What Min­ne­so­ta-made dé­cor ac­ces­so­ry is be­ing sold in a Paris bou­tique and tout­ed in pub­li­ca­tions rang­ing from Van­i­ty Fair to Har­per's Ba­zaar as a hand­crafted ob­ject of de­sire? It's a ca­noe pad­dle.

Wood­en paddles paint­ed with col­or­ful, nos­tal­gic de­signs by Winona-based San­born Ca­noe Co. (sanborncanoe.com) have be­come a dar­ling a­mong deco­ra­tors seek­ing a little Up North au­then­tic­i­ty. They've be­come the bestselling prod­uct for a com­pany that start­ed out mak­ing paddles meant to pro­pel a boat, not be an ac­cent piece for a coun­try home.

San­born Ca­noe was start­ed by 30-some­thing cous­ins Todd Randall and Zak Fellman, who were in­spired by their grand­father's stor­ies of build­ing wood­en ca­noes. The cous­ins built their own cedar-strip ca­noe in 2009 and used the ex­tra wood to make paddles. They liked them so much they be­gan to make more, sell­ing them to local gear com­panies.

Their first paddles, hand-shaped out of lami­nated wood, were de­signed to be used on wil­der­ness trips. But while on a trip to Voyageurs National Park, the cous­ins saw an image from a paint­ing de­pict­ing 19th- cen­tu­ry voyageurs using paddles with paint­ed blades. That in­spired them to cre­ate a line of "artisan paint­ed paddles" in 2012 that proved to be more popu­lar than their per­form­ance paddles.

Fea­tur­ing an old-fash­ioned shape and sim­ple paint­ed pat­terns like arrows, cross­es, tri­angles, stripes or a Paul Bun­yan-in­spired plaid, the $200 paddles have been em­braced by out­door-wanna­bes and won men­tions in House Beau­ti­ful, GQ and Teen Vogue mag­a­zine. "It does feel a little bit weird to be in Teen Vogue," Randall says.

Now a­bout two-thirds of the 3,000 paddles that San­born Ca­noe makes each year are deco­ra­tive, ac­cord­ing to Randall. If you're buy­ing one just to show it off, the com­pany makes wood­en and leath­er brack­ets to hang your pad­dle.

"Pad­dlers like things that look good," Randall says. "We get out in the out­doors be­cause it looks good." The paint­ed paddles don't have the car­bon fiber-backed blades or bent shafts of San­born's high-per­form­ance mod­els; most of them prob­a­bly won't see the great out­doors. But they're still func­tion­al, Randall says. He hopes that some of the peo­ple who buy them as deco­ra­tive pieces will be in­spired to ac­tu­al­ly get into a boat.

"It makes you dream a bit," he says. "They're a tool as much as a piece of art."