An enclave of creativity is blossoming in central Mount Pleasant and putting the once sleepy strip leading to the beach on the map—literally and figuratively. Anchored by The Boulevard—a sleek apartment complex that offers a host of mixed-use amenities—Coleman Boulevard’s revitalization has brought new life to the area, creating something of a design district for folks hunting for Lowcountry chic with an urban edge. Replete with restaurants, boutiques and upscale shops, Coleman’s reimagined “Main Street” setting accommodates both vehicles and pedestrians with ample parking and tree-lined sidewalks.
Stephanie Poe is a newcomer to the pack of home stylists here, pushing the creative envelope with unique concepts for the home, but she’s hardly a newcomer to her trade. A 20-year veteran of all things painterly, she claims the first time she picked up a brush, she knew she was destined to paint.
“I had just moved to Charleston,” recalls Poe, “and was very fortunate—my friend’s husband was a contractor. I’d done decorative work in their nursery and he said ‘dang that girl can paint!’” Doors opened for the artist, who’s grown her skill set to include original and faux art, trompe l’oeil, lime plasters, flooring and furniture. “He sent me clients looking for mahogany wood graining, so I taught myself to do it—and fell in love with it!”
Poe’s formal training began with Canada-based Mike MacNeil, a master decorative painter whose wood graining and marbling techniques have won him worldwide acclaim. She continued her training in Rome, studying the historical technique of Italian lime plastering.
“I have a passion for learning centuries-old crafts and translating that knowledge into artisanal finishes for the 21st century,” explains Poe, who later followed up with a trip to Venice for a more in-depth understanding of plastering. “The plasters and colors are made from the earth, reflecting subtleties that differ from region to region.”
A trip to the venerable city of Versailles, also known as the French home for decorative art, expanded Poe’s portfolio and parlayed her wood graining and marbling skills into the next level. There, at the elite school of Jean Sablé, she learned the technique of painting trompe l’oeil—“deceive the eye” en français.
“I spent a month with two world-class artists who had two very different painting styles,” notes Poe. “Sablé, who has a very delicate hand, and Pierre Finkelstein, who uses very bold, large brushes.” She studied the nature of marble and how it’s quarried in order to make it appear carved and three-dimensional. While in Versailles, she also had the opportunity to study the architectural techniques within the treasured palace.
With a joie de vivre that is contagious and an endless stream of energy, Poe outlines her 10-year plan, at the center of which is a new studio that reads like an art gallery. “It’s my room to grow, a place for my clients and architects and other professionals I work with to come to and view what I can do.” The airy space is flooded with light, revealing stunning hand-painted floors, custom lighting and artwork and one-of-a-kind furniture pieces she has designed and decorated.
Contributing to the collaborative effort is daughter Ashley Poe, who designs jewelry adorned with beadwork. Her hand-painted beads and stones add a special touch to her mother’s refinished light fixtures and chandeliers.
“It’s the finishing piece for a room,” says Poe. “A little of me and a little of her coming together in a work of art.”
Stephanie Poe Artistic Design is a living, working studio where ideas and imagination find expression in concrete objects with form and function. “We can design just about anything,” says Poe. “I get inspiration from anything that has to do with the home. The clients I adore are the ones who want to have an artful home—and I deliver that by taking everything I’ve learned all over the world to a new level.”
Look online for the fall grand opening celebration of the studio, and come meet the artist herself.
Wendy Swat Snyder is a freelance writer and public relations consultant based in Charleston. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.