31 January 2007

New Hours of Enjoyment, More Goodies

Bonjour, all! We have decided to change over to our Winter Hours. Until further notice through our e-mail list and this blog, we will be open Monday through Saturday from 10-5. We will let you know when we change back--or even extend!--our hours closer to Spring. As a new shop, we are still feeling our way through this and figuring out what makes sense, practically and financially.

Here's a visual preview of some of the nouveau merch we've been getting in:

TOP: A bounty of fresh lavender awaits you, wrapped in kraft paper and tied snugly with twine for safe keeping. The store smells glorious right now.

MIDDLE: Our monogrammed lavender-filled sachets have arrived. These make a wonderful Valentine's, birthday, or anytime gift for your friend, sister, mother, daughter, boss, coworker, or yourself! Slip one of these into a drawer or hang over a hook or doorknob and allow the gentle scent of lavender to waft over you every time you pass by.

BOTTOM: Mistral of Provence, our favorite bath and body care line, has debuted a line of Eau de Parfum! We cooed over the vintage-inspired glass atomizer bottles. Each bottle holds 1.7 ounces of perfume. We currently are offering Grapefruit and Lychee Rose. Verbena and Wild Blackberry will be here sometime in February.

Hope to see you soon!

30 January 2007

Some Thoughts on Love

With St. Valentine's Day a mere fifteen days away, I've been meaning to write a bit about the idea of LOVE. By 'love,' I guess I mean passion for life or joie de vivre, not to be confused with romantic love or passion, which the upcoming holiday sentimentalizes. I am one of those lucky people who has always been passionate about something--usually many things at once! About one year ago, I decided to uproot my life in Columbus, leave my pretty fulfilling teaching career, and pursue a new dream (currently located at 4605 Fulton). :) Lately it's occurred to me just how blessed I am to have had TWO careers in one lifetime and to really, really love both of them.

On Sunday, two of my former students from the Humanities magnet program where I used to teach came to visit me. That's the three of us in the photo above (I'm the one in the middle). These high school Seniors gave up several hours out of their weekend to drive up here. I gave them a personal tour of the shop, which was so much fun, and then we went to lunch. These two, and the rest of the bunch who I dearly miss and can't wait to visit in the near future, are bright, talented, self-motivated, creative, loving individuals who will change the world. I am a changed person for knowing them. The program in Columbus where we all met, and which they currently attend, is all about examining your personal perspective on the world, challenging your own biases and mindsets and prejudices, and growing into a fuller person. I have to say that were it not for these very students, I probably wouldn't have had the courage to identify a latent desire of mine to become self-employed in some ultra creative venture. Were it not for them, The Blissful Home might never have been born.

So this is a short treatise on LOVE. Here are some lovely things I've noticed lately: the way my sister-in-law's eight months pregnant belly strains against her shirt, and the way my little brother looks at his pregnant wife; the way it feels to slip into jeans that are fresh out of the dryer and yet not too tight (!) due to a couple good treks on the treadmill; the way the snow heaped up on my car in the morning looks like shavings that have collected in layers; the phrase "summer house" overheard in a customer's conversation; the light in my very first and oldest best friend's eyes when she entered my shop for the first time; the way my boyfriend describes his perfect summer evenings of boating on the lake...and my anticipation of being along for them in just a few short months; the laughter of the Fabulous Five ringing through my shop on Friday evenings.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers. Love can appear to us in many shapes and forms. This February 14th, I encourage you to take a moment to savor the small sweetnesses in your own life. These are the moments to notice and to live for.

