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Furniture alley

Shopping for furniture can be a drag. On the other hand, who doesn't love taking delivery of that perfect new sectional, armoire, hall mirror or table? But the road from shopping to buying can be a long one, and driving back and forth between the big-box stores and boutiques can tie up an entire weekend or longer. And even then, there's no guarantee of finding what you want.

Interior designers typically maximize their time by going to the "trade only" design centers or letting manufacturers' reps come to them. But typical consumers have limited access to such resources and so are relegated to schlepping.

Unless you know Cady.

Developed, in part, as an antidote to the furniture store milk run, Cady's Alley in Washington's Georgetown is a must-visit destination for design aficionados or anyone interested in one-stop shopping for fine home furnishings and accessories.

Spanning an entire city block, the area has more than a dozen showrooms and furniture retailers. The vibe definitely skews modern, but with ample offerings, there's something to suit just about every taste. From the classic wood of Thos. Moser and the refined collections at Baker to the contemporary European designs at Contemporaria and the Italian furniture at B&B Italia, the wide selection of furnishings and custom designs provides a wealth of options.

Add to the mix kitchen and bath stores such as Pedini and Waterworks, to name a couple, and Cady's Alley emerges as one of the region's premier shopping districts for the home.

On a recent trip to Cady's Alley, I spent a few hours browsing showrooms and looking for the new and notable. I found plenty of great designs that balance functionality and style. Below is just a sampling of some of the places I visited.

Baker Furniture Known the world over for classic furnishings, Baker offers pieces from top contemporary designers such as Barbara Barry and Thomas Pheasant, as well as reproductions of classic and timeless designs. The 23,000-square-foot showroom is gorgeous end to end, but the Avenue Cocktail Table ($5,685) by French designer Andre Arbus, famous for his neoclassical furniture, is an example of what Baker does so well — details. The brass fittings are exquisite — I love the C-clamp hardware that joins the legs to the table top. (3330 M St., N.W., 202-342-7080, kohlerinteriors.com/baker/index.jsp)

B&B Italia Created by Adlon Design with the intent of introducing Washington to a new style of showroom, B&B Italia features an elite group of collections from Europe. The 6,000-square-foot showroom's rustic 19th-century architecture showcases 14-foot ceilings, dramatic stone walls and wide plank wood floors finished in a glossy black. The simple rustic space is balanced with glamorous modern European furnishings from collections that include Maxalto, Driade, Kasthall and interlübke — a sampling of the finest in design with a strong showing of Italian brands. The Maxalto Kalos Apta armchair and ottoman (swivel base chair, $3,824, and ottoman, $865) are clearly standouts, but the combination of contemporary and rustic makes the showroom a design statement in itself. (1028 33rd Street N.W., 202-337-0810, adlondesign.com)

BoConcept Always a favorite for quality design at affordable prices, BoConcept's furniture is designed and manufactured in Denmark. The three-level showroom features furnishings arranged in vignettes that illustrate how adaptable their often customizable pieces can be. Accessories are shown in great shapes and vibrant colors — glass vases, tableware, candlesticks, wire baskets, magazine racks and more, all well-priced and unique. The extendable dining tables (as shown, $1,999) are a good example of what BoConcept does best. Without the supplemental brushed steel "leaf," the table is beautiful and sculptural, showing off a rich walnut veneer. Extended, the table offers dinner party seating. (3342 M St. N.W., 202-333-5656, boconcept.us)

Contemporaria This showroom was created by owner Deborah Kalkstein, a Peruvian-born architect who envisioned a furniture store that would showcase the latest in contemporary design. The Vegetal Chair by VITRA ($555) is one of my favorites and works equally as well indoors as out. Its stackable design makes it a prefect choice for extra holiday or party seating, too. The design inspired by organic plantlike structures is available in a half-dozen colors ranging from cream to chocolate. (3303 Cady's Alley, N.W., 202-338-0193, contemporaria.com)

