January 26, 2023
This mother-daughter duo is pushing their coastal clientele past blues and grays

In Enterprise of Residence’s sequence Store Discuss, we chat with house owners of house furnishings shops throughout the nation to listen to about their hard-won classes and challenges, massive and small.

This week, we spoke with Susan Bohlert Smith and Bo Massey, a mother-daughter duo who run Bohlert Massey, a full-service design agency in addition to a house items retailer in Inlet Seashore, Florida. Over practically 20 years and thru two places (they moved final summer season to an area with a greater structure and adjacency to new developments), Bohlert Smith has provided shoppers and clients a richer, extra layered conception of coastal aesthetics by way of antiques, unique artwork and worldly textiles. Just a few years in the past, postcollege, Massey joined the enterprise, first reluctantly after which passionately. As a third-generation furnishings peddler, did she have any alternative? Right here, the pair talk about the peculiarities of their area, how they’re battling its typical aesthetic and why their clients are cuckoo for coconuts.

This mother-daughter duo is pushing their coastal clientele past blues and grays

Susan Bohlert Smith and Bo Massey, the mother-daughter duo who run Bohlert Massey in Inlet Seashore, FloridaNicola Harger

What have been your skilled backgrounds earlier than the store?

Bohlert Smith: My first job, proper out of the College of Alabama, was working for an inside designer in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Whereas I used to be there, I additionally labored underneath a restoration artist who had a bit sideline of specialty ornamental finishes. I started to mix each—portray and ending in addition to design. As soon as we moved to Florida, I simply did the design and artwork. As a result of it’s a small space, we determined that we would have liked a useful resource for ourselves—there’s not lots occurring in the best way of design facilities on this space. We launched our retailer right here in about 2003.

Massey: My whole life, we had a store. I grew up working within the store within the summers and after college, and dealing within the design workplace. After I graduated from faculty, I made the choice to come back again house and develop into my mother’s enterprise accomplice within the retailer and the design enterprise. We do all of our purchasing and designs as a collaboration between the 2 of us now.

Bo, did you at all times suppose that you’d observe this path? Did you’ve that eye, or did you insurgent in opposition to it in any respect?

Bohlert Smith: Brainwashed, she calls it. I brainwashed her.

Massey: My mother at all times says, “Why do you want all the identical issues that I like?” and I’m like, “Effectively, you realize!”

Bohlert Smith: I wished you to get out of my head.

Massey: For almost all of my life, I assumed that I might not have a store or be part of the design enterprise, as a result of anyone within the trade is aware of how a lot power goes into each of these issues. It’s bodily power and emotional power. Once you’re watching that on a regular basis, it looks as if such an enormous endeavor to be so personally linked together with your buyer and your shopper. And naturally you suppose, “I’d wish to be impartial and carve out my very own path.” However as I acquired older, and since my mother and I are finest associates, going again to the seaside was very interesting.

Bohlert Smith: She advised me for years that she was going to be an legal professional. I attempted to not have my coronary heart damaged. It was like, “Effectively, I assume we want a household legal professional, too.”

Massey: I’ve gotten a variety of independence, as a result of there’s a variety of belief and respect with the 2 of us working collectively.

Bohlert Smith: At such a younger age, I might let her have free rein. We at all times verify with one another with the buying, but when Bo has to go to a market or an antiques-buying journey, I belief her one hundred pc, as a result of she’s at all times seen how I love to do issues.

Massey: My mother’s mother additionally had an antiques retailer my whole life, so I acquired it on two sides. My grandmother wished me to go work for her.

Bohlert Smith: There was a bit pressure within the household about that. I simply don’t suppose Bo had an opportunity.

How lengthy have you ever been on board now?

Massey: About 4 and a half years.

This mother-daughter duo is pushing their coastal clientele beyond blues and grays

An enormous piece of coral on show on the retailerNicola Harger

What’s the vibe of the shop?

Bohlert Smith: ‘Eclectic’ is so overused currently, however we’re very eclectic. We prefer it for those who wouldn’t suppose to place the objects collectively. We focus lots on texture, genuine supplies, luxurious. It feels timeless: coral combined with a Lucite desk, an previous Persian rug and a Nineteen Seventies modernist portray.

Massey: One in every of our massive issues is large items of coral. The blending of eras and kinds is much more heightened now that my mother and I are doing all of the shopping for collectively, as a result of we’re two totally different generations.

Bohlert Smith: There’s a way of the previous that’s been up to date by the younger technology. Should you inherited a home that has your grandmother’s vintage rugs, after which you’ve a younger technology come alongside and amp that up with one thing that’s very irreverent—like, “I can’t imagine they’ve that massive loopy quilt thrown over the couch.”

Massey: We strive, particularly as a result of we’re in an space that’s a variety of white slipcovers and comfortable colours of the ocean, like grey and lightweight blue. We similar to extra character than that. And that’s what we at all times attempt to remind our shoppers and our clients: Your home is meant to be a mirrored image of you. It’s extra attention-grabbing when you’ve objects that aren’t simply out of a showroom, factory-made. It’s essential to us for there to be a hand of an artisan, or a narrative.

Are you able to inform me a few favourite vendor of yours?

Massey: We feature a French hand-blown glassware firm, Laurence Brabant. They do some vases, however largely it’s serving items, and so they virtually have a scientific really feel. They do these decanters that seem like—

Bohlert Smith: One thing that got here out of an odd lab however extra imaginative.

Massey: Actually, the issues that we’re most enthusiastic about are the classic, vintage and one-of-a-kind items we supply from all around the world. We’re continuously driving our massive supply van round, loading it up so stuffed with stuff that we will barely drive.

