A BOUTIQUE UNLIKE ANY OTHER

BY ROBIN HOWARD | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

There’s a new boutique on King Street, and its mission is to surprise and delight you. Artsy Abode takes this mission seriously, and it doesn’t dillydally— starting with the wall of clocks.

There are unicorn clocks, bear clocks, mermaid clocks, dog clocks, fish clocks, cat clocks, coffee clocks and so 178 CSD many other kinds of clocks that you’ll get sick of me saying “clocks” before I get to the end of the list. These are wonderful, whimsical timepieces from the mind of designer Michelle Allen. Each is under $70, and Artsy Abode is the only place you can buy them. If you do buy one, shipping is free.

By the way, it’s nice that visitors don’t have to haul their souvenirs around, but more to the point, locals can work the system and send gifts elsewhere for free. Wink, wink. You’re welcome.

Artsy Abode is the love child of Leah Lytle. Since 2005, Lytle has developed 21 other distinct boutiques in Florida, so she’s had plenty of experience getting the wow, ooh and aah factors just right. However, the boutique on King Street is her only store outside of Florida. “I visited Charleston on vacation last year, and I just fell in love,” she says. “Charleston is a cultural mecca, with great food, history and beautiful architecture.” Lytle started looking for a space to rent right away, found it in February and opened the store in March.

Artsy Abode owes its uniqueness to Lytle’s buying philosophy. She finds unusual things that she loves, and then commits to nurturing and supporting the designer or artisan. Because she carries a broad range of products from a designer or artisan, the store feels like several mini-stores gathered in one place.

Lytle’s first love is a line that launched her flagship store in Jacksonville: Sticks Art Furniture, a Des Moines-based company that creates bright, happy, whimsical furniture, frames, art, mirrors and accessories. Sticks is still a big part of the heart and soul of her stores.

Lytle takes great pride in pointing people to Sticks’ line of lazy Susans—colorful turntables that add color and character to your dining table. Each is hand carved and painted in a seven- step process that ensures it is heirloom quality. Lytle and the artisans at Sticks worked with local Charlestonians to create a unique Charleston version that features stylized icons of all of our favorite places and things.

You’ll be happy to know that Artsy Abode also specializes in mermaids. Lytle has her own brand of Mer*Made custom T-shirts, socks, jewelry, home décor and more, decorated with everyone’s favorite fishy fem. Lytle is so excited about mermaids (and who isn’t) that she named two of her stores in Florida “So Mermazing.”

Looking for the much sought-after embroidered Charleston pillow? Look no further. That famous, coveted pillow comes from catstudio in Petaluma, California, and Artsy Abode has it. The pillow takes an artisan at least 40 hours to hand stitch a design that features Holy City landmarks artistically rendered in colorful thread. Even though the pillows are handmade and heirloom quality, they are under $200. If that’s too stiff for your budget, go for the same design on a fun, retro dish towel.

Artsy Abode also carries items from Alex and Ani, Simply Southern, Spartina 449, Life is Good, Nora Fleming and other favorites. Designed to be much more than a souvenir shop, the boutique carries women’s and children’s clothing, jewelry, art, accessories, gifts and home décor. When you find something you love, Lytle offers free or easy shipping, so you don’t have to schlep your treasures home on a plane, boat or in the trunk of your car.

“I love the fact that I’m always surrounded by people who are in a vacation mindset,” Lytle says. “It’s one of the most delightful experiences to be around people who are having a good time.”

It’s entirely possible some of that good-time vibe can be attributed to the transporting experience of browsing at Artsy Abode.

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