Ajute-wrapped chandelier adorned with beads chosen by the customer. Drum shades wrapped in twine and edged with limpet shells. A brass sconce with long, long tentacles of painted hemp, looking like an exquisite jellyfish momentarily at rest.
These are the new looks of lighting at Ro Sham Beaux, which opened its retail flagship in July at 39 Broad St., in Charleston.
In 2009, founder and principal designer Ann Yancy thought she was creating the lighting line with her “mad money,” but immediately found she had to hire a production staff. Eventually, her husband, Will Rogers, not only took on the company’s management but also poured his own creative instincts into a complementary line of furniture and accessories.
“Casual luxury” is the look that evolved straight out of the décor of the couple’s own home—a modern, laid-back bohemian look that Yancy describes as “Venice Beach, California, meets Sullivans Island, South Carolina.”
The often natural, sometimes rustic, sometimes recycled elements merge in a look of decided elegance. “We’re obsessed with hemp and jute,” Yancy says, which looks amazingly fresh alongside velvet and gleaming metals.
Ro Sham Beaux’s historic Charleston location has taken a sharp turn from its origins as the home of Exchange Banking and Trust Company, circa 1891.
Yancy and Rogers compare the building (which had “dark, cavernous, old carpet”) to a dungeon. They ripped out the dropped ceiling and sprayed everything white, including the rafters, ductwork, walls and wood floors.
Left original, however, were the massive steel doors guarding the bank’s safe room. Now it’s a design center for customers who opt to design the beaded portions of their own fixtures—a concept unique in Charleston.
In place of safe deposit boxes, rows of glass jars line the walls, holding thousands of beads in various colors and sizes. Guided by one of three professional designers, a customer can select and string her own prototype strand, which the company will replicate to create the fixture.
Ro Sham Beaux also customizes lampshades in a variety of fabrics and finishes, from burlap to linen to black or metallic papers. “And we do tons of shades in the customers’ own material,” adds Yancy.
“As a Charleston-owned and -based company, we can customize everything,” she notes. Though Rogers’ furniture designs are manufactured overseas, “90 percent of the lighting is assembled here, in a 10,000-square-foot facility on Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.”
For Yancy, working in entrepreneurial fashion with her husband follows a pattern set by her creative father, a sculptor, and her business-minded mother.
After graduating from Portland School of Art, she worked as a jewelry designer in New York City. Her first major venture into lighting design, Y Lighting, was geared to both home and commercial markets.
Yancy met Rogers, a residential contractor, after moving to Charleston and establishing a studio on upper King Street. “We lived like bohemians for a while—in LA for a year, in New Orleans for a year (where Rogers built luxury homes) but Charleston felt like home,” she says.
In 2009, after the home building industry collapsed, Rogers told Yancy her time had come. “I developed the Ro Sham Beaux line in our basement on Sullivans Island,” she says. Since then, the company, with showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and High Point, North Carolina, has been featured in numerous high-end architectural and decorating magazines.
Yancy and Rogers are extremely pleased with customers’ responses to their entrée into retail sales. There’s much to see in the Charleston shop: a sinuous sofa in soft cotton velvet, artfully detailed; a carved console table that proved a hit at a recent trade show; iron tables and chairs, finished in gold-leaf or pewter, that can live indoors or out. Illuminating it all are the pendants and sconces and table lamps that first dazzled customers and made a name for Ro Sham Beaux.
Margaret Locklair is a Lowcountry writer and editor. firstname.lastname@example.org.