IT'S HIBERNATION TIME in Portland, when the city spends most of its time tucked inside. In the most appropriate season of the year to turn one's eye toward the comforts and charms of one's home, this week's column is dedicated to a community of shops that have developed alongside more clothing-oriented endeavors in the newly energized West End area of downtown. Here proprietors are tracking down treasures from all over the globe for charmingly eclectic assortments of thises and thats. They may stock a bit of jewelry, perhaps a small amount of international clothing, but the focus is on the lovely details that make a blanket, a set of salad tongs, or a chandelier call to you, demanding a place in your personal environment, and there's always something for every price range.
Before all else, there was Canoe (1136 SW Alder). Founded in 2005, Canoe was one of the early West End outposts, and quickly developed a following for its thoughtfully chosen merchandise, favoring simple, clever, timeless design. It's the perfect place to find home accessories and kitchen supplies in clean wood finishes and appealingly solid ceramic. You probably don't need a pair of travel chopsticks or a Swedish-designed bottle opener, but whatever gets you through the winter, right? And I think there's an argument to be made about the practicality of a Japanese vegetable grater, especially if you're defraying the cost of extra heating by staying in for dinner.
Just a stone's throw from Canoe is the complementary Alder & Co. (537 SW 12th). The emphasis here is decidedly global, including an entire section of paper goods from Japan, and inviting stacks of Scottish blankets in nubby textures and pleasing prints. Open for about six months, it's bound to develop into an increasing hit for the impeccably selected and wonderfully soup-to-nuts collection, from pop-colored nail polish to hard-to-find editions of candles and incense, to a smattering of women's clothing and jewelry and a cheerful selection of children's toys and accessories.
Further down the road is Flora (917 SW Washington), a feminine shop teeming with apothecary items, floral-inspired light fixtures, paper goods, and art items that include work by Portland artist Trish Grantham alongside a stunning series of painted trays from a family of artisans in France. They also have a section of luxurious teas in packaging that's as smart as its blends are fragrant.
It's a thriving community that shows no sign of flagging: The West End will soon also become home to Woonwinkel (935 SW Washington), meaning "Home Store" in Dutch, set to open at the end of March. Keep an eye on mod.portlandmercury.com for continuing coverage on this and other developments and happenings in the tax-free retail haven we call home.