Present Perfect

Xylem, a purveyor of modern décor and smart accessories, clicks in East Cambridge.


Woman standing in store

Madalene Sullivan in her Kendall Square boutique. (Photo by Scott M. Lacey)

The robot measuring cups and the pizza “pi” cutter (shaped like the symbol, of course) on the shelves should be enough to convince you that new Kendall Square gift boutique Xylem has geek cred to spare. But just in case, have a look at the back wall.

Owner Madalene Sullivan and her husband, architect Victor Vizgaitis, painted and glued together 1,000 pounds’ worth of PVC pipe segments to form a display that looks like plant tissue — or xylem — viewed under a microscope. Each circle holds a bright serving dish, a fun knickknack, or a piece of jewelry, and at night, the whole thing is lit up — a glowing beacon to passersby.

“Xylem was just a cool name, and it speaks to the biotech and high-tech companies here,” Sullivan says. “People walk in, and I don’t have to explain what it is.”

The name is also a nod to Sullivan’s horticultural background. The Cambridge resident studied plant sciences and then worked in retail for several years before opening the store last July, choosing a neighborhood that’s not exactly known for its shopping scene.

Sullivan says she gets an “I’m so glad you’re here” vibe from the people in nearby residential and office buildings who dash in for birthday cards, hostess presents, dog treats, and kids’ toys.

Sullivan is always adding new products to the inventory, but there’s one thing that’s not for sale: the PVC pipe wall. People have asked her to re-create the design in their homes or apartments, but Sullivan declines. “It’s one of a kind,” she says.


What’s In Store:

sterling silver and enamel rings

Photo by Scott M. Lacey.

DA Metals sterling silver and enamel rings, $38 each.

yellow bowl

Photo by Scott M. Lacey.

Joseph Joseph “Hands On” melamine salad bowl, $43.

multi-colored trivets

Photo by Scott M. Lacey.

Modern-Twist and Nervous System silicone trivets, $13 each.

bento boxes

Photo by Scott M. Lacey.

Vivo melamine bento boxes, $29–$40

motherboard coasters

Photo by Scott M. Lacey.

Shiraleah motherboard coasters, $30 for six.

colorful salad servers

Photo by Scott M. Lacey.

French Bull melamine salad servers, $15 per pair.


Xylem, 287 Third St., Cambridge, 617-494-9953