DESIGNING WOMEN

by WENDY SWAT SNYDER / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

FASHION CHANGES, but style endures,” said the iconic Coco Chanel. And that is exactly what the minds behind Coralberry Cottage strive to deliver—enduring style, your own, through a highly curated collection of furniture and locally crafted pieces in a design studio that’s service driven. With a fresh, hands-on approach to creating beautiful, livable interiors, three entrepreneurial women help bring your vision for a stylish home to life. Customers, cultivated over nearly a decade, return for their accessibility, creative solutions and unparalleled level of service. And for a Mount Pleasant shopping experience that’s just plain fun.

On a recent visit to check out new arrivals at Coralberry Cottage, I found co-owners Liz Baker and Rutledge Carter in a state of high anticipation. They were awaiting a phone call they hoped would clinch a deal to break ground on a new 3,000-square-foot showroom for their expanding business. 

“Our two new buildings are nestled by gorgeous live oaks. We are renovating a historical home into three charming corporate rentals and keeping architectural elements like the old exposed beams,” says Baker. “Our new 3,000-square-foot showroom will be as beautiful as our furniture it showcases.”  

“We’re very much looking forward to having a beautiful, stand-alone store in the heart of Mount Pleasant, designed for us,” says Carter. “It will have great visibility and more room for us to showcase outdoor furniture.”

Slated to open in July 2021 at 1135 Chuck Dawley Blvd., the new location will also feature Indigo Studios, a collection of three corporate studios—fully outfitted with Coralberry Cottage furniture—for short- and long-term rental.

Risky as expansion can be, the team believes they are destined to go on, and they remain optimistic despite the pandemic.

“We originally opened in the middle of a recession,” notes Baker with a smile. “We were successful then, and we’re going to beat the odds again.”

The idea for Coralberry Cottage sprang from a collaboration between Baker, a residential architectural designer, and future furniture partner Melissa Hempstead. It was 2008, and Baker had just designed a new home for Hempstead on Daniel Island. Met with a dearth of the coastal New England-style interior décor Hempstead was seeking, the two connected immediately. After a couple of additional projects together, and in sync, they decided they would parlay their shared love of design into a joint venture, and they opened shop in 2011. 

Baker’s love of all things reclaimed—think antique heart pine—has helped Coralberry Cottage evolve from its more traditional New England-influenced beginnings to a coastal cottage aesthetic.

“Beautiful, comfortable, livable,” declares Carter, pointing to a plump swivel chair covered in a lighthearted floral print performance fabric. “We carry product that is optimal for the whole lifestyle here—families with kids, dogs, living by the water.” 

The showroom is filled with furnishings for living areas, dining rooms and bedrooms that represent just 2% of available inventory. And Coralberry Cottage sources as much product as possible from the United States, particularly the Southeast. 

“We don’t go to the Atlanta market,” Carter is willing to share. “We feel that everyone in the Southeast goes there. We strive to offer product that is unique; we search out handmade markets, trying to find those little niche things that are artisanal and special.”

Carter notes that the company also has a reputation for its “small cadre of local artisans,” who supply the showroom with additional one-of-a-kind pieces, and it also offers solutions for customers who are having a hard time finding what they’re looking for.

“We provide guidance by diving in, asking questions, seeing if they have photos,” explains Baker. “We help them express their vision when they don’t know how to explain what they have in mind.”

Baker also brings to bear her architectural skill set, creating mock-ups of pieces using AutoCAD to help customers visualize and tweak a potential piece of custom-built furniture.

“I can really tailor furnishings to the dimensions of a home or a tricky area,” notes Baker, adding that these services are free for Coralberry customers.

And an especially valuable customer perk the team offers is remote interior design for out-of-town clients furnishing or redecorating a home. 

“We show them pieces and fabrics on FaceTime,” explains Carter. “Then we’ll ship swatches to them so they can have that tactile experience before ordering.”

She adds that the team also accommodates customers by offering private appointments. “We’re happy to accommodate anything—health issues—whatever makes them feel safer and better.”

Baker observes that unlike some design studios that can feel intimidating, people are very comfortable shopping in Coralberry Cottage. “It’s like going to your friend’s house to shop,” she says. “Our motto is similar to Translations Design, my architectural firm: Translating your ideas and dreams into reality.”

It’s style that’s uniquely yours. *

Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer.