Best of Bethesda 2013: Where to Shop

Cool contemporary jewelry, handcrafted stationery, and the perfect shade of lipstick.

By: Kate Bennett

Shoes: Standard Kate Spade kitten heels and Tory Burch flats are de rigueur at Sassanova (7134 Bethesda La.; 301-654-7403), but don’t overlook the cute boutique’s other footwear offerings from brands such as Bettye Muller, Loeffler Randall, and Pour la Victoire. It even stocks Princess Kate’s favorite line of shiny pumps from L.K. Bennett. When you’ve found your shoes, check out the colorful costume jewelry from names including Suzanna Dai (we’re loving her bright stones for day and evening) and Marlyn Schiff. Among the new spring accessories are bold bib necklaces by Roarke.

Antiques: Design-conscious suburbanites rave about the understated, simple pieces at Tone on Tone (7920 Woodmont Ave.; 240-497-0800), most of which are Swedish antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries that have been painted and lovingly restored. The store’s “greige” paint palette amplifies the beauty of these elegant-with-a-hint-of-shabby-chic items, from a delicate settee with detail wood trim to a whitewashed secretary-style desk with worn knobs and a distressed patina. A pair of armchairs from France have just the right wear and tear, as though left out in the sun on a Parisian balcony. In case you can’t tell, we want everything here.

Beauty: With makeup from Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Laura Mercier, and Nars, Bluemercury (7105 Bethesda La.; 301-986-0070) is the ultimate spot for a beauty junkie to while away a few hours. Don’t overlook the state-of-the-art skin care (including a few Clarisonic products) or hair care (we keep a can of Oribe’s dry texturizing spray in our bag at all times). The sales staff has all the answers and is eager to help you find the right shade of Trish McEvoy lipstick or the ideal spring Deborah Lippmann nail polish.

Gifts: While we often think of Ginger (7114 Bethesda La.; 301-664-9242) for fashionable apparel—it carries an extensive selection of Joie, one of our favorite labels—we also come for the wide range of stylish gifts. Home goods from Jonathan Adler, stationery by R. Nichols, zippered cosmetic bags from South Africa, colorful agate coasters, and case upon case of handcrafted, delicate gold jewelry are all affordable options. Cozy and unpretentious, Ginger also champions eco-friendly, cruelty-free, and fair-trade products.

Fine jewelry: Owner Amy Hugo keeps the chic Amethyst (4808 Bethesda Ave.; 301-907-6871) filled with just the right mix of fine contemporary jewelry, be it a colorful ring by Lauren Harper, a sleek drop pendant from Indian designer Kothari, or a stack of studded Stephanie Albertson gold bracelets. Pieces typically hover in the $3,500-to-$7,000 range, and a small section toward the back includes earrings and daytime options for less than $200. Warning: The handcrafted pieces are so unusual and modern, you’ll likely give up department-store jewelry shopping and become an Amethyst convert.

Consignment and resale: With the summer opening of the Bethesda branch, Current Boutique (7220 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-222-1114) now has four Washington-area locations. The selection here is similar to that of the sister properties, with a mixture of new apparel and gently used consigned clothes organized by style and size—fun and flirty Diane von Furstenberg, modern BCBG, standard Tory Burch fare.

A close runner-up is Reddz Trading (7801 Woodmont Ave.; 301-656-7333). On a busy corner with giant street-facing windows and a snappy display of mannequins, Reddz isn’t consignment—you get your money on the spot when your trendy castoffs are accepted for sale.

Another option on the consignment scene targets pregnant women, who are often tired of buying expensive maternity clothes they quickly won’t need again: Wiggle Room (4924 Del Ray Ave.; 301-656-5995) provides a nice buy/sell option.

Jeans: Bethesda has plenty of well-stocked women’s boutiques, but Luna (7232 Woodmont Ave.; 301-656-1111) leads in the jeans department. A section near the front and a larger space at the back are filled with all sorts of styles and fits, from such labels as DL1961, 7 for All Mankind, Hudson, Mother, Genetic Denim, AG, J Brand, and Joe’s Jeans. A young and fashion-savvy staff provides expert guidance, politely suggesting flattering cuts and pointing to on-trend styles for the season.

