TREASURES THAT INSPIRE

BY ROBIN HOWARD | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

One of the best things about Charleston is that there are so many magical places tucked away down side streets. The Red Dresser in Mount Pleasant is one of those places. This is a unique consignment shop with a focused aesthetic and a carefully curated selection that is more than a little fun to browse. The shop is located on Shem Creek just down the street from The Shelter Kitchen off Coleman Boulevard.

Proprietor and curator Paula Moland has always had a passion for vintage and antique furniture. When she tragically lost her husband and son in the same year, a friend suggested she open a furniture consignment store as a way to find joy in life again. Moland loved the idea, and the Red Dresser was born.

Much of the shop’s inventory comes from Old Village or downtown homes that are undergoing renovations. The result is a fabulous collection of high-end, design-oriented furniture that will make you want to redecorate your entire house. And the prices are so affordable you could pull it off!

The shop itself is surprisingly spacious, with a cozy and elegant warren of rooms winding through the building. The atmosphere encourages a slow exploration of curious objects, and a mental rearranging of furniture in your own home as the treasures unfold, so take your time.

While I’m in the store, I fall in love with a tall, thin 1852 Morbier clock from Wales that has a beautiful, warm wood patina. Nearby is a red 19th-century Chinese wedding box formerly used to hold a dowry of clothing, food and money. It’s the perfect conversation piece to spice up a drab corner. Tucked against the wall is a chic stainless steel and glass table desk from a Coach store— oh, the possibilities! In the main room, there are several stately antique armoires in excellent condition. Add some Belgian linen sheets, a bouquet of dried lavender and you’ve got an enviable linen press. The armoires are at such affordable prices I have to verify they’re correct.

“We turn over the entire shop once a month,” Moland says. “That way things stay fresh.” That also means excellent deals for savvy decorators.

Moland and I agree that French style works flawlessly in Lowcountry homes. It’s clean and crisp, without the kitsch of nautical or wall-to-wall coastal décor. The Red Dresser has plenty of French-style furniture and accessories, but these aren’t reproductions—they are pieces with stories of their own. Moland has an affinity for French flea market style, so much so that she’s planning to lead a treasure-hunting trip to the famous Paris flea market Marché aux Puces next year. This year she’s planning a tagalong trip to the German Christmas Markets in early December.

Not unlike the furniture Moland chooses for her store, there is a deeper dimension to The Red Dresser. The shop partners with Magdalene House, a nonprofit sober-living home for women in Summerville. You’ll find beautiful jewelry, leather goods, home fragrances and skin care in the store from socially minded vendors, such as Thistle Farms and Fashion & Compassion. Moland’s compassion is also evident in a stack of Mothering Addiction books by the front door. The book by Richmond resident (and loyal consigner) Linda Harrison Hatcher tells her insightful story as the mother of a child who struggled with drug addiction.

“We’re a store as eclectic as the community we’re in,” Moland says.

The Red Dresser has a new website that allows shoppers to browse and buy online. In a genius move to solve the logistical problems of consigning, the shop offers free local pickup and delivery one day a month.

Right now The Red Dresser is a hidden treasure. However, with an expertly curated selection of vintage and antique furniture, makeover-friendly prices and a big heart for the community, it isn’t likely that The Red Dresser will be a secret for long.

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