Two summers’ ago we went on a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. With two kids in tow—and in retrospect, too much luggage—it was exhausting (cue the: ‘what were you thinking?). While the kids loved riding the tram cars and the crazy-cool lifts, what I gleaned from our 7-day vacay is how much inspiration Lisbon has to offer for contemporary design, even though it’s one of the oldest cities in western Europe. Hiding among its narrow, cobblestone streets we found pretty shops selling traditional Portuguese wares (sardines and cork-related goods) but in retro-cool packaging, and beautifully crafted, shoes and kids clothes.
To wit, these handmade shoes my husband purchased from The Lisbon Walker. The flagship store on Rua da Madalena #68 is decorated in hues of black, cream, white and grey, so their gorgeous shoes and belts take centre stage. The best part? When you buy a pair of shoes, you’re gifted with a bottle of wine and beautifully engraved, wooden box (natch, with three compartments to hold said wine and shoes). Sadly, our suitcases were to full with stuffies and baby gear, so we had to leave the box behind.
“Portugal is the hidden gem…it’s a combination of love of traditional crafts, nostalgia for the country’s historic brands and a vibrant young generation of designers, artists and architects who are championing a new, contemporary direction. — Arren Williams co-founder, Casacubista.com.
I did also manage to snap up a trivet or two, but held back for fear of being overweight in the luggage department (spoiler alert: I was). So imagine my excitement when I visited the Homesense Spring 2016 product preview, and spotted a Portugal-inspired theme: crochet pillow shams and throws and plenty of Lisbon blue and white ceramic accessories. At last: I can treat myself to the goodies I had left behind!
While I’m waiting for these to arrive in stores, I’ve cruised casacubista.com, an online shop dedicated to designs handmade in Portugal. The brainchild of Arren Williams (a former Chatelaine editor and Hudson’s Bay creative director for home) and his partner David Pimental (he’s the one that makes the hand-crocheted rugs), the duo now live in Olhão, Portugal, and travel all over the country finding local artisans to create ridiculously, good-looking items to stock their online shop. “Portugal is the hidden gem of Europe from a design perspective. It’s a combination of a love of traditional crafts, nostalgia for the country’s historic brands and a vibrant young generation of designers, artists and architects who are championing a new, contemporary direction,” says Williams. The pairs’ discerning eye have already uncovered beautiful graphic tiles, hand-crocheted rugs in grey and a terracotta salt and pepper set that have all made my must-have list. Check out my faves below.
Shops to visit in Lisbon…
Frangelico Ice Cream shop: Artisanal ice cream and gelato parlour that attracts families as well as the hipster crowd. For adventurous types, you’ll find unique flavours like lassi, walnut and fig, chocolate Guinness and honey with ginger, but have no fear, there are also trad offerings of raspberry, vanilla and mint. Also, don’t miss the also delish, natural fruit ice pops (strawberry, pineapple, mango and lemon).
REAL SLOW Retail Concept Store: Think of it as a local department store, but way cooler. Housing a few shops under one roof, customers can peruse kids clothes to home decor to men’s and women’s accessories and shoes—there’s even a cute cafe if you need to refuel.
Silva & Feyóo: Kids will get a kick out of the moving puppets and wooden toys, allowing mom and dad time to rifle through the wares of artisanal sausages and cheese, gorgeously-designed soaps and toothpaste, and ceramic sardine boxes.