Local interior designers open their own stores

Now that the sparkle of the holidays has faded, everyone’s home could use a jolt of fresh inspiration.

Fortunately, there is new vision in town: three local interior designers recently opened retail stores/design studios in Kensington, Alexandria and Great Falls. The fun of visiting a decorator’s shop is that it seems to invite you into her living room, filled with furniture and accessories she’s created or foraged and arranged. Chances are, you’ll also get to talk to a designer whose work you’ve possibly read about or admired.

Whether it’s a hot-pink velvet pillow with tangerine trim, a mid-century ivory lacquered coffee table, a foo dog lamp with a chocolate shade or a gold ballroom chair with slightly peeling paint, special items from these signature design stores could be a treat in this month of gray days and cold nights.

Victoria at Home

1125 King St., Alexandria, www.victoriaathome.com

Designer Victoria Sanchez opened her Old Town shop and studio in August on a stretch of King Street where many independent home stores have settled. “I always wanted my own design boutique with furnishings usually only available through designers,” she says.

Sanchez, 51, chooses her sofas, chairs, lamps and lacquer trays to be eye-catching, elegant and comfortable. She uses the white built-in cabinet walls in the store to arrange accessory vignettes by color, a nice visual treat.

The look tends toward the traditional and classic. There are vintage chinoiserie mirrors ($875) and Aerin Lauder matte gold floor lamps from Visual Comfort ($575). You’ll find hostess gifts, paintings and antiques in the mix.

She’s always mindful of the narrow rowhouses and condos in Old Town’s housing stock, searching out multiuse pieces, such as garden stools that can be used indoors as end tables or seating. Her pillows, some with contrast trims, sell for $115 to $400. A popular item has been a rolling bar cart by Regina Andrews ($1,300), made of polished nickel with glass shelves. Small occasional tables, whether iron, gilded or marble-topped, have been selling well, she says.

Because Sanchez’s design studio is on the mezzanine level in the back of the store, she can easily consult fabric sample books and advise on reupholstery projects. This year, Sanchez will launch monthly seminars on various design topics. She’ll also host events to introduce new fabric collections.

Regan & Meaghan

4216-B Howard Ave., Kensington, www.reganandmeaghan.com

Interior designer Regan Billingsley and furniture rehabber Meaghan McNamara were on the same Chevy Chase swim team together as kids. In recent years, they recommended each other’s design services. Last November, they collaborated on a new business, renting a space on the second floor of a former auto body shop in Kensington’s West Howard Avenue warehouse district. There are separate work spaces for both and a large industrial-style area to sell painted furniture, upholstery, home accessories, vintage pieces and fair-trade items from Haiti, Mexico and Kenya. “We wanted to create a happy, warm space that would be fun for people to explore,” says McNamara, 32.

Their homewares are arranged in vignettes, and the place shows off their combined creative talents. On one wall, Billingsley and McNamara display 300 small paintbrushes they dipped in different paint colors and then nailed up to create a sort of 3-D wallpaper.

“I love finding new and cool things on the market,” says Billingsley, 37. She’s been sourcing unusual fabrics for her 20-inch square pillows ($75). There is a nice selection of blankets and throws, such as the American-made versions in retro prints ($160 to $175) and $80 fair-trade throws made from hypoallergenic South American alpaca. Other items spotted: a pair of vintage crystal urn-shaped lamps ($350), a reclaimed-wood coffee table painted coral ($350) and a 48-inch round wood table painted white ($250). There are lots of occasional wood armchairs ($75 to $115) from many decades, with fresh paint and new fabric slip seats in fun prints.

Coming soon: a commercial-grade spray booth where furniture can easily be coated with the color and finish of your choice, plus design and crafting classes on how to hang art or pick window treatments.

Lauren Liess & Co.

776-A Walker Rd., Great Falls, www.laurenliess.com

Last month, a former hardware store in Great Falls Village Centre became the stylish headquarters of interior designer Lauren Liess, who pens the blog Pure Style Home.

Liess, 31, had been looking for a space to move her decorating business and add retail. “I really wanted my customers to be able to sit on the sofas and chairs they were ordering,” Liess explains. “It’s also my own little design lab where I get to try different things and rearrange everything and mix it around.”

In the bright, beamed space, Liess stocks sisal rugs, lighting, throws, organic soaps, bed linens and accessories. There are lots of vintage pieces she and her husband and business partner, David Liess, have uncovered on trips with their three children. One wall highlights a collection of 1940s botanicals, ferns and grasses pressed between glass at $130 each. And one of the colorful Indian Kantha quilts ($98), made from gently faded saris sewn together with a simple running stitch, would make a wonderful accent folded over a sofa back or on the end of a bed.

Liess is also a textile designer, and linen fabrics with her hand-drawn designs inspired by nature hang in one corner of the shop. Custom curtains, from her fabrics or others, can be ordered. She’s been surprised that many of her customers have been readers of her blog. “They want to share their design stories with me in person,” Liess says. “It’s like meeting penpals.”

Fans hoping to learn a few things from Liess can look forward to in-store design seminars and book signings.

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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