Bitters Co

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Sometimes modern can feel a little sterile, so it's good that there are people like the Carson sisters and places like Bitters Co.

This Fremont, Seattle "eclectic general store" is a unique source for furniture and housewares that are both modern and rustic. The Carson sisters, with backgrounds in cultural anthropology, art and furniture design, opened this place back in 1993 to find homes for the things they picked up in their travels.

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They started by importing and commissioning items from artisans in the far-flung corners they visited (Mexico, Guatemala, Indonesia, parts of Africa). They experimented with the format, at one time running a wine bar with live events and a gallery amid eco-friendly housewares like flip-flop mats, Mexican fish trap lamps, and candle holders made from pipes.

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The store continued to evolve and is now also the retail outlet for Amy's line of furniture and lighting: tables, racks, stools and light fixtures that are hand-crafted from luxuriously rustic materials like reclaimed wood (redwood and douglas fir), blackened iron, and softened leather.

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There's a wonderfully relaxed air about Amy's designs; the shapes are simple and elegant (some are constructed with metal frames, slabs of wood and butterfly joints), but the materials bear signs of previous use, so the finished pieces don't feel fussy or pristine. In fact, like much of Bitters Co's merchandise, their uniqueness prompts questions: "Where's this from?" What's it made of?"

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In addition to Amy's designs, which run from about $50 for a picture frame to $2000 for a dining table, the store sells the aforementioned flip-flop products (boxes, doormats), textiles (pillows, bags, rugs), table wares (glassware, ceramics, serving platters and pots), rough-hewn metal hardware (nails, towel racks, hooks, drawer pulls), and folk art. Prices are very reasonable.

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If you can't make it to Fremont, Bitters Co's web site has recently expanded to include a much larger e-store. You can now purchase many of the stores' stock items as well as Amy's stools, tables, and light fixtures online.

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