The South End has become a magnet for home design ever since Natalie van Dijk Carpenter opened Lekker here five years ago. The bastion of European goods (from firms like Pols Potten, Stelton, and Blomus) has spawned a clutch of competitors, starting with next-door neighbor Voilà and its collection of French, Italian, and German imports. On the Side opened last month just around the corner, selling Boxx’s sleek glass and stainless-steel furniture and Simplemente Blanco’s dainty textiles, china, and accessories.
A couple blocks south of Washington Street, the Dumbo-esque SoWa district is home to dozens of art galleries and studios. Compare the talents of veteran artists (Sandy Litchfield, Hisham Bizri) at Toale Gallery to those of emerging names like 22-year-old Mark Chariker at RHYS. (The latter’s anime-influenced painting Weave of the Destroyers fetched $9,000 in a show earlier this summer.)
Follow the Harborwalk along South Boston’s rapidly developing waterfront for a dramatic entry to the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Institute of Contemporary Art. Before immersing yourself in the art—current exhibits include a Philip-Lorca diCorcia retrospective (through September 7) and a Louise Bourgeois installation (through February 2008)—head straight up to the top-floor Founders’ Gallery. A ribbon-thin perch spans the entire width of the museum and affords view of sailboats drifting in the harbor and jets taxiing at Logan.