20 January 2007

Snow Daze

There's nothing like a slow day at the shop to really get things moving. Debbie and I spent a good part of yesterday rearranging, tweaking, and zhuzhing displays, as well as putting out some new merch that just arrived. Between the icy rain, the snow so fluffy I would've sworn it was imported straight from a Hollywood studio, and the whipping winds, it seems no one much feels like getting out and shopping right now. I can't say I blame you. As Ohioans, we're obviously used to unpredictably wonky weather patterns, but it still seems we never get used to going from 65 degrees in January one week, then below 20 the next. On days like yesterday (and from the looks of it, the rest of this week), Debbie says she just feels like staying home and cooking. But I, oddly enough (me? odd? no!), get invigorated by inclement weather. I love the feeling of braving the elements, going against the grain, standing up to rain, sleet, hail, blizzards, what have you, to accomplish my mission. Especially now that my boyfriend taught me how to ease the car into neutral if I start to slide. (How did I make it through the past twelve years of driving without learning that?)
But yesterday, tucked into the shop with the snow falling swiftly and gently outside our big windows like a postcard, Debbie and I got some stuff done. I'll be upfront with you and say that we are interested in moving some merchandise PDQ to make space for all of the new stuff we ordered in Atlanta, which will be arriving between this week and mid-March. And so, to that effect, here's what's on sale: select jewelry by La Vie Parisienne, David Aubrey, and These Flowers, This Moon is 20% off; all of our gorgeous quilted velvet bedding is 30% off; our oh-so-pretty (and sturdy!) Fleur-de-Lys water glasses in pink and clear are 50% off; three of our tabletop collections (including dessert plates, teacups and saucers, teapots, mugs, wineglasses, and serving trays) are 50% off; our French tea towels are 50% off; our popular Paddywax Apothecary candles are 50% off; our Brickhouse soaps and Fizzies are 50% off. Have I missed anything? It's quite possible, so stop in and check us out!
In addition, we have a full-fledged St. Valentine's display up. We've got some unique stuff that you won't want to miss. Lastly, new fragrances in our VOTIVO candle line have arrived: in our Boxed Aromatic collection, we now offer Mandarine, Sea Island Grapefruit, Deep Clover, and--burning today--Lavender Chamomile Pear. These are in addition to the other eight scents you have seen in here before. We are still awaiting their three new-for-2007 scents. Come in and smell! We have added Sumatra Lemongrass to our VOTIVO glass votive collection and replenished our best selling Tuscan Olive--the ultimate kitchen scent, in my opinion. And on our front display, we are featuring VOTIVO's St. Germain-en-Laye Lavender in French pots, little earth-toned glazed terracotta vessels bearing up the most organic lavender smell you could want.
More updates on new merch as it trickles in!

16 January 2007

Back From Market

After a three and a half hour flight delay on Monday afternoon, Debbie and I have returned from our weekend trip to Market in Atlanta. The good news is--we're still standing!
For those of you who might be curious about the behind-the-scenes machinations of the retail world, I'll gladly share the ins and outs of our two and a half day whirlwind January Market experience with you.

