Our annual guide to the best of the best.
Photograph by Bethany O'Meara (DEE1007Best of10)
Our guide to the best art lamps, kids' playhouses, designer handbags, one-of-a-kind shoes
Best New Spin on Old Furniture
281 Narragansett Trail (Rte, 202), Buxton
Is grandma’s tattered rocker gathering dust in the basement because it doesn’t match your contemporary tastes? Imagine it with a spotted cowhide back and seat. Leather worker Tim Conn and artist Bonnie Killion specialize in makeovers of vintage furniture, room screens, even car and boat seats. They make nifty new stuff, like slouchy purses and appliquéd pillows, in supple leather, too.
Best Handcrafted Mug
Ash Cove Pottery
75 Ash Cove Rd., Harpswell
Susan Horowitz’s pots are humble beauties compared to some ceramists’ daring forms and glazes, but we challenge you to find another mug that sits so contentedly in your hand. Banded in muted shades of sand, blue, and moss, Horowitz’s cup feels perfectly balanced with its hint of a waistline, a brim that’s not overly thick, and its just-right size. We love the handle’s thumb indentation, which soothes like a worry stone.
Best Maine Adirondack Chair
Dirk Leach Rustic Arts
PO Box 776, Bar Mills
Dirk Leach loves Adirondack chairs, so much so that he is on a mission to create one hundred styles of the lawn classic. Each will be a variation on his prototype, the Weekender, which sits a little higher and tilts a little less than typical Adirondacks, the easier for aging Boomers to get in and out of. Our favorite of the thirty-three models so far: the sleek Nor’easter, which approaches minimalist art. Leach’s palette, with sorbet colors like summer savory, oriental coral, and twilight sunset, is delightful.
Best Garden Accessory
Pike's of Maine Garden Hod
Maine Garden Products, P.O. Box 998, Rockland 877-764-9365; www.mainegarden.com
Nothing beats our Pike’s of Maine garden hod for carrying the harvest from garden to kitchen. We rinse and drain our veggies right in the basket, which is made of PVC-coated wire mesh on an oak frame with a steam-bent oak handle. We’ve also been known to put this carrier to work in the off-season, as a tote for mail and CDs.
Kids Crooked House
190 Riverside St., Unit 5B, Portland
No matter how old you are, Kids Crooked House inspires play. Designed by two Windham dads eager to peel their kids away from the TV, these assemble-it-yourself miniature houses are all bowed roofs, angled windows, and leaning columns, as if a gang of eight-year-olds had been handed scrap lumber, hammer, and nails. In fact, the houses are sturdy, durable — and a lot of fun.
43 Depot Rd., New Gloucester
So you think you know lady’s slippers? Ever seen them with the cream-colored blossoms? How about burgundy petals edged with hairs? Green with fuzzy black warts? Find them, along with nearly seven hundred other kinds of orchids, at Woodsprite Orchids, tucked in the pines of New Gloucester. Richard Morin and Paul Tousignant cater to collectors and hobbyists, and they love proving wrong beginners who are convinced they have a black thumb.
Best Heels with a Soul
JMS Magazine Street Design
What do your shoes reveal about you? Express yourself with a pair of stylish high heels custom collaged by Samantha Montano. Here’s how it works: You fill out a personality-revealing questionnaire, and Montano, working from her South Portland home or New Orleans dorm room, finds the appropriate headlines and images to jazz up your favorite shoes. That’s what we call speaking on your feet.
Best Fly Fishing Flies
Vigs Big Flies
391 Katahdin Ave., Millinocket
Even if you’ve never held a fishing rod, you will be entranced by Duane and Kris Vigue’s hand-tied flies. Designed with bits of peacock and pheasant feathers, they are simply beautiful. They catch fish, too. The Vigues specialize in historic featherweight streamer flies created by Rangeley Lakes fly-tying pioneers like Carrie G. Stevens and Herb Welch, as well as their own patterns. The Millinocket workshop is not open to the public, but you can order flies through its Web site.
Jim Blankman’s Teardrop Trailers
108 Water St., Eastport; 207-853-2305
Woodworker Jim Blankman restores old woodies for clients who inevitably come to covet the teardrop trailer he built to match his 1947 Dodge jitney. He is putting the finishing touches on his eighth teardrop, made from mahogany marine plywood with ash trim. The trailer has everything a pair of campers needs: a double bed and, in the trunk, an oak-trimmed kitchen with butternut cabinets.
Best Memento of Friendship
1794 Rte. 32, Round Pond; 207-529-4411
Back in college, you and your friends were practically inseparable, like peas in a pod. How to keep each other close now that you’ve fanned out across the country? Consider a simple gold chain whose peapod pendant is snugged with two to five little pearls — one for each mate. These sweet creations are the work of Ronna Logosch.
Best Art Lamps
Ember Grove Gallery
247B Congress St., Portland
Lisa Ferreira’s earthy yet fanciful lamps are positively beguiling. A Maine College of Art graduate, Ferreira fashions the shades from handcrafted paper tinted with natural dyes and textured with seeds, wildflowers, pine needles, and the like. She finds each shade’s lamp stem match in a branch that has been sanded and stained but retains all its unique bends and knots. Ferreira calls the lamps “free-form sculptural illuminations.” We call them luminous.
Best Shops from a Maine Maven
Before she launched her Maine lifestyle Web site, www.mainemaven.com, Kristen Andresen Lainsbury spent a decade as a shopping columnist for the Bangor Daily News, so she knows a few things about the Maine retail scene. It was tough for her to narrow the list down to ten (and she didn’t include her favorite chains: Marden’s and Renys), but here are her picks for the best shopping in the state:
115 Main St., Winterport
“Everything in this boutique — from the fine jewelry to the adorable children’s clothing to the shabby-chic antiques — is just right. A perfect stop for the perfect gift.”
