THE COOLNESS FACTOR

BY ROBIN HOWARD | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

DesignColemanVer3

Before I can even sit down, Stephanie Rhodes is pounding the table with an elegant fist. “Where’s Bill?” she asks, apropos of nothing. “Everybody has a Bill Murray story but me and, frankly, it’s a little sad.” With Rhodes, this is a typical encounter. Whether you just saw her the day before or it’s been a year, every interaction is a zero to 60 wild ride through funny, intelligent mini-conversations that can cover anything from art, furniture and pizza to Charleston culture and the Bill Murray-shaped vacuum in her life. It’s delightful.

Rhodes is the owner of The Coleman Collection, a Mount Pleasant furniture consignment store with a cult following. The cult following is due in large part to Rhodes and her trademark wit and wisdom.

Whatever design coup you are planning in your home, she is all for it. Mid-century modern sofa with an oriental coffee table? Brilliant! Pair those retro Eames chairs with a botanical Anthropologie sofa? Yes!

“I think dining rooms are stupid,” I confess to her. “I really just want a wine bar in there.” “Right!” Rhodes says, as if I’ve just voiced a deeply important truth. I didn’t even know I was thinking that about my dining room, but now that I’ve said it, I feel free. And now that I feel free, I feel excited.

Rhodes’ specialty is giving her customers permission to make their homes comfortable instead of conforming. That’s why some locals come in the store once a week, and that’s why visitors and celebrities make annual pilgrimages to Mount Pleasant.

If Rhodes’ enabling attitude is half the equation, her design sense and commitment to keeping an ever-rotating stock of interesting pieces is the other. “Everything I accept for consignment has to have something special about it,” Rhodes says. “When someone emails photos of a piece they want to consign, I want it to make me say, ‘Oooooh.’ I love what I call the Random Coolness Factor. I’m not necessarily hunting for pieces I know will fly out the door.”

Some recent items that passed the Coolness Factor test: A wooden bench from a bus station in Tuscany, an antique French wine locker and an iron Alice in Wonderland bed frame handmade by an artist. These are the types of things that give a home personality and depth. “People shop here because they never know what they’re going to find. It’s exciting because every visit is different,” Rhodes says. “I tell people to buy what they like then take it home and make it work. The end result is more tailored to them, more personal.”

Coolness Factor aside, the store also offers deep discounts on brand new, rare and valuable furniture, art and accessories. To wit: An original 4-by-5-foot Lee Reynolds abstract is priced at $550. Collectors browsing auction sites will pay over $3,000 for similar works. A brand new Edelman leather club chair and ottoman are tagged at $1,000. You’d pay over $3,000 for the leather alone. The Coleman Collection also has Oriental rugs, antique and new chandeliers, dining tables, sofas, accent chairs and more.

The Coleman Collection is more than just a consignment store, though; it’s an experience. Rhodes sums it up perfectly: “You never know what you’ll find in the store,” she says. “And you never know who you’re going to run into. This is just a sweet, small town. You may see your old elementary school teacher, and you may see Frank Abagnale.” Hopefully, you’ll also see Bill Murray.

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.