Minh Cao was frustrated. A hunt for 100% durable linen curtains was proving fruitless. They needed to be affordable, and the fabric had to come from a sustainable supply chain.
Cao’s search sparked Nick Qaabar’s interest. The friends, who met at a party, are both well-traveled. He is originally from the Middle East and has lived in Europe and Canada; she is a photographer from Vietnam who now lives in the Philadelphia area.
But even when both savvy Googlers scoured the internet, they couldn’t find the right product. “We certainly found a gap in the market,” says Qaabar, who recently opened Scout Café, a coffee shop in Wilmington’s Triangle neighborhood.
The search served as market research, and in 2021, they founded Blüm, an online home goods shop.
In addition to window treatments, Blüm offers luxury bedding, towels, clothing and tabletop accessories, such as napkins and runners. All fabric items are linen, cotton or a blend of both, and several come from India, Africa or Turkey.
“We knew we wanted to commit to an accessible approach to home goods—a curated product that is as natural as possible,” Cao says. “And from there, we set out on a mission to help our customers turn their living spaces into tranquil sanctuaries.”
Beyond bedding and serving spoons, the company offers a lifestyle.
The partners are marketing an alternative to inexpensive, trendy products that have flooded the market in the 21st century. For example, picture the type of goods sold in brand stores catering to a young consumer, who usually discards them within a few years for the latest style.
Not only does this practice overload landfills, but many items contain nonbiodegradable microplastic that harms the planet and animals. The backlash has led to upcycling—giving an object new life—and labels certifying an ethically sourced product.
“Early on, we realized that fast fashion is not something we wanted to stand behind,” Qaabar says. “We carefully choose to create and add options that are sustainable for the environment and will enhance any style for a lifetime.”
Natural products have been reliable for centuries. “With the versatility, durability and comfort of these materials, we knew everyone would love them as much as we do,” Cao says.
The attractive website, designedbyblum.com, reflects the mission. Soothing colors include wheat, taupe, shell pink and dove gray—also the hue of the products. The palette’s watercolor-like softness helps visitors “feel” the fabric virtually. To date, bestsellers include 100% cotton towelettes, and 100% linen sheets, duvets and curtains.
The subtle colors and comfort appeal to women and men alike, and of course children. A Kids + Baby section on the site features soft blankets and Turkish-towel ponchos.
This summer, Scout Café patrons can touch some products in person. Qaabar plans to feature select pieces for sale. The partners intend to open a brick-and-mortar shop within the next three years. Fingers crossed that a suitable space becomes available in Delaware.