First of all, I want to say a big thank you to my beautiful and talented friend Kelly, who held down the fort for us on Saturday. Kelly happens to be the designer behind one of our favorite lines of jewelry: These Flowers, This Moon. I have mentioned her jewelry in a previous blog, but I want to take a moment for another shameless plug. Remember how I said I would never offer an item in my shop that I didn't believe in? Case in point: These Flowers, This Moon is jewelry I have added to my own small personal repertoire. I enjoy accessories but I really don't have very many pieces I truly love. I think it's better to have fewer things you actually can't wait to find an excuse to wear than to have a plethora of pieces you don't even know you own. Anyhow, when Kelly launched her line and I was able to see the craftsmanship and the artistry she brings to each hand-crafted piece, her designs quickly became some of my favorites. Each piece is 80% vintage, which means that almost every bead, every charm, and every precious stone she uses are actual antique and vintage findings culled from far and wide. For instance, some of the beads on the Petite Ornament earrings from her Winter Collection are mercury glass collected from Christmas tree garlands from the late 1800s. (The ear wires and all parts touching your skin are, of course, new.) We just received most of her new Sea Collection, inspired by marine hues and nautical stories (more pieces to come soon). I am (once again) in love. My favorite pieces are the X Marks the Spot earrings (ABOVE, top) and the At the Helm earrings (ABOVE, bottom). Kelly also sells online at www.theseflowersthismoon.com for those of you who would like a closer look or who would like to share her collection with friends from out of town.
Before I go any further, allow me to be the first to admit that I am a relatively inexperienced retailer. I've only been doing this for a little over a year. I have a lot to learn and am thirsty for it. I learn something about how I can improve my business on a daily basis. Mostly, you teach me. Debbie and I learn how to make our shop better from watching you shop it. We notice what you look at and what you don't; what you buy passes through our hands at the cash wrap. We're also conscious of what items rarely or never pass through our hands. We love having conversations with you, mostly to get to know you, but also because you teach us things about our shop that only you, someone with an objective point of view, could notice. We hear what words you use to describe our shop, and that tells us if we're translating our vision effectively through our merchandise and our displays. I say all of the above to let you know that what follows is by no means an expert insider's guide to What It's Really Like to Be a Boutique Owner. It's more like, What It's Really Like to Be the Owner of a Fledgling Boutique Attending Her Second Major Market With a Delicious Vision But Never Enough Cash. Still with me? Here we go.
One of the biggest learning curves my mom and I had as new retailers just one year ago was answering the question, how do stores get their product? Where does it all come from, and how do we locate the type of stuff that's right for our shop? The answer is manifold, but it involves a little sleuthing, a lot of searching, and knowing how to find the right source. Debbie and I do all of our own buying. I look forward to the day when I can hire some good part-time help for the shop, but to tell the truth, it would be a hard thing for me to share the buying with anyone else. I am so married to my vision of what and who we are ("we" being The Blissful) that it would be difficult for me to entertain input from anyone else. I'm thinking that the way I feel about my shop is probably similar to how most of you would feel if friends or acquaintances proffered input on how you should raise your children.
In any case, most retailers, from big box department stores to small, independently owned boutiques like ours, travel to one or a few Markets each year in several major cities across the U.S. The truly blessed may even get to some international shows! So far, our favorite is the Atlanta Mart, though I may also get to Chicago this summer and aspire to go to the New York one, too. These "Markets" can be as small as one large, industrial-size facility, take up an entire city block, or comprise multiple locations across a large metropolitan area, where you have to take transportation to get from one building to another. The Atlanta Mart has three interconnected buildings of nothing but permanent showrooms, from the grand and elaborate, to small temporary booths, which range in quality from the sublime to the, ahem, ridiculous. There are thousands of exhibitors (manufacturers, importers, vendors, artisans, craftspeople) showing their wares at Market, and thousands upon thousands of buyers (shop owners and staff) descend on the Marts twice a year to sell, sell, sell, and buy, buy, buy. The first show you attend is inevitably an overwhelming experience. There's just so much product, so many people, so many vendors vying for attention. Sometimes finding even one item that speaks to you on an entire floor--let alone in a single showroom--can feel like a needle in a haystack. After one Market, though, you've got your sea legs and you're learning how to swim.
Day One. We checked into our hotel on Saturday morning after an uneventful flight out of Akron-Canton. I knew the shop was in great hands with Kelly, so I could breathe easily and keep my cell phone in my shoulder bag rather than have it attached to my palm at all times. Debbie and I went in with a plan. Our strategy was to first hit our "big boys," as I think of them, those vendors we already order from and whose product you seem to really respond to. We began in Building 1, the Merchandise Mart, planning to hit about a dozen of our big boys, see their new stuff, jot down item numbers, and perhaps return later in the weekend to actually place the orders. The Merchandise Mart is where you will find your "High Design," things like fine linens, tabletop, and general home decor, as well as all my favorite temporary booths, many of whose wares are some of our bestselling lines. One thing we've found about our Market experience is that it's hard for us to get started actually placing the orders. Knowing that you're about to part with a cool thousand here, several thousand over there, with the tap of the sales rep's pointer on her handheld computer, isn't always the merriest of feelings. But eventually you have to bite the bullet and place that first order.
So here's a sampling of what we found in Building 1: a new line of jewelry, featuring some gorgeous and moderately-priced brushed gold initial charm bracelets; printed glass art; mismatched sets of antique coffee spoons and butter knives, and a line of French perfume and bubble bath I've had my eye on for about six months. The man and woman working this booth couldn't have been nicer and I thoroughly enjoyed their thick French accents. Along with ordering the perfume, we also were fortunate enough to acquire a collection of 92 antique French postcards, circa 1900. Most of these are in like-new condition, some are written on and some aren't, and we are offering them at $3.99 each.
