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Furniture for art's sake 

Porto comes to North Hills

I've always found men who know how to accessorize such charming creatures. So it is that I'm blushing already, in the presence of one Clark Hipolito. This, partly due to the fact that Mr. Hipolito has an infectious personality and is quite the impeccable dresser. He wears a slightly translucent Dolce & Gabbana long-sleeve button-up, with small red, yellow and orange flowers dotting the turquoise cloth; this is nicely accented with a black cashmere vest, designer blue jeans, black boots and a bracelet with mahogany-toned spires. (Swoon, ladies. Swoon.) Who is this decadent gentleman, you ask? Mr. Hipolito, owner of the Art Company, Inc., is a muralist and designer, and one-third of a team of young entrepreneurs who are responsible for Porto , a new furniture store that will open Monday, Nov. 15 at the recently remodeled North Hills Shopping Center. Michael Perry , who Mr. Hipolito calls "the man" and "the nucleus of the group"--("If you want to attach a face to this whole store, of course [there's] the three of us, but ... this is more [Michael's] deal than any of us.")--and Emily Barrett , "a cool chick" who has "a really good flair for design"--("She has this demure sense about her, this understated elegance"), are interior designers who join Mr. Hipolito in updating Triangle fashion.

Mr. Perry was very instrumental in starting the now defunct home furnishing store Domicile, where Ms. Barrett was a former employee and Mr. Hipolito was responsible for the store's design and faux-finishes. After Domicile closed, the trio decided to start a company that would service their existing clientele. They were approached by Steve Brown of Kane Realty to open a store at the North Hills location, and pronto: Porto was born.

"[Porto is] the passage to civilized living," says Mr. Hipolito, recounting the store's tagline. "We're trying to dictate what we think is our idea of what home fashion should be. There's a lot of local flavor and a lot of local talent and we're trying to introduce that, but really, it's the idea of going to Europe and bringing stuff from France and Italy, and stuff from Asia, and bringing it here to Raleigh."

An aside: When I was a teenager, mother often told me a story that was meant to teach me the importance of accessorizing. In the mid-1920s, she had just begun to seriously collect furniture when a German designer by the name of Mies van der Rohe came out with the Barcelona chair, a remarkable chrome and leather creation. "I just had to have that chair in black!" mother recollected. "Remember, Mauve, it only takes one stellar piece in one's home furnishing arsenal to serve as the atom around which all other molecules orbit."

Mother went about the process of creating her furnished galaxy by centering the chair on a Persian rug with a red background, accenting the Barcelona with red pillows, and situating red-toned vases throughout our parlor.

"Accessories are like jewelry," says Mr. Hipolito. "You have this great outfit, but without jewelry, it's not going to pop. The same thing [goes] for home furnishing: you find a killer club chair or killer couch or killer coffee table--the table is one thing, but it is the background for all the little things."

Though furniture will be the main staple of Porto, the store will also carry many of these "little things" including bowls, ceramics, vases, lighting, jewelry and purses. There will also be a marvelous gallery, where rotating exhibits will give local artists a space to showcase their works.

As to what Porto will ultimately bring to the Triangle, an enthusiastic Mr. Hipolito says, "We're bringing it all, baby! We're bringing it all!"

Porto's grand opening is Saturday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m., and will include DJs spinning, hors d'oeuvres and wine for guests. "All the beautiful people are coming," says Mr. Hipolito. The North Hills Shopping Center grand opening will take place in an earlier celebration at 6:00 p.m. and will feature the Grand Illumination--the lighting of a 50-foot Christmas tree and 150 other trees throughout the shopping center. Now remember, all you beautiful people: Let's go out there and look fabulous!

Be sure to look in our December column for photos from these exciting festivities!

Tricks of the trade: For consumers who wish to design a space from a key piece, Mr. Hipolito suggests: "Read a lot of magazines; lift out pictures. A lot of people do this, but a lot of people forget they can do this. You might say, 'Oh man, I found this killer living room in the August issue of Elle Decor.' Cool, just rip the picture out and you can start from there. And what that does, is it gives you a vision. Because a lot of people can't just go in and buy $20,000 worth of furniture--at least most of the people that are my age can't. So if you have a vision and you start with one piece, what you want to do is try to relate what you see into your own space.

"That's the 1-2-3 step. What we try to do, as designers, is to try to get people to invite us into their houses and actually let us consult with them--that's our ultimate goal."

  • Porto comes to North Hills

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