Friday, May 11, 2007

Retail Therapy: Mignonne

Oakland has its share of home-decor stores (though not nearly enough, IMHO). Until recently, though, they all seemed to be centered around College Avenue in Rockridge, with a smattering on Piedmont Avenue and in Montclair Village. But downtown Oakland -- and Old Oakland in particular -- was, for all of its stately historic architecture and hot new dining spots, lagging on the shopping front.

Enter Mignonne. Started last year by Francophiles (and mother-and-daughter team) Kimberlee and Johnelle Mancha, who make regular buying trips to France, the shop is part French flea market and part upscale gift bazaar, with just a dash of mod housewares store thrown in. (Johnelle and her fiance also own the uber-hip denim store Drift on nearby Washington Street.)

The offerings are eclectic -- and bountiful. Indeed, it's just the sort of jam-packed shop that has treasures waiting to be discovered around every corner. Even better, the prices range from bargain to quite reasonable, with a few splurge-worthy items mixed in for good measure.

Furnish-ings in-clude an antique, magenta-painted iron bed ($375), Depression-era metal garden chairs ($165 a pair), an upholstered-and-gilded Baroque armchair ($800), woven hampers from Bambou ($44), and modern colored acrylic stools and lamps from Kartell.

Linens and soft goods on display include gorgeous handprinted pillows from Erin Albin ($38 to $48), brightly colored throws from London's Designers Guild ($290), cheerful doormats from Kiss That Frog ($24), vintage French linen plus new artisan-produced tea towels, and dreamily soft PJs from Pine Cone Hill ($70).

Shelves and tables, as well as an enormous antique wall unit, are filled with an array of French toiletries that all smell delicious: Hand-milled soaps, creamy lotions, heady bath salts, and other intoxicating concoctions.

The store's aqua-sponged walls are punctuated with a revolving selection of paintings, prints, and linocuts from local artists such as Hannah Stouffer, Nicole Buffett, and Elise Morris, so you can pick up some original, locally produced art while you're there. Also offered are a selection of French posters, prints, and lithographs.

Continue perusing the pottery and glassware: During her most recent shopping expedition to France, Johnelle stocked up on vintage apertif and digestif glasses ($36 to $63 a set), which join a good selection of new and vintage pottery and glassware and papergoods, including rolls of gorgeous printed paper ($3.50 each, and as good for framing as for wrapping) and colorful printed placemats ($16 for a set of 25).

As Jonathan Adler would say, it's j'adorable.

Mignonne is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and is located at 1000 Jefferson St., across from Lafayette Square in Old Oakland. Check out the Mignonne website here.

(Now, gotta do my bit for the Oakland Visitors Bureau: Continue the French -- actually, French-Vietnamese -- theme at Le Cheval around the corner from Mignonne, or visit the shop on a Friday before popping over to the nearby Old Oakland Farmers' Market at 9th and Clay or grabbing a quick bite from one of the food vendors at Swan's Marketplace. Finally, take a stroll through Preservation Park, with the Pardee Home Museum and other perfectly preserved turn-of-the-century structures.)

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