Shore boutiques offer laid-back looks for home

HomesNon-durable Goods IndustryLewesRehoboth BeachEuropeArts and CultureInterior Design

It's beach season! Time for a week, if you are lucky, on the coast to enjoy all that the Maryland and Delaware shores have to offer — including some really great shopping.

With a built-in captive audience of second-home owners, the Mid-Atlantic coastal towns offer a variety of home furnishings and accessories boutiques with merchandise that suggests a laid-back lifestyle without being overly beachy.

For me, no trip to the shore is complete without stopping into my favorite shops to see what's new. Here are a few that are worth a beach detour:

Boxwood Home 39 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. One of my new favorites, Boxwood Home is perfect for home decorators looking to create a calm, sophisticated look. The shop is the sort you could use to furnish an entire room and yet create the illusion that you had spent years acquiring pieces from different boutiques and stores. Accessories, art and wall decor, beds, books, candles, case goods, garden and outdoor decor, lighting and rugs are all carefully displayed. This small shop is big on style with some of my favorite makers, including Baltimore's McLain Weisand as well as Bungalow 5, Oly, Calista, Thomas Paul, and Modern Alchemy.

Carolina Street 40118 E. South Carolina St., Fenwick Island, Del. Celebrating its 19th year in business Carolina Street Garden & Home offers an excellent selection of garden containers, outdoor sculpture and accessories, fun home furnishings and accents, lighting, art, gifts and books. Some of my favorite pieces year after year are the antique garden statuary and urns, the unique painted cane furniture,and the always surprising array of interior accent pieces. With a background in selling high-end antiques and a degree in interior design, owner Dee Dee Phillips, along with her husband, brings a well-trained eye to the process of selecting each item offered for sale in the Fenwick Island store.

Circa Home 142-B Second St., Lewes, Del. Owners John Roman and Bill McGee, an interior designer for over 30 years, left Baltimore 10 years ago, retired in Lewes, and opened the antiques and home accessories boutique, Circa Home. Located in the Hotel Rodney, Circa Home provides an eclectic mix of small furniture, home accents,and art. From antique to vintage to nearly new, items are selected based on a "bit of history and a lot of character," says Roman. Culled from auctions and estate sales throughout the Northeast, the merchandise represents what Roman and McGee like, what is priced well and what they would proudly have in their own home. "We have a sign in our store that encapsulates our philosophy," says Roman, "Shop and enjoy the special delights found at Circa Home and no longer face the existential sadnesses of big-box stores."

J. Conn Scott 27 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. Building on the success of their 35,000-square-foot Selbyville showroom, the owners of J. Conn Scott recently opened a smaller boutique "showhouse" in downtown Rehoboth. It's in a vintage beach house just one block from the ocean on fashionable Baltimore Avenue. In business since 1924, J. Conn Scott has a solid reputation for great customer service and some of the finest home furnishings around. A third-generation family business, J. Conn Scott remains cutting-edge and offers the latest trends as well as classic staples. New to the boutique this year is the Lilly Pulitzer line of home furnishings, which evoke a signature sense of color and design. Also new, at least every week, are the room vignettes. "Our in-house designers refurnish the rooms regularly," says owner, Robert Scott, "so that there's always something new to see."

Jeff West Home 413 Rehoboth Ave.in Rehoboth Beach, Del. With a large selection of accessories, one-of-a-kind painted furniture and what owner Jeff West refers to as "decorative necessities," this is one of the newer home stores in Rehoboth. The shop's "Bespoke Beach" collection offers the opportunity to have furnishings customized to complement your decor. West, who did buying and visual merchandising for the Kellogg Collection in Washington for many years, has extensive experience with sophisticated home furnishings and accents. At his store, there's always something new to see, with vintage finds and new handcrafted pieces regularly making their way onto the showroom floor.

Josephine Keir at Home 102 Savannah Road, Lewes, Del. Located in historic Lewes, this shop, formerly At Home in Lewes, is a collaboration between interior designer Taylor Wells and Josephine Keir, who for over 25 years has focused on natural and organic village-made, small workshop-made and family loom specialty rugs that benefit the weavers and their communities. In addition to a large selection of beautiful rugs, the shop also offers everything you need to furnish a home, including a carefully selected collection of merchandise from such high-end makers as Jamie Young Lighting, Thibaut wallpapers and fabrics, de Gournay hand-painted wallpapers from England, Currey & Co., and Palacek, as well as local favorites Niermann Weeks and Salvations.

Mark Showell Interiors 59 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. Just blocks from the ocean, this is a showroom and interior design firm all in one. For a classic, timeless designer look, the showroom offers a hand-picked selection of hard-to-find items and antiques. Adding to their already great selection of top brands are several new home furnishings and accessory lines, including Ralph Lauren, McKinley Leather, Caspari, Imperial Court, and Juliska — and there's always a new selection of antiques. Last fall, Showell traveled to France and England and came back with a selection of classic European antiques, many of which are on display in the showroom. For vacationers not planning to visit Rehoboth, a small satellite store in Denton, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, might be more convenient.

The Rooster's Nest Bayville Shopping Center, Fenwick Island, Del. Bill Shoemaker and Sally Walsh just celebrated their fifth anniversary as co-owners of Rooster's Nest — think French country boutique, but at the beach. The shop offers a selection of well-priced gifts, home accessories and furnishings. Country French as well as classic European and American merchandise is selected to complement the beach style without being "beachy." Among the many beautiful items, shoppers will find unusual lamps, French reproduction furniture, a nice mix of painted furniture, luxury linens, and hand-painted French and Italian ceramics. "For the past few years we've been selling more and larger furniture than when we started out," says Shoemaker. "Right now, we are carrying more accent furniture than ever before."

Dennis Hockman is editor of Chesapeake Home + Living magazine. He can be reached at dhockman@tribune.com.

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