Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wanderlust: Shopping 'Till I Drop in P-Town

Up today: The last installment of my Portland diary -- this one covering the retail therapy I indulged in during my recent trip. (Click here for a rundown of the Pearl District, Hawthorne, and other shopping spots I visited during my previous trip.)

This time around, aside from a quick pit-stop in the Pearl to visit a store I somehow missed last time and to pick up a few more colorful hanging pom-poms for my daughter's room from Cargo, above, I mostly shopped in the Mississippi District and in the up-and-coming West End of Portland's downtown.

I'm not quite sure how I missed Moulé during my previous troll through the Pearl, but I'm so glad I found it this time. The shop is an elegantly clean and airy showplace for absolutely beautiful objects for the home (Moulé stocks chic clothing in the back, too).

Among the goods on offer are tableware and ceramics from the likes of Japan's Studio 010 and Tokumi Pottery, MarlaDawn, and Emilio Robba Atelier.

When I travel, I love getting out of the city centers and spending time in some of the urban neighborhoods that the locals call home, enjoying the mix of shops, restaurants, coffee houses, shoe repair joints, and residential side streets that give cities much of their character. It's during these wanderings that I'm most likely to ponder the question, Could I live here? Portland is full of such neighborhoods, and the north side's Mississippi District is an especially charming example. Here, the answer to the question above is a resounding, Yes!

Though spring had barely sprung, Pistils Nursery made me long to put my hands in the soil once I got back home. I love small, friendly nurseries that invite strolling the grounds and lounging on garden chairs as much as they do buying lots of lovely plants, and Pistils fits the bill on both counts. What's more, almost all of Pistils' stock comes either from local, sustainable growers or is cultivated on-site.

In addition to plants and gardening supplies, Pistils offers a small but tempting selection of home accents -- love the hanging terrariums! -- as well as chicks for the garden henhouse at $5 apiece. (It's a good thing my kids weren't along on this trip, or I would've been trying to figure out how to get a pair of baby chicks home with us on the plane -- and right now, Nick would be scratching his head over how, exactly, to go about constructing a chicken coop in the backyard.)

It's not glamorous by any stretch, but I'm pretty sure that Mississippi Avenue's SunLan Lighting stocks every kind of lightbulb known to man. I'd love to put together a Bulbs Unlimited fixture using the silver-dipped ones -- and I long to replace every bulb in my house with cozy Edison filament models.

Hovel is housed in a gorgeous corner space with light streaming in through the windows, and is filled with an eclectic selection of vintage and new furniture, home accents, and other assorted treasures.

Top left: Oilcloth made from Amy Butler fabrics -- how fun would these be covering an outdoor table in the summer? Top right: Adorable softies from (I think) Woolie Originals. Bottom: A selection of Hovel's pretty vintage and new accessories.

Now this just makes me bitter: Until a year or so ago, Porch Light resided on Telegraph Avenue in my own home of Oakland. But then the store up and moved to Portland, where it settled into far larger digs on Mississippi Avenue.

The new space is filled with wares -- including candy-hued Dash & Albert rugs, timeworn wire baskets and industrial metal storage containers, painted farmhouse furniture, pretty retro textiles, and a happy jumble of tchotchkes -- that were making me covet even more than I used to in the store's old Oaktown locale.

Perhaps my favorite Portland store discovery of the entire trip was Flutter, an exuberant explosion of colorfully reimagined vintage furnishings, shiny trinkets, cushy textiles, taxidermy, disembodied mannequin parts, garden statuary, architectural salvage, original art, antique and new jewelry, and vintage clothing.

I'm just venturing a guess here, but I suspect Flutter is the only place in Portland where you'll find a rickshaw sharing space with a stuffed peacock and red silk lanterns. It sounds odd, and it is -- and yet the mix works wonderfully, making Flutter a terrific place to fall down the rabbit hole for an hour or two.

This is such a fun idea: Take a flea-market chandelier and spray-glue dried moss all over it. How perfect would that be for illuminating an outdoor dining space in the summertime?

You don't know the strength of will it took for me not to walk away with a decapitated mannequin head, a hoary beast's skull, or a wooden hand or two. I swear, my house is starting to look like a set from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Avians and other creatures, both live and artfully preserved.

