Tucked away in a big, boxy building on Forest Ave, sheltered by USM and the Oakhurst milk plant, is one of the most exciting new businesses in Portland. In many ways, EcoHome Studio is almost the prototypical Buy Local business – a small shop, with a local owner, selling great, sustainable products, and treating the art of service like a hand-craft. Dedicated to the idea that eco-friendly does not necessarily need to mean shabby chic or hippy kich, Eco Home Studio should be a must-visit for anyone who is interested both in fine modern design and saving the planet.
Located in a quasi-industrial space that for decades was home to Pier One Imports, EcoHome Studio serves as a combination showroom and design studio. While it is certainly possible to pick up something small to spice up your space, they should really be at the top of your list when you’re thinking of really updating (or upgrading) your home’s look. The front of the space serves as a wonderful introduction to owner/designer Jan Robinson’s design perspective, which is clean, elegant, retro-modern (is that a thing? I may have made that up, but it’s as good a description as any of the sofas that would not look out of place in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce or in a modern home), and fully devoted to the use of color in design. Her living rooms, scattered throughout the open space, are comfortable and inviting, and the accessories scattered throughout have a dramatic individuality that set them apart from anything you’ll find at HomeGoods or the Big Box stores.
I am particularly in love with the art she has on display (and for sale). On the day I was there, she was featuring a number of paintings by Portland artist Rachel Castle Herzer, works of art that beautifully capture real people in moments of repose, of routine, those moments between the moments of action when we simply pause to exist. Also featured were peaceful still lives of natural scenes, and hand-crafted reclaimed wood objects (made by Good Wood in Yarmouth) that are masquerading as tables but really are hand-sculpted works of art.
Very possibly my favorite thing in the shop, though, is Sam Lawrence’s handmade glass. A resident of Yarmouth, Sam has been making timeless Murano-style glass pieces — beadwork, paperweights, dishes, and more — since 2004. His mature and elegant work belies his young age, and he’s one of the most interesting and promising young artists working in the State today.
I feel like this is the spot where I should rapturously tell you about their soy-based cushions, how they focus on finding suppliers who are using renewable resources, and who are LEED, or USGBC, or FSC certified, how every item in the showroom has a story to tell about being local, or renewable, or green — and, make no mistake, I know this stuff is important, and I don’t mean to be dismissive of it in any way. But the truth is that if you stop in and ask, Jan and her staff are able to tell you these things in more detail (and more correctly) than I ever would, because it is clear that they are passionate about this topic, are educated about it, and are dedicated to ensuring that everything they sell meets their own high standards. They’ve done all their homework so you don’t have to – you, when you walk through the door, can focus on adding something new to your home that fits your style, and that you can feel good about owning. And in the end, that is a service that is worth quite a lot.
Distance from the Maine State Pier: About 1.5 miles. (Don’t try to walk. It’s not walker friendly, unfortunately, but you can take public transportation if you need to.)
Still can’t find them? Here’s a map!