new products, which can be tested by the public in their flexible workspace.
The Mara Mi Store, Studio and Cafe is the result of a worldwide tour of similar creative spaces by the company's trend director Jeanne Bleu. She collected images and products in Paris, Finland and New York and brought all those elements home to the Midwest for this experimental design space. The building was not so beautiful when the project started. It was previously an entirely windowless office that had been abandoned and taken over by graffiti and bugs. With some time and love, it's evolved into one of the most inspiring work spaces I've set eyes on.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Mara-Mi is a design studio with a workspace directly above our branded store and café. In the store we sell our own designs along with other brands we admire. It is a good product lab — we can see how customers react to designs, formats, price points. It is a happy place — we make cupcakes and pretty art. Our style is loose, playful and colorful. Our goal is to help celebrate life's events with nicely designed invitations, social stationery, party-ware and gifts.
Inspiration: We take trend research very seriously! We travel all over, study fashion, textiles, home décor & lifestyle directions. We translate the inspiration into collections that work for our customers.
Favorite Element: The open staircase, cloud palette and 2-story windows create a light-filled aerie, good for bright ideas.
Biggest Challenge: Throughout the day, the aroma of cookies baking in the cafe is an unbearable temptation.
What Friends Say: Is it a gift store? Café? Coffee shop? Stationery store? Studio? Stylish office supply store? Happy hour hang-out? The answer is yes to all.
Proudest DIY:? Seeing customers react positively to our experimental space.
Biggest Indulgence: The Jens Risom chairs in the lounge.
Best Advice: Two words: Smoke and mirrors.
- russell + hazel
- Lotta Jansdotter
- Egg Press
- Yellow Owl
- Lucky Boy Sunday
- Blu Dot - Minneapolis
- Hay - Copenhagen
- Marimekko - Helsinki
- Merci - Paris
- Astier de Villatte - Paris
- Bluebird - London
- Designers Guild - London
- 10 Como Corso - Milan
- Acne - Stockholm
- Story - New York
- ABC Carpet - New York
Resources of Note:
- Miss Moss
- Tomboy Style
- Paper Crave
- The Selby
- Apartment Therapy
- Garance Dore
- Blu dot - lounge couch & coffee table, conference room chairs
- Ikea - bookshelf/space dividers, task lamps, storage closets, open display shelves, slip-covered chairs for conference tables
- Design Within Reach - Jens Risom chairs
- West Elm - rugs
- Flor - conference table rug
Store and Cafe:
- Custom designed display tables.
- Custom designed café tables.
- Café chairs - CB2
- Ice cube tray general lighting in the Studio
- Custom made wire-frame chandeliers in the Store & loft
- Hanging lights in the Store are inspired by Black Blue, retail shop in St. Paul, MN
- High polished cement floor - Studio
- High polished terrazzo - Store and Cafe
- Decals featuring Mara-Mi art
The high gloss white display wall was once a dreary oak bookcase, salvaged from a St. Paul speakeasy. If walls could talk…
If you ever find yourself in the Twin Cities, take the lovely drive out to Stillwater, have a cupcake and take in some creative zen at Mara Mi.
(Images: Elizabeth Giorgi)
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