Annapolis has many temptations: crab cakes, sailing lessons and sunset cocktails overlooking the bay. But there’s another reason to head out Route 50, preferably in a vehicle with plenty of cargo space: a growing number of home design and furnishings stores.
Antiques have always been plentiful in the historic capital of Maryland, which is also known as America’s Sailing Capital. Maryland Avenue is a destination for collectors of American furniture and especially those looking for antique and vintage pieces with nautical provenance, thanks to its neighbor the U.S. Naval Academy.
Shops are concentrated in the waterside historic area, with its many restored 18th- and 19th-century homes on narrow side streets. There is also shopping on West Street off Church Circle, a couple miles out in an industrial area that is known as the Annapolis Design District, and in West Annapolis.
Annapolis has always had its share of kitschy maritime accessory boutiques selling anchor bottle openers, seagull wall plaques and quaint sailboat suncatchers. (There have to be some souvenirs for all the tourists wandering the cobblestone streets.) Today, you’ll also find a more curated collection of coastal-style items culled by design-loving Annapolitans: oyster shell garlands and vintage ship’s clocks, as well as coasters and bean bag chairs made of recycled sails. There are new boutiques with glossy cottage-style painted furniture for upscale beach houses and some well-priced consignment sources. Several interior designers maintain stores here.
“I do a lot of accessory shopping on Maryland Avenue to put that last layer on a room for client projects,” says Melissa McLay, an interior designer based in nearby Severna Park. She likes the mix of old and new and the fact that she can browse through so many shops on one block. “I’ve found things such as an old butter dish with a stamper with a nice patina to it, and great blue glass bottles I group together and display, or old copper ladles. The decorator shops have well-curated things such as wonderful pillows and throws and accent rugs.”
Summer is a great time to head to Annapolis, although be mindful of those weekend traffic jams of beach-bound Washingtonians going over the Bay Bridge. In fact, Annapolis is a good pit stop if you want to jump out of the fast lane for an hour or two.
Come for the oysters, leave with a 19th-century oyster plate.
Maine Cottage (209 West St.) Imagine an airy beach house filled with traditional wood furniture shapes painted in French Blue, Wisteria or Sprout green. When you walk into Maine Cottage, you can’t help but smile at the fresh colors of the chests, beds and tables and the upholstery in bold cotton prints featuring leaves, flowers or sea biscuits. Although the pieces are perfect for second homes or waterside escapes, they work in urban lofts or suburban ranches as well. There are 50 paint color choices and seven leather colors to choose from, as well as rugs and pillows in coordinating colors. A Flamingo pink two-drawer Nellie bedside table ($990) and a Zinnia coral wicker dog bed and mattress ($313) were part of the mix on a recent visit.
Echoes & Accents (224 Chinquapin Round Rd.) With new stuff arriving daily, this large consignment store is a longtime favorite of Annapolitans. Prices are reduced after 30 and 60 days. I spotted a nice club chair for $276, a painted chest for $495 and a mahogany dining table with six chairs for $845. New furniture and accessories, some with a beachy vibe, are also mixed in. Check the Web site for photos of new arrivals.
Re-Sails (42 Randall St.) Old salts as well as eco-conscious consumers will appreciate these products made in Newport, R.I., both from reused and new sails. The most popular items are the tote bags and duffels that of course are waterproof and great for boating enthusiasts. But some of the other sporty things made of sail cloth — pillows ($55), coasters ($7) and bean bag chairs ($285) — would look great in lots of homes.
Ann Widener’s Peake House (76 Maryland Ave.) Casual and comfortable furniture and accessories handpicked by designer Ann Widener are geared toward waterside living. Many pieces, such as nesting tables and ottomans, are sized to fit the small spaces of Annapolis’s narrow old townhouses.
Be Home (80 Maryland Ave.) Cozy upholstery and traditional accessories are the specialty of designer Sharon Romo. Check out an interesting take on basic white ceramic serving pieces (cake stand, deviled egg dish, platters) that can be accessorized with holiday and other occasion-themed “minis.” This line was designed by Nora Fleming. Small holes in the rim of serving pieces ($22 to $58) can be fitted with any of 80 decorative miniatures representing birthdays, sports, hobbies and more, sold for $12.50 each.
Blue Crab Antiques (55 Maryland Ave.) This place is jampacked with great silver, furniture, pottery, artwork, estate jewelry and more. One specialty is vintage U.S. Naval Academy memorabilia, and the shop is known for a wide selection of unusual maritime items.
Natalie Silitch (66 Maryland Ave.) If you adore seashells, you’ll love this old-fashioned shop. There are chunks of coral, vintage shell-encrusted lamps and oyster garlands, as well as folk art, antiques and gifts.
Evergreen Antiques (69 Maryland Ave.) One of the oldest shops in the area, Evergreen has a nice mix of traditional antiques and vintage finds. Owner Mary Jo Murray is an expert on all things Annapolis, and seeks out the coveted Wedgwood and Spode Naval Academy plates, originally produced in the 1930s. The vintage oyster tins ($15 to $300) and hand-carved decoys of ducks or swans ($100 to $1000) are popular Chesapeake collectibles.
Tervis (118 Main St.) The legendary Tervis tumbler, a staple on suburban decks and in man caves, has been around since 1946, keeping liquids hot or cold in its double-walled insulated design. You can buy a made-in-America Tervis ($11 to $25) in one of eight sizes, choosing from thousands of motifs. It’s fascinating to observe customers at this company store that opened in October, mulling their choices: sailboats, college crests, professional sports team logos, “Star Wars,” Best Man, almost any theme you can think of. And then comes the accessorizing part: choosing lids, straws and handles to complement your drinkware.
Snag a window table at Harry Browne’s (66 State Circle) for a civilized lunch and a view of the iconic Maryland State House. If you’re looking for something away from the crab cakes and Natty Boh bar crowd, check out Lemongrass (167 West St.), a cute place with a fresh take on Thai. Annapolitans swear by Annapolis Ice Cream Co. (196 Main St.), which makes its cool treats on site.
The First Sunday Arts Festival is held from May to October on Calvert and West streets. There are more than 100 vendors with many kinds of arts and crafts.