A presence in Charleston’s design community for more than a decade, Matthew McLaughlin decided it was time to put down some roots of his own. The former showroom manager at Circa Lighting partnered with his parents to set up shop after renting space in Antiques of South Windermere for the past four and a half years. Located in South Windermere Shopping Center, Well Furnished is a home furnishings boutique that features a curated selection of period and new furniture, original artwork, classic lighting and distinctive accessories.
When you walk through the door, you’ll notice that Well Furnished feels more like a home than a retail store. Since customers include discerning designers and decorators as well as first-time home buyers, the McLaughlins strive to fill their space with pieces that aren’t mass-produced. “We don’t discriminate stylistically,” McLaughlin says. “Each piece is hand-selected for its beauty and unique character.” The shop offers a continuum, ranging from century-old antiques to high-quality reproduction pieces and even newly minted designs. Beauty aside, he adds, “We focus on structural integrity and functionality.”
Despite the obvious air of sophistication and quality, everything in Well Furnished is attainably priced. “I’m a big believer that just because something looks rich, doesn’t mean that the average person should have to go broke to get it,” says McLaughlin. Thanks to this philosophy, inventory does not last long. Customers who visit regularly find fresh arrangements of décor every two to three weeks. They can also choose from a selection of smaller gift items— perfect for housewarming, hostess or holidays gifts.
You will find stunning turn-of-the-century antiques that McLaughlin has combined with more modern accessories in such a convincing way that you can easily envision them in your own home. He has an innate ability to juxtapose styles in unexpected ways—the contemporary with the classic, the quirky with the conventional, the serious with the whimsical. A Scottish demilune sideboard is paired with modern butter-yellow glass lamps, gilded metal tables are matched with rich wooden armchairs, and a colossal Austrian hall cabinet frames a freshly reupholstered sitting area. “People are furnishing their homes with more eclecticism than ever,” says McLaughlin. He says they achieve this by presenting traditional décor in a modern context, much like he does in the store.
If you’re having trouble visualizing a piece in your home, Well Furnished offers a 48-hour approval option. “I want our customers to make really well-informed purchases that they’re comfortable with,” says McLaughlin. “So I encourage them to take the piece home and live with it for a couple days before committing, so there’s no buyer’s remorse.”
McLaughlin understands that interior design, like fashion, has a cyclical nature. Rather than giving in to the latest trends entirely, he chooses to anchor his shop with classic products that transcend time. “Wood imparts a lot of warmth,” he says. “One charming old piece adds a richness to a room that just can’t be achieved any other way.” McLaughlin also emphasizes the importance of adding a living touch to a room with fresh flowers or greenery. This, he says, softens a room filled with more formal furniture.
His eye for design was cultivated from a young age. McLaughlin recalls memories from his childhood in North Carolina of going to auctions with his parents and working in his mom’s design studio. With the opening of Well Furnished earlier this year, it only made sense to keep it a family affair. While McLaughlin manages the store on a daily basis, his parents— who still reside in North Carolina—are able to consistently seek out new inventory.
Cheryl McLaughlin, the family matriarch, is a creative soul to her core. She has left her touch throughout the store with vibrant, hand-painted, abstract canvasses that add the finishing touch to each vignette. A former economic development consultant, her husband, John, adds balance to the equation with a practical business-minded perspective.
A collective effort of each of the McLaughlins’ strengths and combining their lifetime of expertise, Well Furnished is a charming addition to an already stylishly renowned city. “Your home is a reflection of who you are,” says McLaughlin. “It doesn’t get any more personal than that, so we keep that in mind with everything we do and offer.”
Ashley McGee is a freelance writer and marketing professional living in Summerville, S.C. Visit her at ashleyrmcgee.com.