Flutter's delightful owner and vignette wizardess, Cindy. How cute is she?

On my last day in town, I had a couple of hours to poke around the West End and Burnside Triangle, the former no-man's land wedged between the Pearl District and the more easterly heart of downtown Portland.

This seems to be the spot where some of Stumptown's chicest shops and eateries are popping up, and is well worth a wander through after finishing an exploration of the Pearl and stocking up on reading material at Powell's Books: Sample the fare at Kenny & Zukes Jewish deli or Clyde Common at the Ace Hotel, nibble on some gourmet chocolate at Cacao, grab a pint of microbrew at the speakeasy-style Ringlers Annex pub or catch an art-house flick at the Living Room Theater, and -- of course -- do a little shopping.

My first stop was AM-Living. While it's not one of the only-in-Portland indie stores that I tried to stick to during the trip (AM also has outposts in New York, London, Amsterdam, and a small handful of other cities), I was mesmerized by the dozens of floating miniature hot-air balloons and antique-style globes ($7 and up).

I especially loved the wall-sized, 1739 Paris map reproduction. The map is $800 as three fabric scrolls, or just $60 as 25 separate sheets of paper. (Have you ever seen sections of antique city maps framed and hung in a large grid? It looks amazing. I'm so tempted to try that with this much more affordable option.)

AM-Living has lovely repro antique botanical prints ($100) and tripod spotlight lamps, too.

Next up was Flora, which stocks a pretty selection of home accessories and art as well as locally designed jewelry and self-produced lotions and other apothecary products. In the window: Tord Boontje's Midsummer Lights in lavender.

On the top left is recycled knit art from Woolie Originals. On the right: Tree bark vessel from Roost and print by Treetop Studio.

Finally, two doors down from Flora is the incomparable Canoe. This is such a supremely well-edited shop -- it may be a little on the spare side, but every object in it is exquisitely designed and made.

Visiting Canoe makes me want to be much more rigorous about what I put in my home (vs. a shop like Flutter, which makes me want to fill my house to the brim with all manner of strange and wonderful ephemera). I don't think I could ever be a minimalist, but I definitely appreciate the aesthetic when it's as beautifully presented as this.

See, even the toys are heirloom-worthy.

Ah, Heath Ceramics. I bought a trio of the lovely little bud vases -- which is kind of ridiculous considering that I live 20 minutes from the Heath Factory in Marin County, but I couldn't resist.

Fortunately for those of us outside of Portland, Canoe has an extensive online shop as well.

OK, that's it for my slobbering Portland blog-love -- for the time being, anyway. I really want to drag Nick and the kids up to check out PDX for a week or so this summer. (Any of you lucky Portlanders interested in a vacation house-swap?)

In the meantime, if you're headed for Stumptown be sure to take a look at my newly expanded "Portland Shopping" link list (at the bottom of the right-hand column on this page) for even more great shopping suggestions.


lindsey kathlene said...

OMG!! i got a set of six of those white cups in the bottom picture at tjmaxx years ago! (for $2 a piece!) i LOVE them, but i never knew who made them or how to get more. thank you! now i know!

girl meets glamour said...

Sounds like a fabulous trip Leah with some really great finds too!!


Andrea Eames said...

Wow, you make Portland look so appealing! I will have to visit one day. I love all the shots you took inside the stores ... makes me feel like I'm there and rummaging through all the merchandise :)

Kate said...

Like Porch Light, I am an Oakland transport to Portland. Her store in OAK was less than a mile from my apartment in Rockridge. And now we are less than a mile apart again

It's been super fun to read your trip diary. There is so much great stuff happening here and it's a thrill to see you photograph it so nicely and share it your readers.

Also, we were separated by just one degree on your visit. I saw my friend Elaine from I Could Kill Her that week too. :)

Mrs.French said...

Ok seriously love that I literally tripped upon your blog and you were visiting some of the best spots in my hometown. Flutter and Porch Light are my two favorites and my son is obsessed with the chicks at Pistils..I am glad you love these amazing spots too.

T8 said...

Great post! I was in Portland recently and really loved it. I want to go back and use your post as a guide.



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