Our best finds of the day were off our beaten path. I generally don't like to leave my beaten path (ask my mom), but sometimes you just have a hunch. We stumbled upon a showroom neither of us had heard of before and were drawn in by their beautiful display of hobnail glassware in Spring-y colors. Once inside, we discovered a whole range of gorgeous and homey finds (a hard-to-pull-off combination, kind of like cute AND cool), many of which will be appearing soon at The Blissful Home. From the abovementioned short and tall hobnail tumblers in clear, light blue, light green, and strawberry, to a very authentic-looking Bistrot de Paris menu blackboard and some great wine label kitchen towels, I think you'll love what we found. In an adjoining showroom, we found THE tiniest, cutest, crystal-ly, sparkly chandelier I have ever laid eyes on. We're bringing that to The Blissful, too.
To give you an idea of the scope of this Market, I should mention that it took us our entire first day, from 9:30ish in the morning 'til 8 PM when the Mart closed, to make it almost the whole way through Building 1. And we didn't look at half of what was there. (I am all about glancing in the windows as we walk past and discerning in about 2.2 seconds if it's a place I want to bother spending time in. Yes, I know there can be diamonds hidden in the rough, but my philosophy is if they can't grab me with their front displays and the general oeuvre of the place, what else should motivate me to give them my business?) By the end of the first day, we were pooped and dying to get off our feet. We enjoyed a great dinner at the buffet in our hotel restaurant (that Create Your Own Pasta special did me well) and went to bed at a reasonable hour.
Day Two, Sunday, we rose early and hit the Mart before most of the showrooms were even open. We managed to sneak into one in Building 1 who opened early and found some great monogrammed lavender sachets, handmade in France. This is something I've been wanting for the shop but couldn't find in a style that wasn't too generic or too cutesy. These would make the perfect Valentine's or Mother's Day gift. They should be here soon. After finishing up in Building One, we made our way to Building 2, the Gift Mart.
The Gift Mart has a different feel altogether than the Merchandise Mart. Gayer (and I'm not talking orientation here), more frenetic, livelier. I think it's because there's a higher proportion of female buyers in this building than in others (and the Market as a whole is dominated by women anyway, as you might have guessed) buying for their boutiques and gift shops, who probably have mostly female customers. These women get really excited about filling up their credit cards! This would be a good time to mention the preponderance of great Southern accents you hear throughout the halls and in every showroom. While Atlanta is an international Market, it seems that the "locals" are out in full effect for every show. While Debbie and I wear our best jeans and prettiest sweaters and most comfortable shoes when we shop, some of these Southern ladies are dressed to the nines--silk suits and coiffed hairdos, sparkly jewels and heels to boot! I don't know how they do it when the typical Mart shopper seems to be on her feet an average of 10 hours a day, but I have to hand it to them. They do look beautiful!
In Building 2, among other things, we found some neat door mats in pretty colors and a new line of antiqued flatware that takes on a nice patina in the dishwasher. These will be available for you soon.
Now, for my best story of the show. We stumbled into a showroom I'll call X, another off-the-beaten-path venue for us. We were hooked at a glance by window displays of their spare but comfortable and decidedly androgynous, "vintage modern" offerings. I fell in love in under sixty seconds. I began writing an order with a nice rep named Joe. I became interested in some drawer pulls that really attracted me. As Joe wrote them up for me, he mentioned that they were a Show Special because "a major national retailer used to carry them, but discontinued carrying them, so now our price can be reduced." I hesitated but a moment before asking him with strong conviction: "That wouldn't happen to be My Favorite Shop, would it?" "Yes, it would be Your Favorite Shop," Joe said. "We ARE your favorite shop. We're a group of designers who left there to start our own company." Did I say I was in love before? This vendor has entered my Top 5 favorites for The Blissful Home now. The aesthetic is right on for us, balancing out our tending-toward-rather-feminine look with lots of wire, pressed tin, galvanized metal, and canvas. LOVE these people. One thing we snatched up from them were a set of canvas shopping baskets--really cool ones--that you can carry around the shop and fill with all your little goodies. You usually put your stuff on our counter so you can free up your hands while you shop, which you're totally welcome to do, but very soon you'll be able to tote your stuff along with you. How fun is that? When I shop, I often like to gaze adoringly at my intended purchases before they're actually rung up for me. :)
On Monday, Day Three and our final day, we hit some of our "big boys" one final time to verify that yes, we would be purchasing certain things, and no, not others, and we finally made our way to Building 3, the Apparel Mart. Here you find your cash and carry jewelry, your women's clothing, and other small accessories. I have to confess that Building 3 is my least favorite building. The Apparel Mart is about 16 circular floors stacked up one on top of the other like the Tower of Pisa or a gaudy wedding cake, connected by escalators and a glass elevator in the center of it all. The energy in this always crowded, often (dare I say it) terribly tacky and chintzy-looking Mart exemplifies everything I hate about shopping. I wanted to leave from the moment I stepped in, but we were women on a mission and so I had to drag myself through. Unfortunately, we didn't find what we were looking for, which were some small personal items, such as handbags, wallets, cell phone cases, etc., that would be our apparel answer to our Eclectic Farmhouse Chic style of decor. Don't worry--I'm not giving up. The search continues, but maybe nevermore in Building 3.
We jumped on the MARTA (Atlanta's public transporation system) and headed back to the airport on Monday before lunch. Satisfied with our ordering and starting to visualize a tweaked floorplan to accomodate some of our bigger pieces and new displays, we were ready to jump on that plane, get in the door by 4:30 PM, and enjoy a nice, quiet evening at home. No could do. You know that really bad weather system that moved across the country over the weekend? Yeah. Our flight was delayed by three and a half hours. Not so bad when I overhead one woman telling someone that she had been in the airport since 4:30 AM--and it was past 5 o'clock in the evening. But the good news is we're back safe and sound, we did some minor tweaking of a few orders today, and we are open and smiling and ready to receive some new merchandise!
By the by, all of the items I described above will be available over the next several weeks. If you're on my mailing list (meaning you have received a post mailing from me before or you have signed up in the shop since we opened in December), watch your mailbox next week. If you would like to join my mailing list, send an e-mail to theblissfulhome@yahoo.com and pass on your name and complete address. If you'd like to join my e-mail list (an even more efficient method), send an e-mail to theblissfulhome@yahoo.com and type LIST in the subject heading. I'll gladly add you on.
The shop is looking lighter and Springier every day, so stop in and see us. New finds are arriving daily!

