Local Gem In Portland: Angela Adams

Natural Woman

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To walk into Angela Adams’ eponymous boutique is to gain a window into what matters to her. When it comes to her muses, community connection and a passion for the deep blue sea, the Maine native proudly wears her heart on her sleeve. More pristinely curated gallery than retail shop, angular furnishings and sea-dweller pillows are expertly displayed alongside offerings from aesthetically like-minded brands. By now, her textural, marine-inspired area rugs are familiar design world mainstays, and her ‘outside New York city limits’ success story well documented. But Adams’ creative conviction and dedication to a life by design goes beyond the buzz, offering serious self-directed career inspiration that is universally salient and quintessentially Maine. Read on as we talk foodie favorites, secret doorways and the purity of post-nor’easter bliss with the talented textile designer.

A locavore foodie’s paradise.

Portland is a foodie town so we have a lot of great choices when it comes to dining out. I tend to like the neighborhood spots that are casual and comfortable. For coffee, I recommend Coffee by Design, a local roaster that does a lot for the community. Another spot with great atmosphere, pastries and espresso is Tandem Coffee near our studios in East Bayside. My favorite lunch spots are Katiemade Bakery on Munjoy Hill and Foodworks, where we’ve been going for years. In town, my favorite spot is Empire Dim Sum – sometimes I go just for the green beans! (My husband) Sherwood and I love Hella Good Tacos for lunch or dinner – it’s a great place to get your taco fix. For dinner, Lolita has one of the best wine lists in Portland and Blue Spoon is small and cozy with outdoor seating. Front Room is a bit more boisterous, but has an excellent menu. It’s loud, so not a great place for quiet conversation, but the food is excellent. Emilitsa is a Greek restaurant in the center of town – the grilled octopus and lamb chops are incredible. For sushi, Miyake is my favorite. They have a beautiful dining room and Chef Masa prepares Japanese food with a French touch, and sources his meat and vegetables from his own farm. Boda, a Thai kitchen on the west end of town, is always great.

Back to nature.

Getting outside is the best way for me to recharge, whether at the beach or in the woods. We have incredible beaches in the Portland area. Higgins Beach is a fun place to surf. Scarborough Beach is spectacular and great for walking. And right down the street from our house is East End Beach, a Portland gem. Portland Trails has done an amazing job building great walking/running/biking trails all around Portland. Bradbury Mountain is a great place for a family hike or cookout and also has excellent mountain biking trails. If you visit in the fall, it’s a spectacular place to see the foliage.

The anti-shopper’s hits list.

I’m not a very good shopper! My favorite shops are Folly 101 right in the Old Port – it’s where I do most of my gift shopping. I also love Portland Trading Company, which is near our new store. The owner Kazeem has very sophisticated taste and a great eye for design details. For animal lovers, Fish and Bone on Commercial Street is an excellent store, and the place to get your gift for those furry loved ones back home. Ferdinand on the East End of Congress Street is a special place. The owner Diane is an amazing crafter, and she has a crazy assortment of fun things she has made or found on her travels. 

Found at sea.

Nature is my greatest inspiration. My favorite thing about Maine is the fact that we have so many seasons, each one with a different palette, texture, smell, sound. We also have the constantly changing tides, so the ocean reveals its gorgeous carpet every day and then fills it all back up with cold salt water. I just love that.

Charting your own course by design.

I think the core inspiration behind starting our business was the desire to have a creative, independent life. We knew we wanted to work for ourselves and control our own destiny, but with that comes an intense amount of focus, planning and work. Our goal is to balance that in a way that keeps us energized and fulfilled creatively. My husband and I are both designers and we run the business together. He’s a very logical, linear thinker and I am more emotional and abstract – the combo is what works for us in many ways. 

How to succeed in business by really trying.

There hasn’t ever been a “big break” for us, which is a good thing. We’ve grown (and at times shrunk), organically and slowly. It’s a zillion little steps. I think the notion of the “big break” gets people into trouble. They spend too much time looking for some secret doorway that will take them to a successful place. Setting goals, short term and long term, helps you make decisions all along the way. 

An attitude of gratitude.

I do feel lucky every day. I feel lucky that I had parents that raised me with a strong work ethic and the courage to embark on adventures. I feel lucky that I met Sherwood and that I have someone to dream and experience life with. I feel grateful for all of the incredible people that have helped build our business over the years. We weave our dreams together and flow in and out of one another’s lives at different times, and it enriches it for all of us in different ways. I feel very lucky that we live in a place where we can have the peace of mind to just draw and dream. We aren’t living in a war zone or worrying about our next meal. 

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The community that shovels together…

My favorite days in Portland are the big nor’easter blizzards. It’s the most amazing energy and it’s when the neighborhoods really come together, bonded by the energy and beauty of the snowstorm, and by our shovels and the piles of snow 10 feet in the air. The smell, sound and scenery during and after a snowstorm is magical.

Play to the gallery.

Our store has been an evolving concept from the beginning and it’s very exciting. We are in a new neighborhood and the space is just beautiful with a very positive energy. We will start to design more products with this store in mind, but what we have now are all of our latest rugs, furniture and accessories as well as some curated collections that we have found in our travels. 

In the kitchen with Angela.

Portland is a casual town and it seems everyone I know loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Most of us hang out and sip cocktails while one of us cooks – we all pitch in to help. It’s about relaxing. Sherwood and I love to cook. But again… we are very casual. We prefer small groups of friends rather than big parties. Everyone is so busy that when we get together, we just want to catch up by a cozy fire with great food, wine, our animals and laughter.

‘Munjoy Mules’ and creatures great and small.

Sherwood is an excellent cocktail maker. He makes a version of the Moscow Mule that we call the ‘Munjoy Mule’, named after the hill we live on. Good wine and fresh local ingredients are all key. For music, I like Latin jazz such as Cal Tjader, and we’ve been enjoying Gary Burton, Jefferson Airplane, and JJ Cale. Flowers are important to me. And I love living and hanging out with animals. Our cats are very important part of our family and our friends’ dogs and cats are like family to us as well.

Serve what you love.

Seafood is my first choice. I’ve got crab cakes down. We also love pan seared scallops. A super easy party food is simply puff pastry baked with fresh veggies and cheese. It takes 10 minutes to make and everyone loves it.

Pura vida and the great outdoors.

Costa Rica is a special place and we have dear friends there. We like vacations that involve lots of recreation such as mountain biking, surfing or windsurfing. Costa Rica has it all. We also really enjoy Oregon. Norway and Iceland are on my wish list. I’m not going to be able to wait much longer before going there! And I never leave home without a good attitude. 

Angela’s Gather Essentials…

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© Gather’s Local Gem Portland interview with rugs, textiles and furniture designer Angela Adams.