When In: Portland

Photos by Leslie Montgomery

When in Portland, be sure to stop by Cartola, a coffee house on a shady tree lined street in Irvington. It’s a neighborhood gem designed, decorated, and run by husband-and-wife duo Simone De Souza and Kit Corba. The bright, tufted banquettes; graphic wallpaper; and modern art give it a distinctly Portland feel. But it's not just the decor you'll love. Cartola is known for its friendly staff and americanos you won’t quickly forget. Nip in for a quick coffee or linger over the delicious pastries.

Click "Continue Reading" to read our interview with co-owner Simone De Souza!

-->1. Cartola has a unique look; how would you describe it?

Cartola is a departure from the prevailing aesthetic of overly modern and sterile coffeehouses that have become the norm these days. The overall look pays homage to old-world cafes while still maintaining a modern edge. The space is intimate and personal. The artwork, photographs, and every piece displayed have a story to tell. Walking into Cartola is like walking into the living room of an eccentric relative’s house, perhaps an over-the-top distant aunt.

2. What was your inspiration for designing and decorating the space?

The initial concept was to create a space that was both warm and inviting, offering an aesthetic counterpoint to a city where it rains nine months of the year. We tried to respect the architectural integrity of the building by creating a space that looked like it had always been there. As I mentioned before, the entire concept for the decor was based on the idea of creating a space that felt like you were having coffee in someone’s living room. The photographs on the wall are all family members, and most of the artwork consists of pieces we’ve collected over the years from various shops in town.

3. Do you have any favorite shopping sources?

To me, shopping is all about the hunt. The majority of all the sourcing was done at thrift, junk, and used hardware shops in town. If I had to name a favorite, it would probably be Hippo Hardware, which has an amazing assortment of lighting fixtures and found objects.

4. Who are your favorite artists or designers?

This one is pretty tough to answer. Here are a few of our favorites, in no particular order: Bernard Buffet, Egon Schiele, Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close, Oscar Niemeyer, and Antoni Gaudi.

5. Has living in Portland affected your design sensibilities at all?

The weather has a major impact on the way we perceive color and materials. The tendency is to choose rich colors and textures, along with materials that emulate warmth and comfort.

6. What inspired you to open your own café?

Opening a café gave us a chance to work for ourselves and also provided an opportunity for us to unite our creative talents.

7. What is your favorite thing about Cartola?

The daily interaction with the neighborhood customers is by far our favorite thing about Cartola. You really get to know people, and it’s very rewarding to feel the appreciation they have for the space.

Cartola Coffee House, 2723 NE 7th Avenue, Portland, OR 97212  (503) 281-1420

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