Vanessa Bell is a freelance writer and trend hunter, running a bespoke personal shopping service called Creme de la Creme, as well as writing as a lifestyle, food, and fashion insider for Wallpaper*, Monocle, and other international publications. She’s lived in Buenos Aires since 2010, having visited all her life as her mother is Argentine.
When it comes to buying souvenirs as presents it’s easy to fall into the cliched unimaginative tourist trappings, especially when time is limited. The more I’ve travelled, the more I realise that anything cottage industry -be it a cushion, painting or a breakfast bowl- makes for a far more heartfelt gesture, and there is nothing as satisfying as knowing that the design object will serve a practical function and forever remind the recipient of who gifted it to them. My selection of design and concept stores are the ideal spots to source original and contemporary handmade gifts, and with a broad range of prices to suit any budget.
This meticulously curated shop in Palermo was conceived by art director and photographer Cecilia Miranda, and fashion photographer Miguel Esmoris, founded on a mutual passion for beautiful artisan products and a nostalgia for the porteño bazaars of yesteryear. Enseres offers a selection of objects with a common thread running throughout, products made with exemplary locally-sourced materials, which are equally beautiful to the eye and the touch. Their website offers personal recipes, beautifully photographed with products available to buy at the store as props.
El Salvador 5986, Palermo.
Stepping into Salmon Tienda is challenging for anyone with a weakness for interior design and hand crafted items, and this is arguably the most eclectically stocked store in my list. From sumptuous crockery to soft furnishings, art, books and to-die-for bric-a-brac, you’d be hard pushed to leave this store empty handed. Standout wish list contenders are smaller-scale framed works by porteña muralist Lucila Dominguez, commissioned to decorate the recently inaugurated Palermo branch of the Mooi eatery, in addition to some of the traditionally produced items, such as hand loomed scarves and mittens from Chaguar Wachi in Chaco Province, and various other rural cooperatives.
Cabello 3658, Palermo.
Founded by French born Isabelle Didot, this multi-disciplinary design firm encompasses an architectural studio, interior design services, events, and an in-house boutique. Isabelle boasts an enviable lineage, hailing from a dynasty of printmakers, editors, and French typographers who came to prominence in the mid 1700s when Louis XV fell in love with a simple typeface created by Didot and ordered that all the books in France be printed using it. Products sold in the shop range from bespoke to one-off, including furniture, books, and decorative objects, designed by Isabelle and made by artisans with natural and quality local materials.
Gurruchaga 1840, Palermo
Owner Laura Patrón Costas’ innate good taste is reflected in the beautiful products she stocks in her design store which spans two floors, with a gallery space in the basement displaying works from contemporary artists on a rolling basis. Patrón’s strength is its imaginative and carefully researched selection of contemporary jewellery designers, from more avant guarde and experimental designers such as Cecilia Borghi with her ceramic creations, to established names such as Cabinet Oseo, Soledad Kussrow, and Gabriela Horvat. If stationery is your Achilles Heel brace yourself, as their hand-painted illustrated notebooks are love at first sight, as are the hand crocheted backpacks from Bamba.
Malabia 1644, Palermo
Mar may be located in Florida, but don’t let that deter you from making the short journey by train to discover this charming store. Mar has created a homage to the Buenos Aires of yesteryear, an adorably quaint store that is the epitome of slow shopping and a perfect excuse for idle browsing. Pick up one of the cute Periplo Ediciones cookbooks, jewellery pieces, or any of the indispensable basics from owner Mar Lazio’s autonomous label, as well as hand-stitched quilting creations from Lubica. Look out for ad hoc events at the store throughout the year with invited dance and guest performance artists toasting the unveiling of new seasonal collections.
Lavalle 1778, Florida
Lead image (L-R): Salmon Tienda, Didot, Enseres Bazaar. All images courtesy of stores.