Lower Westheimer

“Art” and “affordable” don’t often go together, but on the west side they actually do.
Lower Westheimer
Laura U, Lower Westheimer, Houston
Photograph by Erin Trieb

1. Laura U

Laura Umansky’s namesake store serves not only as her office and studio but also as a home-accessories boutique. The award-winning interior designer dedicates floor space to beds, seating, and accent tables, along with smaller, giftable items. Even the most persnickety shopper will discover something to drop money on: delicate bud vases from Roost, Stray Dog papier-mâché spider figurines, and Voluspa candles, the gold standard in home fragrances. 1840 Westheimer Rd., 713-522-0855, laurau.com

2. Domy Books

Don’t come here looking for Waldenbooks-type merch: There’s not a Dan Brown best-seller or Cosmopolitan in sight. What you will find in this red-brick Tudor is a more rarefied selection—art and culture books, hard-to-find zines, and kitschy but collectible Kidrobot toys. Browse the coffee-table tomes on photography, architecture, and style and check out elusive periodicals (think France’s racy Purple Fashion magazine and McSweeney’s Quarterly) and a slew of graphic novels lining the shelves. 1709 Westheimer Rd., 713-523-3669, domybookstore.com

3. Brasil

Both laptop-surfing academics and skinny-jeaned hipsters hang at this relaxed order-at-the-counter cafe. A line regularly pokes its way out the door, so get here before noon to avoid the wait. Choose from the options scribbled on the chalkboard—the grilled-eggplant sandwich and BLT are popular—grab your order number, and head to one of the two verdant outdoor patios to soak up the sights and sounds of the eclectic neighborhood. Just beware of the aggressive grackles, which have been known to snatch up that last bite. 2604 Dunlavy, 713-528-1993

4. Duo

Sometimes it’s more about quantity than quality, and this Houston-based chain delivers on that notion with its supremely inexpensive trendy apparel. A purple leopard-print skirt or a vinyl-snakeskin biker vest may seem over-the-top, but pair it with something more subdued and the piece becomes the crowning jewel in a look that’s fashion-shoot ready. Almost nothing here is more than $100, including the oodles of blinged-out chains, bracelets, and oversized watches that fill the glass checkout counters. 1665 Westheimer Rd., 713-963-8825

5. Couture Blowout

Any frugalista worth her weight in secondhand Louboutins knows to shop at Fatou Fall’s consignment boutique for off-the-runway clothing at less than half the original price. Gently worn or never-worn big-ticket frocks from Chanel, Proenza Schouler, Lanvin, and Junya Watanabe, as well as coveted Hermès accessories, make their way here from closets and closeouts. Penny-pinchers can take it one step further with the store’s thirty-day layaway program. 1621 Westheimer Rd., 713-520-7585, couture-blowout.com

6. Vinoteca Poscol

Like his other H-town restaurants (Da Marco, Dolce Vita), chef Marco Wiles’s third venture is hopping, though this one is more scenester than high society. But don’t mistake this place for just a see-and-be-seen hot spot. Sure, the dark-wood interior makes for cozy people-watching, but Vinoteca Poscol is a wine bar that’s serious about its food. The house-cured salumi gets top billing with good reason: Where else can you find pheasant-and-truffle-oil sausage? If the antipasti aren’t filling enough, try the duck, rabbit, or prosciutto panini or the risotto small plates for a kick of carbs. 1609 Westheimer Rd., 713-529-2797

7. The Menil Collection

It’s a bit of a surprise to come upon this complex of sleek modern structures smack in the middle of a quiet residential area dotted with traditional bungalows. The five unlikely buildings house John and Dominique de Menil’s personal art collection, which includes everything from Byzantine antiquities and tribal art to surrealist paintings and light installations by Dan Flavin. Showcasing more than 15,000 pieces, the museum charges no admission, making world-renowned art accessible to everyone. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400, menil.org

8. Foxglove Interiors

This is where to go when you’re ready, willing, and able to pay for real-deal European furnishings with a trace of French flea market je ne sais quoi. Fulfill your rustic-chic fantasies with an all-white oversized curio cabinet retrofitted with chicken wire (customized pieces like this are a specialty), top your tables with Parisian wine jugs in translucent blues and greens, and give the gift of luxury with linen pillow shams finished with vintage trim. 1420 W. Alabama, 713-528-1513, foxgloveinteriors.com

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