When Elizabeth Oliver opened her new shop, People Places Things, on the second floor of 137 High St., she knew she was filling a niche that was missing in vibrant downtown Belfast. It was an idea she had been pondering for the better part of 10 years.

“I felt strongly that the interest would be here if something was opened, and I kept thinking someone would swoop in and do it before I did," she said, "and that level of anxiety just got me to the point of, well, I have to do this.”

Oliver enjoys contemporary style with clean lines and wanted to offer a design selection apart from the popular rustic farmhouse look easily found in the Midcoast region.

“I just kept thinking it’s missing, this kind of shop with a modern aesthetic …. It’s not to say that I don’t appreciate any other aesthetics, by any means, but for me I just sort of gravitate towards the simplicity, I think, and the use of materials,” she said.

Sitting in college she could feel her heart palpitating in class when they discussed design. She still feels excited when she looks at a good design while hunting for pieces to add to her shop.

“I found myself picking up things that weren’t for just me because that’s how I shopped, and at some point I started buying things that I knew were just too good to pass up,” Oliver said.

Nothing is replicated in her shop. Oliver tries to find original pieces that have a rich history of craftsmanship or appeal.

“We kind of live in a world full of knock-offs and people take other people’s ideas and then it becomes mass-produced and then there's no originality — that’s pretty common these days. So for me, I wanted to represent original design and know where it comes from, and supporting that is really important,” Oliver said.

Many of the pieces have a high-end price tag but pair nicely with unique, economically priced pieces so people can create a desired look without breaking the bank, according to Oliver.

“I’m representing some higher-end work, but I also wanted to have more accessible items, you know, that together all make sense in this environment with a strong aesthetic,” Oliver said.

When she is looking for new work to feature in her shop, Oliver looks for designers who have an understanding of the social and environmental impact of their work.

“When I’m researching designers, I’m always looking for what they’re, sort of, bringing to the table, not just in design, but also socially and environmentally, because those aren’t things you can ignore anymore,” Oliver said.

She tries to keep her shop warm and inviting so her customers will want to stop in frequently to check on her constantly changing inventory.

“I feel like the modern I’m representing is still like a warm modernism," Oliver said. "I think that in most everything I’m selling, you see an element of the handmade in them, especially the contemporary people that I’m working with. … I want it to be a place where people keep checking in. I don’t want it to be a place where people think it’s too precious.”