10 January 2007

Why We Love Our Stuff, Part II

I happen to just about LOVE everything in our shop. If I don't believe in it, we don't offer it to you. If my mom and I don't both love it, we're not convinced you'll love it. When you purchase something from our shop, I guess I feel the way a giver feels on Christmas morning, watching her recipient open her lovingly selected gift. Sounds corny, I know, but it's true. I'm that crazy about our merch.

But there's crazy, and then there's CRAZY. There are a few things we've found that I've really got to have for myself at some point. Allow me to indulge myself and give you a mini tour of some of my favorite things.

ABOVE, LEFT. Feast your eyes upon our Old Garden Shelf, which currently holds our mercury glass collection. Mercury glass may be a bit trendy right now, but thankfully it's also timeless. From urns to apothecary jars to candlesticks to tealight holders and petite ornaments (not just for the Christmas tree, folks), we've got it several ways. You may have noticed that we're never too fancy OR too low-country around here. We like to mix the rustic and the comfortable with the fabulously chic and elegant. It's unexpectedly special.

TO THE LEFT. We've paired a great bottle of white wine by Red Bicyclette (sorry, we don't sell the spirits!) with our 23F wine glasses. In the old days, you could get a glass of wine on the Rue du Bac for only 23 francs. Those days are long gone, but the wine is still there, and so are our cafe wine glasses. I would rather use these petite glasses--which fit so snugly in your hand--than balance a top-heavy wine glass, all the while trying to look correct and hold it only by its stem. [sigh] Something so nice as wine shouldn't be complicated.

ABOVE, TOP. J'adore these candles. This is a new collection for us that just arrived the other day. We're carrying both the Arboretum (seen here) and the Filigree styles. I'm over the moon about the fragrances (Wild Phlox Essence, in pink; White Tea & Thyme, in the cappuccino color; and Sweet Pea & Vanilla, in green. The Filigree collection has other fragrances, equally enchanting.). The printed glasses are adorably hip and get this: once the candle has run out, you can scrub out the glass with really hot water, run it through the dishwasher, and--voila!--you've got a drinking glass!

ABOVE, BOTTOM. You know how no parent wants to admit they have a favorite child? It's hard for me to choose an ultimate favorite item, but I have to put my money on this Petite Fleur Candlestick. Colorful and shyly retro, I would expect to see this kind of thing at a really great White Elephant sale. But here ours is, flanking our body care collection by Mistral.

BELOW. Apparently deer heads are the new chickens and roosters. So say our industry insider magazines. We hate the word 'trendy' and aren't overly concerned with such things, but in any case, we find this particular Indian Stag delightful. Looks great with our French Garden Wreath (metal flowers, people!) 'round his neck. Not so scary for the kids, either.

BELOW, LEFT. Bella Notte Linens really are the softest things you will ever touch. I swear. Come in and touch them. My favorites from their line currently in our shop are these Satin Velvet Throws. A luxury gift to be sure, these come in almost every color of the rainbow. We've chosen light, bright hues for impending Spring, but we can order yours in whatever color you'd like, from Forest to Chocolate to Champagne and many, many more.

BELOW, RIGHT: We sold out of these glittery little Tour Eiffels in about two minutes when we first opened. Planning ahead, we tried to order sixty more to get us through the Spring. They sent us ten. Hurry!!!!!!!

