field trip: Portland Modern

Portland Modern shop exterior

This blog averages the most hits on the field-trip posts, so I suppose that means this homebody should get out of her cave more often. Early last October, I pulled my friend Jeff into a vintage shop I'd been meaning to revisit ever since first moving to Portland, took a few quick phone pics, and then grew busy with unexpected things. This weekend, while in the neighborhood and happening to be carrying my camera, I snapped a few additional exterior shots, so here we are. Ready?

Portland Modern: George Nelson bubble lamp

If, like me, you're a fan of mid-century design, but high-end stores like Good Mod and Look Modern are out of budget, a less expensive local source for vintage mid-century pieces is Portland Modern, a basement-level shop space in the Alphabet District. (Apologies for the phone-camera shots and artificial light, but basements aren't exactly known for their natural light and the store sells a lot of lamps, so what can you do?) Their merchandise has surely turned over in the last four months, so consider this a sampling of possibilities.

When you first enter the shop, you land in a hallway facing an alcove of vintage bicycles, a collection of vinyl records, and, opposite, a display of old Playboy magazines (with family-friendly covers).

Portland Modern: vintage bikes, vinyl records

Portland Modern: vintage Playboy magazines

The shop's layout is something like a dumbbell, heavy on both ends. If you choose to turn right, you'll find yourself in the men's and women's clothing sections, chatting with the friendly salesperson. I don't buy much vintage clothing myself, other than the occasional thrift-store find, but the selections seemed interesting and varied at a glance and the presentations organized, colorful, and cheery. If you enjoy wearing quirky old clothes nobody else has, do poke around in here.

Portland Modern: women's section

Portland Modern: men's section

The left side of the dumbbell contains the furnishings: designer furniture, fun lamps, old advertising signs, and a range of art and decorative objects from the 1950's through the 1970's. There's much to visually wade through, meaning the shop is more crowded and hodgepodge compared to the better-edited and -spaced collections at higher-end stores. Here, for example, chairs may be stacked atop tables (something Good Mod would never do). Plus, the store tips too far into vintage tiki-tacky and also leans heavily into the tired taxidermy trend.

Portland Modern interior with hanging pufferfish lamp

Portland Modern: horned skull

Portland Modern furniture selection with swordfish taxidermy

Portland Modern: African sculpture

Portland Modern: paired vintage Danish teak armchairs

Portland Modern: round vintage table with inset chairs

Portland Modern: Hans Wegner Wishbone chair

Portland Modern furniture sampling, with PGE signage

Portland Modern: Russel Wright table-and-chair set

Portland Modern: Brutalist wall sculpture

Even so, you'll have a hard time not finding something at Portland Modern you wish you could take home. (For me that day, it was this abstract Brutalist brass wall sculpture.) Happy treasure hunting!

Portland Modern exterior: A-frame sign, vintage dresses

Portland Modern exterior: set of four white sidewalk chairs

(And yes, there were other customers in the shop, but I tend to crop them out when shooting.)

So until I get around to writing up field trips for more of the mid-century stores in town, check out this Portland-top-five list compiled by a shop owner in Olympia, Washington. (Psst, Jeff, Hawthorne Vintage is their #1.)

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