Gourmet goodies: When Secolari (7249 Woodmont Ave.; 301-652-7006) opened on this busy drag, Bethesdans readily embraced the artisanal olive oils, vinegars, and gourmet pastas. A cozy boutique and tasting room lined with urns of flavored oils and rich balsamic vinegars, Secolari feels part workshop, part Tuscan marketplace. Staff is happy to treat you to tasting flights, where you can sample such unusual flavors as habanero or lime olive oil or blackberry-pepper and Champagne-mimosa vinegar. Pastas are made in Denver by a small producer—fill your pantry with lemon-chive angel hair and dark-chocolate linguine.

Wine: You may already know Vino Volo (7243-7247 Woodmont Ave.; 301-656-0916) from its airport outposts—travelers can pop in for tastings in several cities around the country. But this Bethesda location, which opened in November, is the company’s first true brick-and-mortar store. A restaurant, tasting bar, and wine shop in one, Vino Volo (which means “wine flight” in Italian) provides the perfect spot to sip, sample, and buy from a selection of close to 200 bottles.

Similarly, Cork & Fork (7110 Bethesda La.; 301-841-7204) offers a vast selection. The expert staffers (who talk about wine without the obtuse snootiness often found at these types of places) are genius at putting together impressive gift baskets. No more excuses for showing up at a dinner party empty-handed.

Country decor: You don’t need to have a second home to appreciate Urban Country (7117 Arlington Rd.; 301-654-0500), but owner Rachelle Roth has stocked this airy store with the sort of overstuffed casual furnishings that would feel just right at a rural retreat—one with a roaring fireplace and ceilings high enough for a four-poster bed. Room setups offer inspiration for spaces of differing scales. You can order custom projects such as sofa coverings or curtains—or enlist one of the staff interior decorators for hands-on help.

Affordable accessories: It probably says something that the quaint chain Lou Lou is moving this month from its current spot (7125 Bethesda La.; 301-652-0048) across the way to Urban Chic’s old space (7126 Bethesda La.), which is six times the size. If you’re looking for an earring, scarf, hat, bracelet, or necklace and can’t find it here, we wish you luck—it probably doesn’t exist.

Fitness gear: Purveyor of the unofficial Bethesda uniform, Lululemon Athletica (4856 Bethesda Ave.; 301-652-0574) is known for fashionable, fun, and practical workout wear. New to the brand? Don’t miss the Wunder Under yoga pants or the Groove and Astro styles, whose colorful waistbands coordinate with the brand’s Devotion T-shirts or racer-back tanks. You’ll also find the latest and greatest in yoga mats and accessories.

Furniture splurge: Both contemporary and antique furniture and accessories mingle at Random Harvest (7766 Woodmont Ave.; 301-280-2777). Just roaming around the displays is enough to inspire your inner interior decorator. A beautifully polished console table pairs exquisitely with a light-blue ceramic lamp, while a throw pillow on a plush love seat picks up hues from the rug beneath it. But don’t get too carried away by the fantasy—most items here range from $500 to $2,500.

Stationery and invitations: In addition to a bustling event-planning business, Creative Parties (4822 St. Elmo Ave.; 301-654-9292) is the best place to find a staggering variety of paper goods, including personalized writing paper, charming and whimsical invitations, handcrafted announcements, even place cards, menus, and programs. A new location on the ground floor of an office building means a decidedly updated interior—you’ll find perusing the boxes of cards and shelves of cute gifts to be a much more pleasing experience.

Cookware: We’d bet our best soufflé that you won’t find a cook who doesn’t rave about Le Creuset (7116 Bethesda La.; 301-718-1885). The famed French cookware company has been the leader in enameled cast-iron kitchen essentials for decades, and the Bethesda shop is stocked with just about every product it makes in an array of colors, from the signature orange-red Flame color to bright Marseille blue. Staff is also on hand to break down the collection—start with a Dutch oven and go from there.

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