TO THE LEFT: Who doesn't need our Bluebird Salt & Pepper shakers? Had I a kitchen at the moment, these would SO be in there. (More about my temporarily vagabond-ish lifestyle in a later blog. Maybe.) They are tiny and ceramic and smooth, and they are the perfect color of robin's egg blue. Except they are bluebirds. In any case, they should be mine. But they can be yours.
By the way, at this point we are not equipped to do online selling, but if you ever see something on this blog that you think would make the perfect gift for your hard-to-buy-for friend or sister or daughter (or for yourself!), don't hesitate to give us a call. We'll happily put one back for you or you can purchase over the phone and we'd be glad to ship.
Thanks for indulging me.

08 January 2007

Why We Love Our Stuff, Part I

I have a confession to make. I've never been a big shopper. I kid you not.

As a young girl, I dreaded shopping trips to the mall, which weren't even all that frequent (my mom, for her part, has never been a big shopper either). I hated the act of trying on clothes, disliked the endless trolling through aisles of big box department stores, could give a flip about a sale. I will say this: a couple times a year, the shopping urge did strike me, and on those days I could put in a good six hours or so and drop a sizeable wad, if a sizeable wad were within my means. As I grew older, my shopping trips became less frequent, but often more costly (a girl needs a few things to wear, after all, and a few things with which to feather her nest, and if she only gets the urge to procure these things on two or three occasions a year, well, you get it).

And then, one summer day in Cincinnati (of all places), I discovered MY FAVORITE SHOP. My favorite shop is actually a national chain, but They are very particular about where They place Their stores. In fact, the nearest one to me is almost fifty miles away (the better for my pocketbook, to be sure). That summer day several years ago in Cinci, bopping around town with my friends Laura and Lindsay, we walked into what instantaneously became My Favorite Shop, and in that moment my take on why we buy--more specifically, why I buy--was changed forever. Here was a store that got me at a very visceral level. Visually, aurally, emotionally, intellectually, I was moved. Even the fragrance of the store spoke to me in a powerful way. The merchandise ranged from the pedantic (mugs and journals and underwear) to the remarkable (a $10,000 winepress table; a jar of pastel pillow mints [circa 1900] "discovered at a London flea market"). I found not only lots and lots of STUFF that called my name, but I found many stories to go along with it, and hence, a reason to invite that stuff into my life. That day, I became a shop junkie.

Years later, again cruising My Favorite Shop with my friends Mel and Brooke, I tried to justify my intentions to purchase a rather pricey, snowfall-white knitted hoodie with satin trim. "I couldn't see myself spending that much on a sweater," practical Brooke opined. Mel, who is smart and careful and thrifty, agreed. I, the hopeless romantic, had this to offer up: "If I look at the sweater and I can see myself making memories in it, I know it's supposed to be mine." Brooke and Mel laughed--laughed! But they had a valid point: we were all relatively new teachers, and everyone knows teachers aren't raking in the bucks. But we were doing alright. I paid my bills every month, socked a bit away in savings, and you know what? In a matter of two minutes, the snowfall-white knitted hoodie had already painted itself into my fantasy life. I could picture myself taking a walk in that sweater on a winter evening, preparing dinner for a friend, snuggling on the couch. As I told my friends, I needed that sweater to make memories in. And make memories I did.

So this is a treatise on why we love our stuff. But first, one caveat: this is not, not, NOT a paean to materialism, overindulgence, or spending beyond one's means. In fact, I don't actually enjoy spending money. But I love me my stuff. And, well, unless you are in a position to barter or are a skilled craftswoman using found materials, in our society we have to spend money to get our stuff. And a second caveat: this is not about a love for shopping. Like I said, I really don't enjoy the process of shopping, save for my not-frequent-enough excursions to My Favorite Shop. But again, I love me my (let's all say it together) STUFF.

