NYC Shops that Kindle Curiosity

Shopping at these places is a little like continuing education. Sure, you are buying gifts but you might also learn a fact or two.

Origins of evolution

In mid-16th century Europe burbled with a fascination for the wunderkammer or kunstkabinett. In plain English, we know it as the curiosity cabinet, filled with objects that delight. When you walk into The Evolution Store, it’s like peering at the shelves of a kunstkabinett. Only here everything is for sale, including a piece of a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite as well as the fossilized tooth of one of the largest predators that ever lived, the shark known as Megalodon. Kids might enjoy being gifted an anatomical snap-together kit of T. rex. The insect-kingdom obsessed are positively going to spin out here. Pinned and framed specimens hang on the walls. The delicate wings of Urania ripheus, or Sunset moth, is integrated into jewelry. Tiny glass vials preserve bug parts, ala wings from the jewel beetle. When you leave the SoHo store, you emerge more wondrous. 687 Broadway

02-evolution-displayCourtesy of The Evolution Store

Bazaar finds (art. DIY)

The small door that serves as entrance into the world of John Derian Company belies the breadth of what can be found within this Bowery outpost. Derian, in fact, owns three stores on the street, so we should say outposts plural. If you never had an eccentric and creative world traveler of an aunt—or similar relative—whose house is another world unto itself with each crazy object tied to people and adventures, meet your surrogate. Fair warning: It’s hard to leave that relative’s house. No one is exactly hold you hostage, but each the stories keep you glued to the chair. Same, same at John Derian where exotic textiles are rolled and piled high, from Tuareg mats to Turkish kilims. Decoupage, using antique prints found by Derian and produced in his studio, designs platters, paper weights, coasters, bowls. Those aren’t any flowers and fruit over there. The flowers, though realistic, are made of paper. That apple is cast from porcelain. After a visit, you may find yourself compelled to sign up for an art class. 6 East Second St. 

02-john-derian-decoupageccCourtesy of Christine Ciarmello

Your designed life

From all appearances, Michele Varian is a very pretty SoHo housewares store. Within the lofty space, walls are decorated with of-the-moment wallpapers. Shelves creatively display chunky, textured pottery, alongside the slim-lined shiny pottery. Geometric rugs are thrown on the floor. Yet, this is not your typical shop. First, not many home stores have jewelry designers on staff. Nor do they make these fabulous wallpapers, pillows and bedding—all designed by the owner. Also, this SoHo boutique has an energy. Perhaps that’s due to its former life as artist Jasper Johns’ studio. No, no, that’s not it. Maybe, it’s that behind the imperfect perfection of every piece is a human who crafted it, not a machine. There’s a warmth.

Also, Varian is skilled in curation, where she not only selects carefully but combines and juxtapositions masterfully. New meets old. Whimsical meets classical. Natural meets coppery metallics. Her style is what you want to emulate, so as you float from display to display, which is organized like a well-curated flea, you start to take notes. And you buy jewelry you really don’t need but, gawd, isn’t it gorgeous? A holiday block party will take place on December 14 with many of the stores on Howard Street and Crosby Street festively open till 8 p.m. 27 Howard St.