April 2008

Portofino: Accent on Home

Author: Linda Hopkins

Just as the right earrings, necklace or belt can make or break your fashion statement, so beautiful home accessories add the “wow” factor to a room. Now, instead of searching the world over for those perfect home accents, one small store in Bluffton, SC, brings a touch of European flair to the Lowcountry. At Portofino Home & Table, you’ll find unique items to complement your décor and bring a sense of Old World charm to your kitchen, dining area and beyond.

With a fabulous selection of Italian and French ceramics, owner Candace Bundy admits that her own taste dictates the inventory. “Basically I sell the things that I love and can’t live without,” she said.

After 25 years vacationing on Hilton Head Island, Bundy and her husband, George (a retired engineer with a law degree) left their Cleveland, Ohio home, building a retirement nest on Callawassee Island. Four months later, in November 2006, the couple opened Portofino.

“We sort of semi-retired and decided to do something that is completely different that we thought would be fun,” said Candace. As a former librarian, her research skills and experience working with people have helped her make the transition to the business world, combining her Italian heritage, love of cooking and natural knack for decorating. She and George take turns minding the store. “It’s like both of us have a part time job. It’s a nice division of labor,” she said.

Specialties of the house
The Bundys have made it their mission to fill the shop with distinctive merchandise, unavailable in area chain stores. “We primarily focus on Italian and French items,” said Candace, pointing out a large selection of Vietri (a colorful collection of Italian dinnerware) and tableware by Arte Italica (including the famous animal head pilsner glasses). This spring, she will be adding beautiful and versatile French clay ovenware by Emile Henry.

Other popular lines include Mariposa and Forutnata. Mariposa is a functional array of aluminum accessories and serve ware in a range of themes and moods. “People love its casual elegance and easy care,” said Bundy, pointing out a napkin holder in the shape of a beach chair. Fortunata is a distinctive line of large ceramic pieces, handcrafted in Italy, yet capturing the seaside themes that make it apropos for our Lowcountry lifestyle.

In addition to tableware, Portofino offers many decorative items that translate to areas of the home beyond the kitchen and dining room. One of Bundy’s favorite items is Sid Dickens’ Memory Blocks. These handcrafted original works of art are best displayed in wall-mounted groupings. The size of the groupings is unlimited, Bundy explained. You can start with a single tile and build your collection randomly or based on a theme. Each Memory Block is hand-poured hydrostone plaster; all tiles are hand-painted, hand-leafed and hand-stained. Each one also has a special message on the back, making it a sentimental gift or meaningful personal collectible.

Bundy had to jump through hoops to get the line. After filing extensive paperwork and providing lists of merchandise and photos of displays, Bundy said, “I don’t want to marry Mr. Dickens. I just want to sell his tiles.” Perseverance paid off, as she is the only area store carrying them.

With all the specialty items and imports, you may be pondering the price tag. While Portofino carries high-end home accents, you will also find an eclectic mix of affordable gifts and practical accoutrements for everyday living. Look for Old-World images on tumbled marble coasters, a selection of smokeless, dripless candles, a unique collection of cookbooks and top-quality room sprays and diffusers.

While Buckwalter Parkway may not compare to the Italian Riviera, wander into Portofino Home & Table and discover a world of fine home accessories to express your unique personality.

Portofino is located in Berkeley Plaza, a few doors down from Sea Turtle Cinemas. Drop by Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. or Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Gift certificates and gift registry available. For more information, call 843-805-8166.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article