240 Main St., Bar Harbor
“There are plenty of places in Bar Harbor to buy postcards, lobster stuffed animals, and T-shirts. But if your idea of a real Maine souvenir involves designer labels (both local and national), premium denim, and gorgeous dresses, this is your destination. And unlike many chichi women’s shops, there’s no attitude at Macey’s.”
4 Dock Sq., Kennebunkport; 207-967-4440; www.daytripsociety.com
“Feeling adventurous? The Daytrip Society’s selection of practical gear (Sigg bottles, Patagonia clothing) and stylish merchandise (handmade greeting cards, T-shirts by local artists) blends the owners’ love for travel and the outdoors with their keen eye for design. This travel store is definitely worth the trip.”
176 New Sweden St., Caribou; 207-493-4600; www.monicasimports.com
“A trip to the County isn’t complete without a stop at Monica’s. This elegant import shop specializes in all things Scandinavian, in keeping with the area’s Swedish heritage, so, yes, you can stock up on goodies like pepparkakor (Swedish gingersnaps); salty licorice, gummy fish, polka mints, and other candies; and havarti and Norwegian goat cheeses. But you can also drool over modern china and glassware, luxurious felted items, chic clogs, trollbeads (Danish charm bracelets, for the uninitiated), and rich woven textiles for the home.”
The Record Connection
252 Main St., Waterville; 207-873-1798
“Have an hour — or five — to spare? Head to the Record Connection, where you’ll find stacks and stacks of vintage vinyl, new music, and a mind-boggling array of used
and rare books.”
Yo Mamma’s Home
96 Main St. Belfast; 207-338-4884; www.yomammashome.com
“You could call the selection here eclectic, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. Where else in Maine can you find Mexican Day of the Dead art, bold accessories, bacon bandages, Company C. and Angela Adams rugs, designer and recycled handbags, and vintage housewares all under one roof? Go. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are, you clearly have no sense of humor.”
48 Main St., Bangor; 207-941-0950; shopbellaluna.myshopify.com
“A few years back, the Queen City got what it always needed: a hip little women’s boutique. And the gals here couldn’t be happier. The spot-on selection of trendy, of-the-moment tops and dresses, including pieces from Maine designers, is as exciting as the affordable prices and great customer service.”
12 Water St., Biddeford; 207-284-1500; www.lacavashop.com
“The best shopping trips feel like treasure hunts, and every visit to LACAVA is like that. Between the intriguing antiques, the Maine-made food products and housewares, and the very cool accessories, you never know what you’re going to walk out with. And that’s the best part.”
Blanche & Mimi
184 Middle St., Portland; 207-774-3900; www.blancheandmimi.com
“There are so many great shops in Portland, but one thing sets Blanche & Mimi apart: owner Hilary Sinauer’s impeccable eye. Go for the French antiques, the luxurious clothing and accessories for moms and babies, and the ever-changing, always intriguing, selection of accessories for home and body.”
29 Main St., Ellsworth; 800-866-0054; www.roosterbrother.com
“If visions of sugarplums (and Le Creuset, and All-Clad, and really, really good coffee) dance in your head, Rooster Brother is your kind of place. Two stories packed full of well-edited kitchen gear and ingredients lure in serious cooks from miles around.”
Best Pet Products
Best Cat Toys
Kennebec River Company, Vassalboro 207-872-6987; www.catnipqueen.com
Catnip lobster claws, black bears, and moose.
Best Hunting Season Fashion
Doggie Safe N’ Dry Portland; 207-799-8613; www.doggiesafendry.com
Highly visible, reflective, and water repellent doggie jackets.
Best Dog Beds
L.L. Bean, 95 Main St. Freeport; 800-441-5713; www.llbean.com
Mattresses and covers in a wide variety of styles, shapes,
Best Pet Treats
The Growlin’ Gourmet Scarborough; www.growlingourmet.com
Organic goodies handcrafted by a nurse practitioner and a chef.
Best-Selling Maine Musicians
No one has a better handle on Maine music than Bull Moose Music (www.bullmoose.com, the local CD and record chain owned and operated by two Bowdoin grads with eight stores from Scarborough to Bangor (and two in New Hampshire). Here are Bull Moose’s current top-selling Maine artists:
Who is the most popular hard rock and metal band in Maine? Metallica? Korn? Godsmack? Nope, it’s Dead Season, founded by Oxford brothers Ian and Matt Truman. We expect that they will soon be banging heads nationwide.
Rustic Overtones and their family tree (Paranoid Social Club, As Fast As, Dave Gutter & Evan Casas, Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia, and many more) have dominated the Maine rock scene for more than fifteen years. There’s a reason for that.
With a new CD and scheduled performance at the Nateva Music & Camping Festival this summer, this roots rock and soul band is already riding its own tailwind.
Dick Stacey’s Country Jamboree
The musicians didn’t have to audition; heck, they didn’t even have to have talent. Televised live from Bangor in the seventies and eighties, Stacey’s Country Jamboree was a mixed bag of great performances and laughingly bad ones, which made it a Saturday night must-watch. Show highlights are now available on DVD.
Wells rapper Ryan Peters, better known by his stage name Spose, attracted the attention of record executives when his hilarious self-deprecating song “I’m Awesome,” sprinkled with Maine references, became a nationwide radio hit this spring. A full-length CD should be released this summer.
Aaron Lee Marshall
Aaron Lee Marshall is a decorated vet who started recording music to heal from his experiences in Iraq. Imagine Dave Matthews with a raspier voice and a touch of electronics.
Chinnock moved to Maine from New Jersey after working with future members of the E Street Band. Although he died in 2007, Chinnock's legend lives on, partly due to the thirtieth anniversary re-release of his classic album, Dime Store Heroes.