And here's why: our stuff can inspire us. You can roll over in the morning and look at your tri-color running sneaks lined up by your closet door, and the idea of sacrificing some sleep for some time on the treadmill doesn't seem so bad. Our stuff can comfort us. Your favorite mug, filled to the brim with cocoa and a dollop of whipped cream, feels just right in your hand when you're worn out and need a little affair with your couch. Our stuff can speak volumes when we sometimes can't. A potted plant or a candle with a glorious scent, offered to someone who is hurting, can provide a moment of solace. Our stuff can seem to give us energy. I always feel a little more awake--because I look a little more awake!--when I'm wearing my Dandelion blush. Our stuff can make a statement about us before we've said a word. As a former English teacher, I am not embarassed to say that my second favorite part of speech is the adjective (words that describe nouns). For me, a piece of jewelry is like an adjective for the self. I tend to wear what one of my sales reps describes as "statement jewelry." Yes, I want you to notice it and have a thought about it. Good, bad, or indifferent, my earrings or ring or bracelet are my statement for the day. Our stuff can marry us to our memories in a way that's almost indelible. My mom handwashed my baby dresser for me with a lovely, peach-y, candlelight color, and it made a beautiful statement in my first grown-up living room, topped with a candleabra. I consider this dresser my first heirloom piece and I'm going to keep it forever. Our stuff can put other people at ease. I felt so at home in my boyfriend's parents house the first night I felt comfortable enough to grab a chenille throw, wrap it around me, and doze off--in front of his dad!
So don't be ashamed if you love your stuff. It doesn't necessarily mean you're materialistic or superficial. It may just mean that, like us, you attach memories, sensations, experiences, ideas, and moments to the tangible objects that people your world. Like characters from a novel, your stuff can speak to you, and hey, we think you should embrace it!
In my next blog, I want to take you on a mini tour of the shop and show you some of the STUFF we've found for you that I especially love. Photos to come, too.

03 January 2007

We've Got a Story To Tell

Everyone should have the chance to meet my beautiful mom. This is Debbie and she is the creative spark behind our displays. We work in tandem, she and I. I handle most of the administrative business (paperwork, ordering, phone calls, etc.). She masterminds just about everything you see. She works well in 3D (actually touching the merchandise), while I feel safer in 2D (all those years of ballet and I am still a little, for lack of a better word, klutzy). We both enjoy chatting up our customers. We both do the buying, but I am the storyteller.
I'm still getting used to retail seasons and how forward-thinking you (meaning me, as a shop owner, and others in this business) have to be about seasonal planning and buying. For instance, we are just packing in Holiday 2006, and what do you know, when Debbie and I descend on Atlanta in ten days for market, a good fraction of our buying may be for Holiday '07. Whew! At first this concept of thinking a year in advance of a season seemed ludicrous to me, even a little bit wrong. As an often recalcitrant shopper myself, I used to balk when I'd walk into a store in August and see snowflake decorations (kind of like swimsuits in January--yikes!). But now that the shoe is on the other foot, I've taken a different perspective. Yesterday as Debbie and I flipped through a catalog I'd marked up with my own Christmas wishlist (stuff for the shop), it occurred to me why planning for next holiday season already has me excited:
The writer in me sees our retail year as similar to a good novel. I've always wanted to write a novel, and I believe that I will someday. In here, we are telling a story through the shop and all of its contents. Sometimes I think it's not what's in the shop but how it's displayed that inspires you to make one of our finds part of your world. Who wants to rifle through shelves jampacked with unrelated stuff (okay, ME, a lot of the time, which is why TJMaxx can be so much fun), when you can immerse yourself in a fantasy? For me, the richest part of retailing is the opportunity to dream up stories and tell them through our merchandise mix and our displays.
Now, I have to let you all know, I can't take much credit for the visual part of our store. My mom is our stylist and our displays are her aegis--and what a gift she has (and I don't mind saying so). She always said she should've been an interior decorator--now she's getting her fix! But before we can approach the creation of a new display or even buy for the next season, I have to have a backstory. Each piece we choose has to have a reason for being invited into the shop, into a particular vignette, and ultimately into your home.

Sorry if this is getting a little cerebral! But back to the idea of a shop being like a good novel: when we first started planning for our Fulton Drive shop and we knew we'd be opening in the winter, I started to conceptualize what story we'd be telling. After some brainstorming and a lot of visualization, I landed on "Contessa's Winter Holiday." Debbie and I talked about this vision a lot at first. Who is this Contessa? Where is she taking her holiday? Who comes to visit her? How does she live? What does she eat? What does she enjoy? (And, often more importantly, what wouldn't she live with?) Throughout last Spring and Summer as we did our buying, we kept this story in mind. Now we're not so kooky or hopped up on our own fiction as to actually talk about the Contessa on a daily basis...but we know her story lives and breathes through our displays. And that was our inspiration behind Holiday '06.

For Spring, the story I am feeling right now is Secret Garden-meets-the-world-from-the-film- Great Expectations, the version starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke. I can't really explain this. You'll just have to come in between now and late February (when we'll be full-blown Spring) and see what I mean.

