Merchant of York

Merchant of York is a Toronto-based retailer that offers a wide variety of home decor products and accessories. Operating online and out of their store-front on Queen St, they curate a diverse selection of local and international goods. 

Storeowners can take a lot of website design inspiration from the Merchant of York. Every part of its online store is constructed with an emphasis on its branding and on building a relationship with their customers. This starts with the precise method they use for sourcing their products.

Despite curating from designers all over the world, items are selected, not on their function, but based on consistent design principles and precise aesthetics. It looks effortless on the page but putting together collections like this takes meticulous research and a consistent, detailed understanding of their brand. 

Owner Randy Sperling uses the term “organic modernism” to describe the aesthetic they look for when finding products to sell. Organic modernism has its roots in functionalism, a principle of architecture wherein an entire structure is stripped of ornamentation, with parts designed solely for the purpose and function of the building. 

Keeping this in mind, Merchant of York looks for products that are simplistic, yet modern. Every part of a product should be designed to serve a single, coordinated purpose. Structure and style are not separate entities in conflict, but instead, are dependent on each other. 

When brought together, the products create collections that are harmonious, both function and design. The impression is an immediately recognizable brand identity that distinguishes itself from the competition. 

Products from Merchant of York have wide-ranging uses, but adhering to consistent design principles helps to build foundational brand characteristics that they’re able to carry over to all of their marketing and web design. 

Good website design is all about consistency, something Merchant of York exudes on every page. The same design principles applied to their search for products, also apply to their website design. 

Their layout is straightforward, yet effective—with every aspect coordinated to give users a soothing shopping experience and build an effective and memorable brand. 

The color scheme is a simple black and white, with occasional pastel fringes and low saturation, much like the color schemes of the products themselves. Whites and low-saturation colors tend to have a calming effect, giving the user a soothing shopping experience⁠—like flipping through a catalog while taking a relaxing bubble bath.   

Merchant of York is primarily a lifestyle brand. Its website emphasizes interacting with the brand and products, rather than over-loading users with too many sales pitches. There are minimal pop-ups, add-ons, and “Click Here” buttons, with a lower emphasis on filling your cart. 

Navigation on the site is simple and geared for exploration. Merchant of York wants its customers to shop around without getting lost. Their on-site menu sorts products into easy-to-understand collections and drop-down menus that keep options minimal. 

The home-page carries brief sections on their newest collections, with copy that emphasizes the story behind the products, rather than loud offers of sales and discounts. In addition to the home-page, Merchant of York features a blog that takes the time to explore their product more in-depth, and talk about ways to use their products when designing your home. 

Product stories like these are easier for customers to recall, and tend to more effective when it comes to creating repeat purchases. Transparency and advice go a long way in building trust with your customers. Every page on Merchant of York’s website caters to the explorative nature of users and offers ample opportunity to build a relationship with the brand.  

This helps users build a more meaningful connection with the brand and a more valuable affinity for its products. The intention behind creating a relaxing shopping experience is to create more valuable, long-term customer relationships rather than snatching up one-time impulse shoppers. 

Merchant of York focuses on design and curation to create an experience for their customers, something that goes a long way in cementing the brand’s identity. For merchants looking to be inspired, Merchant of York’s online store provides a great example of good website design.