While lovers may be shacking up right and left, when it comes to cohabitation the business world is a bunch of singletons. But Portland designers and shop owners aren't so afraid of commitment.

Look at two new partnerships created by bridal maven Carmen Bailey and designer Alicia Paulson of Ella/Posie, as well as Jasmine Patten and Keri Roberts of the new Hawthorne boutique Dragonlily.

These trade twins, connected at the hip through fashion and design, show there's no such thing as a marriage penalty for operating a business.

"I wanted a professional space outside my home for my event-planning business," says Bailey. "That's when I realized that Ella could be a place where I could mentor women artists and also use my business knowledge to help them."

That's why Paulson, who makes fine handmade photo albums, feminine purses and other gift items under the name Posie, nested her own retail niche inside the Ella space--and it's working.

Bailey's bread and butter is event planning--she does between 15 and 20 weddings a year. Paulson, in turn, does as much national business through her website (www.rosylittlethings.com) as she does locally. Even though their businesses go in different directions, they've been in blissful agreement ever since they decided to pair up just a month ago.

But running a business takes more than just pink paint chips. Ultimately their decision to join forces was to enhance each other's bottom line.

And what a beautiful bottom line it is.

The interior of Ella/Posie is an exquisite, Tiffany blue and rose jewel box, painted with broad stripes of cerise and chocolate, decked with vintage chandeliers, semiprecious jewelry from a dozen different designers, and Paulson's flower-trimmed handbags and skirts. Although their space is small, they are thinking big. An aggressive marketing campaign has turned the tiny shop into a destination for precious handmade gifts. It's just a short stroll from the bustling strip of chic wine bars and shops at the intersection of 28th Avenue and East Burnside Street, but it's not rare for customers to call for directions to the store.

"I love the idea of a hidden shop that's like a geode," adds Paulson. "It's kind of anonymous on the outside, but beautiful within."

Jasmine Patten and Keri Roberts' Dragonlily gets more foot traffic (it's a few doors down from Castagna). But these former custom and wholesale designers are suddenly confronted with a new sensation--trying to woo retail customers.

"We did trunk shows before we had a shop," says Patten, who shared a studio space with Roberts off and on for the past five years. "The first one was in my house, and we crammed in 15 designers. We'd like to re-create something like that here, with private shopping parties where we draw the curtains and drink wine and let people try things on with their friends."

"We're picky about quality and fit," says Patten. "We ask each designer consigning with us have to a mini-collection, with a size run so customers can immediately find what they want."

Patten and Roberts--each of whom has a line of clothing in the shop--treat themselves as consignors on a par with the others, with the aim of growing as designers as well as shop owners.

Teaming up to open a shop "was a manageable, understandable way to grow," Patten says. "Having a public place for my design ideas to go makes it easier to visualize and execute them. I can try things out here, and if they work, expand upon them. Hopefully, this experience is preparing all of us to take our designs to market." That is, to the regional and national buying shows that lead to large corporate accounts.

But that's sometime in the foggy future.

"For now," she says with a smile, "this is enough to take on."

Ella/Posie Boutique

2337 E Burnside St., 236-2933


1740 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-LILY