Bohlert Smith: We’re afraid to brake.

Massey: We’re luxurious schleppers.

Who’s your typical buyer?

Massey: So this space is nearly like a southern Hamptons. We’re between Destin and Panama Metropolis Seashore, that are form of tacky locations. However then this pocket is a stretch of high-end communities dotted alongside Freeway 30A.

Bohlert Smith: If individuals trip right here or have purchased a second house right here, they stick a 30A bumper sticker on their automotive, simply to let individuals know.

Massey: It’s a high-end buyer, and most are over 40. We have now a variety of designers in our retailer on behalf of their shoppers; I might say it’s a 50-50 mixture of designers and finish customers. However a lot of the designers that store with us are from out of city.

This mother-daughter duo is pushing their coastal clientele beyond blues and grays

A sprouting coconut in Bohlert Massey’s house items retailerNicola Harger

What’s an object which you can barely maintain in inventory?

Massey: Sprouting coconuts! I feel we’ve been promoting these coconuts for, like, 15 years. It sounds ridiculous.

Bohlert Smith: They’ve began rising right into a plant, however due to the place we’re, you’ll be able to’t actually plant them within the floor. They wouldn’t thrive right here, however they make nice indoor vegetation or potted vegetation.

Massey: You retain it sitting in a dish of water. Folks go loopy for them. I imply, if we’re out of inventory—

Bohlert Smith: Ladies have acted impolite to me over them. “However I’ve pushed right here to get a coconut. What do you imply, you don’t have any coconuts?!”

Massey: We ship them in all places. They’re $85 a bit. They make the perfect housewarming presents, as a result of they’re really easy to maintain alive. They’re a delight. They actually make individuals’s days.

Susan, is there any recommendation you’d give your self for those who might return to opening day?

Bohlert Smith: To not purchase too closely on anybody factor, as a result of then you definately don’t have the power to tweak and shift whenever you see one thing wasn’t as nicely obtained. And never falling to the protected aspect and going vanilla simply because that’s what the general public needs. It’s important to be daring sufficient to carry one thing new to the desk, after which be assured that folks discover it refreshing.

Will you inform me a bit bit extra about the way you push the shopper? As a result of I’ve spoken with different coastal retailer house owners with the identical downside, preventing the grey driftwood look.

Bohlert Smith: We have now to coach our design shoppers in addition to the shop buyer. It’s explaining to them, with out coming off pretentious or braggy, that what’s thrilling is one thing distinctive—a brand new perspective—as an alternative of getting what everyone has.

Massey: We actually wish to create a story: What sort of coastal surroundings are we making an attempt to create? There are coasts all through the world you’ll be able to reference. Folks join coastal with impartial—

Bohlert Smith: But it surely hasn’t at all times been like that. It began years in the past, when Maison&Objet did an enormous wave of grey, however that look has been common for years now, all the best way to when Restoration {Hardware} ran massive with it. What individuals aren’t understanding is—that was dated 10 years in the past.

Massey: They really feel like, “I’ve my antiques, my coloration, and my velvet and my silk, at my home in Birmingham or Atlanta.” However we encourage individuals to go exterior of the all-neutral look, as a result of we don’t suppose it has sufficient heat for somebody to actually really feel prefer it’s their second house. Heat and texture and a narrative give the home extra depth, make it really feel extra like a house, versus only a rental.

This mother-daughter duo is pushing their coastal clientele beyond blues and grays

Raffia wall items create a heat, seaside really feel above this mattressNicola Harger

In order that’s an aesthetic problem. What’s a enterprise problem of this space?

Bohlert Smith:
It’s a seaside neighborhood. It’s seasonal. Our season runs from March by September.

Massey: We’ve been in a position to develop, as a result of after we moved right here, we have been within the boonies. There was nothing right here. It’s inconceivable to speak about this with out speaking about Seaside, which is an internationally acknowledged neighborhood that’s received design awards and is simply an enormous draw. It’s put an enormous emphasis on design. Seaside is without doubt one of the unique examples of: You’ve gotten your grocery shops, workplace, college, all the things is walkable. You don’t have to go away your neighborhood. It broke floor within the Nineteen Eighties, and now these different cities have adopted Seaside for example, and so there’s a higher-end feeling for design. Folks put an emphasis on hiring an architect, and that does make our buyer a bit extra refined. There’s been an amazing quantity of development within the final years, and that’s nice—you’ve acquired all these individuals coming to the realm enthusiastic about designing and adorning their properties. They’re coming to this space, as a result of they’re fascinated by aesthetics.

What’s your favourite day as a store proprietor?

Bohlert Smith: Once we do a turnover, or when we’ve new merchandise are available in. Once we’ve simply come from a shopping for journey the place we pack the van to the ceiling, and completely revamp and alter all the things up.

Massey: Styling is at all times essentially the most enjoyable. Additionally we get contemporary flowers as soon as every week—so placing out the contemporary flowers.

And naturally, I’ve to ask, what are a number of the difficulties or pleasures of working together with your mom and daughter?

Our greatest problem is ensuring we’re taking time to speak about issues that aren’t work. It’s arduous to have a weekend and spend time collectively as a household and never speak about work.

Bohlert Smith: And we’re not simply glued on the hip. She’s on one venture web site; I’m on one other. She might do a gathering with one shopper; I’m assembly with one other shopper.

Massey: What’s made our relationship profitable is that she has given me a variety of independence and respect, permitting me to actually really feel like my opinion is simply as essential as hers.