As I think about The Blissful Home in 2007, I think about our four seasons and how they will play off of one another in the novel that is this year. I already have pictures floating around in my head of what our shop might look like in March, in June, in September, and yes, in December. I wonder what motifs will emerge, what characters will arise unspoken from our mix of old and new, and how Eclectic Farmhouse Chic will continue to evolve.

My hope for 2007 is that we can inspire YOU to make your own home reflect more of you in each small thing you invite into your mix.

P.S. The Valentine's candy bars are in!

02 January 2007

Bonne Annee (Happy New Year)

Well, it's January 2nd and 50-something degrees in northeastern Ohio. We haven't had so much as a decent snowfall yet. I know that this is a fairly unpopular opinion around these parts, but our lack of winter weather is disappointing for someone like me. No, I'm not a skier, nor do I engage in any other winter sports--I just love snow! I love everything about it--the color, the weight, the texture of it against your exposed skin, even the smell of it. I love winter boots and wool coats and fantasies of horse-drawn carriage rides with the snow whirling up alongside you. I don't really even mind the shoveling and the car window-scraping. I know this will be hard for some people to understand, but I'll take temperatures of ten-below over 100 degree weather any day! I don't know--somewhere in the bloodline I must be hard-wired for cold weather. Maybe it's the Irish/Scottish blood in me.

Here's one for you: I was out in the parking lot in front of the shop this morning. Looking out into traffic, I saw a woman driving a minivan and wearing (God love her) a SANTA HAT! Sigh. For some people, I guess too much Noel just isn't enough.

In any case, our premiere holiday season in Jackson Township flew by and it was so much fun. The best thing about being open again was seeing so many customers from our first shop who came back to see us, and of course meeting so many new customers, many of whom we're already on a first name basis with (yes, I know I shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition, former English teacher that I am--no scolding!). You who are reading this blog, I want to thank you for helping to make our opening such a treat, a wonderful learning experience (already have so many ideas for next Christmas), and most of all, for giving us a warm welcome to this community. We feel incredibly blessed to be here, right here, on this very corner, and to have our doors open to you.

One reason for my starting this blog is so that wherever you are, you can stay updated on happenings at The Blissful Home. I'll try to post new photos as often as I can, too. One event I will be sure to post about is a sale--I haven't been in this business long, but long enough to know that everybody loves a sale.

So...while you're trying to pull your house back together following the holiday hoopla, I wanted to mention that all of our holiday merchandise is 70% off. This includes our retro Christmas houses, bottle brush trees, mercury glass ornaments, Cartes Postales, wreaths (yes, there are still some Multi Ball Encrusted ones left) and all of our holiday florals. In addition, there is some great winter-themed merchandise available at 50% off...and WE HAVEN'T EVEN HAD A GOOD SNOW YET! In addition, we have taken 20% off of our entire collection of La Vie Parisienne jewelry (antiqued gold and silver crafted from actual antique French jewelry molds) and David Aubrey (beaded, a bit funky, fresh colors), as well as 20% off of selected pieces from the Winter collection by These Flowers, This Moon. We just love this designer. She's new on the scene and handcrafts beautiful, delicate jewelry that is 90% vintage. Check out her website: http://www.theseflowersthismoon.com.

And for those of you who just can't look at another Christmas bulb, rest assured--we have already spun Spring a bit throughout each display. Stop in and see our homage to (slightly) warmer weather. There are a few new displays to behold and other displays have gotten a gentle zhuzh. It may not even be winter out there yet, but we're nodding hello to Spring in here.

Finally, we have a little Valentine's out, too. Those candy bars you loved and bought so many of over Christmas (you know, the ones wrapped with vintage images and adorned with German glitter glass and a ribbon) are here, this time bedecked with lovely little Valentine's images and sentiments. There are only a few left, if you can believe that, but we have more on the way. If you missed out on these candy bars over the holidays, you'll want to stop in and snatch these up. Almost everybody loves chocolate, so it's the perfect gift, and these are so uniquely cute AND cool (not the easiest combination to pull off, when you think about it), that your recipient is going to be unexpectedly delighted. At least I would be! Also arriving soon: vintage-style Valentines. Hallmark is great and all, but why not personalize your greeting and give something that has more of a one-of-a-kind feel to it?

Happy New Year, all. Hope to see all of your faces looking bright and rosy soon...maybe with a snow glow???