Umbra, Toronto-based global design company

Umbra is a Canadian design company. I have bought a few home decorative items including its signature garbage cans (Later I learned it is called Skinny Can and was designed by Karim Rashid and David Quan). Interestingly, Umbra items are not expensive. Its affordable price might have allowed me to try several different items. Every single item I have ever used has absolutely satisfied me. The website says,

We are a Toronto-based homeware design company born over 30 years ago when graphic designer, Paul Rowan, couldn’t find a nice window shade to hang in his apartment window. So, he made one and people liked it. He soon teamed up with childhood friend, Les Mandelbaum, and Umbra (in Latin, “shade”) was born. Les and Paul began reimagining everyday items into modern ware.

Today, Umbra is recognized all over the world for bringing intelligent design to everyday items. An in-house team of international designers allows us to come up with original design that speaks universally and personally to a broad customer base. The journey that started in Toronto continues—our designs can be found in over 120 countries.


Recently, I had a chance to pay visit to its flagship store located in downtown Toronto. This store welcomed visitors to enjoy Umbra items. In particular, I had a brief meeting with Paul Rowan, one of the co-founders of Umbra. He is approachable, funny, and lively. We discussed the design competition successfully held in Seoul in 2014. He also introduced me a Korean designer who is currently working at the in-house team of international designers.

With a lot of curiosity, I visited the Umbra design studio located in Scarborough the next day. I met with Sung Wook Park. He graduated from OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) University and joined Umbra about 4 years ago. He is now a creative lead for jewelry, photodisplay, and wall decor items. He explained to me the overall history of Umbra and kindly taught me the trend, the popular material in the next couple of years, and several counter-intuitive international (e.g., Canada vs. US vs. Japan) sales patterns regarding photo frames and wall decor items. I have asked any business issue his design team needs to address as well while introducing numerous successful design items to the global market. Meeting with Paul and Sung Wook gave me a glimpse into the life of the North American designers.


You will think creatively in Bali

Ubud is a small town on the Indonesian island of Bali. “Eat, Pray, Love” was filmed in 2010 in this town. IMDb explains this movie;

A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction. After a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey to find herself

Although I did not have to find myself, I needed to take a break from the rat race. One day at this town perfectly recharge myself. People are friendly, food was delicious (Babi Guling at Ibu Oka), and guest houses with free wifi and hot water are cheap. I found many non-local, mostly European tourists spend time on reading/writing books at cafes and restaurants with rice field views (yes, rice fields can be scenic!). This town even has a co-working space called Hubud for those who want to start their own businesses. To me, Ubud is a cleaner/healthier version of Bangkok, a must visit place in the world. 🙂