Design Within Reach Known for its catalog offerings of iconic midcentury home furnishings, Design Within Reach set out to make classic modern design more widely available to consumers. Featuring the work of big-name designers like Saarinen, Eames, and Bertoia, you won't find French Country or Colonial styles here, but the store's designs often blend well with classic home interiors. For accessories, Design Within Reach offers a selection of midcentury wall clocks and modern lighting. For form and function, a favorite of mine is the Sussex credenza (as shown, $3,300) by contemporary designer Terence Woodgate. Inspired by the shingled, angled roof of an English cottage, the piece is artistically crafted and provides functional storage, too. (3307 Cady's Alley, N.W., 202-339-9480, dwr.com)

Pedini, DC Pedini has been producing luxury modern kitchens since 1956. The Italian kitchen designer is known for its range and quality of materials and its eco-friendly manufacturing that uses 100 percent post-consumption, recycled wood. Unlike houses in the U.S., which are typically built to universal standards that make "stock" cabinetry suitable, many European kitchens are located in quirky spaces that have been evolving over centuries. Maximizing cooking, storage, and prep areas is often a custom job, and Pedini's designs allow for creativity. It's not unusual for customers to take advantage of Pedini's "made to fit" service or custom color service. (3340 Cady's Alley, N.W., 202-640-1976, pedinidc.com)

Waterworks With a focus on everything for the bath, Waterworks creates products noted for their craftsmanship and design. Manufactured in small artisanal factories staffed by workers with generations of experience, Waterworks faucets, tile, tubs, and hardware design blend traditional and contemporary styles with a focus on materials, including copper, porcelain and vitreous china. Faucet spouts are hand-cast while handles are forged, and everything is hand-polished. In the showroom's street level, beautiful stone mosaics are shown, while upstairs a full contingent of surfaces are on display. Check out the lavishly simple Crystal Washstand ($1,247) with nickel legs and glass crossmembers that suggest a hint of 1930s Hollywood glam. (3314 M Street, N.W., 202-333-7180, waterworks.com)

Dennis Hockman is the editor of ChesapeakeHome magazine. His e-mail is dhockman@chesapeakehome.com.

Shopping Cady's Alley

Spanning an entire city block on M Street, between 33rd and 34th Streets N.W. in Washington, Cady's Alley is near-perfection for those seeking high-end furnishings. With so much to explore, it's not a bad idea to make a day of it, which will give you an excuse to take a lunch break at one of Georgetown's many fine eateries.

Where to shop (more stores)

Ann Sacks: Stylish bath products and a Kohler brand (3328 M St., N.W., 202-342-7080, annsackstile.com)

Boffi Studio: Kitchen and Bath furnishings set against a newly designed showroom by Italian designer Piero Lissoni (3320 M St., N.W., 202-337-7700, boffigeorgetown.com)

Bulthaup: German kitchen designs. (3324 Cady's Alley, N.W., 202-338-2220, Suite C, bulthaup.com)

Illuminations, Inc.: Custom lighting schemes. (3323 Cady's Alley, N.W., 202-783-4888, illuminc.com)

JANUS et Cie: Casual contemporary indoor and outdoor furnishings (3304 M Street, N.W., 202-333-8111, janusetcie.com)

L'Eclat de Verre: French museum quality framing. (3336 M St., N.W., 202-333-6840, eclatdeverre.com/us)

M2L: Top contemporary European designs. (3334 Cady's Alley, N.W., 202-298-8010, m2lcollection.com)

Poggenpohl: The first German kitchen brand - established 1892. (3324 M Street, N.W., 202-342-9111, poggenpohl.com/en/)

Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers: Hand-crafted arts and crafts inspired furniture (3300 M Street, N.W., 202-338-4292, thosmoser.com)

Where to eat

Leopold's Kafe Konditorei, located off a courtyard in the heart of Cady's Alley. A Belgian-style cafe, Leopold's cuisine consists of a la carte sweets, savories, salads and entrees. My shopping companion and I ordered a smoked trout hash with eggs and the wild mushroom tart, and both were delicious.

Baked & Wired, 1052 Thomas Jefferson St., N.W. Located just a few blocks away, the cupcakes here were a perfect snack later in the day.

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