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Simply Lovely

November 2005

I love finding a store that’s so completely unique, it almost can’t be described—you have to just go there and experience it to understand it. Canoe, located at 1136 SW Alder St. in Portland is a shop just like this. If the passerby I’ve seen gazing in the windows (even after it’s closed for the evening) is any indication, I’m not the only one totally enthralled by it.

Newly opened in October, Canoe is a one-of-a-kind shop founded on the concept that everyday items can be simple, beautiful, and interesting. A quote on the store’s website states, “We seek out products that have a lasting aesthetic which transcends short-lived trends. We value simple, beautiful, and functional objects that can be used on a daily basis. Our products often have a story behind them—we enjoy sharing these stories with our customers and hope they are inspired to think about design in a new way.” Although the streamlined layout of the store creates a clean, peaceful feeling of space and feng shui, there is also a warmth and whimsy to Canoe as a result of the charming and eclectic combination of items they sell.

Take, for instance, the lovely hand-turned wooden birds on display in the front windows. Manufactured in Denmark and based on a 1959 design by Kristian Vedel, the birds have removable, adjustable heads that can be placed in a variety of positions to create different expressions, and bodies that can be turned on either end for a pear-bottomed silhouette or puffed out breast. One shelf holds three different card cases from Germany, each one sleek, classy, elegant, and a complete steal at only $15. There are quirky throw pillows in the shape of rabbits and fawns, and a pyramid of ceramic mugs designed to look like take out containers from a Greek restaurant. While some of the items are imports, Owner Sean Igo makes an effort to support Oregon designers as well, selling lovely colored glass vases from local artist Lynn Everett Read, and cozy blankets from the National Parks Series by Pendleton.

Another item that particularly caught my fancy was the stack of delicate, canoe-shaped bowls constructed out of thin layers of cedar wood. Light as a feather yet sturdy and serviceable, they would be ideal as a catchall for jewelry, or even as serving bowls for snacks at a party. Available in a small, medium or large sizes and priced respectively at .40, .50, or .75 cents a piece, they’re a perfect representation of the store’s aesthetic—simple, graceful, affordable, and best of all, completely unique.

When asked why he decided to call his store Canoe, Igo credits the namesake partially in reference to industrial designer Nils Diffrient, who has listed the canoe as one of his top 10 favorite objects. This preference resonated deeply with Igo’s own sentiments, who personally liked the motif of the canoe because for him it represents exploration and discovery. These are words to live by when it comes to Igo’s store, because in the process of exploring Canoe, you will once again discover the beauty of everyday life.