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Damsels in Design

August 24, 2011

Portland-A Visual Feast from Another Era
by Natalia del Rivero

Few words can describe Portland, Oregon accurately. The eclectic mix of a slow-paced urban scene and a bohemian suburbia are merely a reminder of how bizarre this city is. It breathes the well-known West Coast lifestyle, while it has an air reminiscent of a less sophisticated Montreal or a more hip Camden in London. The city is undeniably young, vibrant and interesting, but a guaranteed culture-shock for those who do not indulge in the West Coast way of life or urban areas stuck in time (perhaps the Doc Marten’s flagship store in the downtown area serves as an indicator).

That said, Portland has almost everything New York is missing. The vintage scene (clothes and furniture are at par) is next level. We may not be talking high-end luxury brands but anything from the interior design of these shops to the sales associate who is decked out in 90’s gear, the vintage shopping experience is always set out to be a unique one. Every detail in every shop is truly exquisite; the hang-tags, local recycled packaging, or the 1950s vintage postcard that is simply to-die-for and you thought you could buy, but alas it is part of what sets the stage!

Vintage and “cool” seep into every neighborhood in the form of street signage, window decals, hand-painted facades or better still, the outfits that roam the streets by foot or on antique wish-list bicycles. Beneath what appears to be an outmoded city, devoid of what we deem as current or trendy, hides an absolute gem where art, design and creativity thrive. It is a graphic designer or foodie’s dream in every sense of the word. New restaurants with outstanding menus and beautiful branding demonstrate, unequivocally, the flawless synergy that exists between the art of cooking and graphic design.  As if that weren’t enough to be proud of, Portland’s Gallery Night, which is held on the first Thursday of every month, may boast one of the most inimitable events on either of the nation’s coastal cities. Similar to a distinct underground Berlin-esque evening of people watching, drinking and art viewing, Portland brings the best of its youth, art and laid back attitude.

The general mood and atmosphere of the city is hard to pinpoint… least of all is it tangible. One has to be there to understand why it is so refreshing and inspirational. Being surrounded by space (a word urbanites tend to forget), an infinite forest of sky-high trees and a genuinely hip community, is special. Perhaps this is how we should redefine urban space in the future. For now, it remains a home to those who enjoy an afternoon of cocktails and reading on a Monday–hardly something a New Yorker could achieve without anxiety.

Portland is a must for soul searching, visual inspiration or sheer indulgence.

The Do Not Miss List:

  • Portland Art Museum
  • Portland Saturday Market
  • Powell’s Books
  • Tasty & Son’s
  • Doug Fir Bar & Restaurant, The Jupiter
  • Clyde Commons, Ace Hotel
  • Stumptown Coffee, Ace Hotel
  • Fiorelli’s downtown
  • Grain & Gristle
  • The Cruz Room
  • Le Pigeon
  • The Florida Room
  • The Japanese Gardens
  • Vintage Pink
  • Red Light
  • Streets: Mississippi, Hawthorne, Burnside, North Belmont

Natalia del Rivero is a visual designer based in New York City. To find out more information about Natalia’s design services, visit her website or follow her on Twitter: delriverodesign

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