Destination Design: Arlington
Shopping in Arlington is always a bit of an adventure.
As you dodge auto body shops, towering corporate headquarters, tanning parlors and trendy eateries, you’ll discover stores that stock just about everything you need for your home. But you might find yourself lost in the process.
Hop over a bridge from the city and you’ll roll through slick shopping centers punctuated by shops nestled in funky farmhouses that represent the disappearing Arlington of old. On one block, uncover an unexpectedly affordable designer fabric outlet, on another a hip boutique filled with cool products from Etsy, on yet another a treasure-filled consignment store. Park your car at the Market Common Clarendon and hit a walkable cluster of solid bread-and-butter home furnishings brands: Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Ethan Allen, Container Store and Williams-Sonoma, as well as an Apple store. The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and Pentagon Row are also dotted with home resources.
Beware, though: With the way Arlington’s streets stop and start and change names, you could be cruising up a major boulevard one minute and stuck in a residential dead end the next. Yet you might end up at a dusty thrift shop where you score an amazing vintage chandelier.
That’s the quirky charm of Arlington. You can go home with the perfect steel stools for your condo’s breakfast bar or a last-minute centerpiece for your dinner party. It’s sort of like the best of small-town living coupled with the convenience of big-box retail chains. Retailers say the mix of new millennials who populate Arlington’s apartments and boomers downsizing to townhomes and condos has reinvigorated the local shopping scene.
Michael Roberson, an interior designer who has lived in Arlington for 40 years, says she finds it convenient for just about everything. She’s grateful to have Crate & Barrel nearby for wine glasses, napkins and cocktail plates for parties. She also recommends the Arlington Civitan Open Air Market, a flea market held in North Arlington in warmer weather. “I’ve found some treasures there, including artwork and accessories,” Roberson says.
Company Flowers (2107 N. Pollard St., Arlington) What a nice surprise to find a small, neighborhood flower shop where you can pick up an inexpensive bunch of tulips or have a stylish bouquet or arrangement made while you wait. In the dead of winter, a visit to this warm oasis is a breath of fresh, fragrant air. The store stocks topiaries, garden ornaments and lots of gifts, such as Lycra gardening gloves in colors of pale green, purple or fuchsia ($25) and white cotton dish towels that say “Arlington” ($12.50).
Corner Cupboard and Eclectic Threads (2649 N. Pershing Dr.) Since 1982, the Corner Cupboard, a consignment store, has been taking the castoffs of Arlingtonians: English transferware, iron frying pans, cut-glass pitchers and 1940s Corona typewriters. The shop is owned by Sheila Selario, whose daughter, Tara Selario, moved her vintage clothing business, Eclectic Threads, into the same space last summer, adding cocktail hats, evening purses, furs and slinky dresses to the funky mix. Spotted: a 1969 Esso road map of New Jersey ($2), a mission-style magazine rack ($45) and a 1950s ranch mink ($350).
Haute Fabrics (730 N. Glebe Rd.) Don’t let the unassuming sign and gritty parking lot in the back of this former medical supply store put you off. When you open the door, you’ll gasp at the thousands of bolts of designer fabrics and luxurious trims stacked on both levels: silks, chenilles, damasks, menswear plaids, cashmeres and more. Labels, most usually available only to the design trade, include Scalamandre, Lee Jofa, Brunschwig & Fils and designers Barbara Barry and Laura Kirar. You can buy a whole leather hide for $110 to $150, enough to do about six dining chair seats. We spotted a beautiful pastel silk weave by Beacon Hill (formerly $260 per yard, now $30). Owner Roxene Hill, who also has a Marshall location, gets overstocks and closeouts from fabric mills and furniture factories. There are no price tags; most fabrics have original prices of $60 to $300 a yard, now $20 to $30 a yard. Hill is in the process of adding an on-site upholsterer.
Knightsbridge Trading Co. (2871 Clarendon Blvd.) This new shop of home goodies has a British theme. Employees graciously offer you a cup of tea when you walk in. They also carry French and Italian gilded wood trays, frames and perfume bottles. You’ll find wooden chests hand-painted with Union Jacks ($1,250) and elegant wrapping paper by Cavallini & Co. depicting historical maps of European capitals ($4.50 a sheet).
La Maison Home & Gifts (3510 Lee Hwy.) French style is eternal, and this store is an example of why. You can browse accessories, furniture and gifts, many with a tie to France or another European locale, plus an assortment of locally made things. It’s a great place to grab a birthday gift such as lavender or verbena Provencal soaps ($6.95) or scout an artwork by a Cherrydale artist.
Le Village Marche (2800 S. Randolph St.) Angela Phelps fell in love with Paris years ago and in 2007 fulfilled her dream of opening a shop to sell both new and old accessories and home furnishings with a French twist. Check out her place in the walkable Village at Shirlington. You’ll find Voluspa champagne-scented candles ($36) and chunky traditional French glass “beurre” butter dishes ($18).
Covet (5140-B Wilson Blvd.) and No Place Like Home (5140-A Wilson Blvd.) In a small gray farmhouse looking a bit out of place on the busy corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Frederick Street, two businesses offer the old and the new, plus parking. Downstairs, Renee Henninger handpicks funky retro, vintage and antique furniture and accessories. Choices include Disney-themed martini glasses ($16 a pair), a 1950s green ceramic lamp ($185) and an Ethan Allen French country table with six rushed chairs ($1,100). Open the pink door and go upstairs to Covet, where owner Autumn Clayton specializes in products from small artisans and Etsy purveyors. It’s a great place to find a gift. We spotted several mother-daughter shopping pairs. Some of the current picks include Betsy Olmsted organic jersey baby blankets with owls or goats ($44) and Virginia-made Sydney Hale Co. soy candles ($26).
GRAB A BITE
Go to the Italian Store (3123 Lee Hwy.) for a slice of pizza or a fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil sub. Check out Eventide (3165 Wilson Blvd.) for drinks or Sunday brunch, beautifully served in this former 1925 Odd Fellows hall.
Check store hours before you go so you’re not disappointed. Many small stores have limited schedules, which might not include Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.
Having a car to get around the various neighborhoods of Arlington is convenient, but the Metro Orange Line can also get you in the zone.