Retailer Spotlight: Natalia Castillo and Escapada Living

Today, we are chatting with the owners of one of our favorite Candy Shop Vintage retailers Escapada whose bright colors and patterns already have us dreaming of a tropical vacation even though it is only the end of November. You can find some of our Candy Shop Collection pieces as well as our Charleston Rice Beads in their Escapada Signature Store in Mt. Pleasant, SC. We asked the owner and founder Natalia Castillo about Inc. Magazine’s second fastest growing company in South Carolina and the travels that inspire her prints and patterns.
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Natalia Castillo, CEO and owner of Escapada Living at home

1) I know you like to travel a lot to find inspiration for your colorful prints. What are you top three favorite travel spots? What is next on the list?

Yes, I love to travel! My favorite destinations are Brazil, Bali, and the French Riviera. Brazil is such a unique, vibrant country – the culture and lifestyle are full of energy, and my favorite cities there are Rio and Buzios. Bali’s natural beauty is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. From the beach to the rainforest, everything is bright, colorful, and tropical. Finally, the French Riviera is where I was first inspired to create the Escapada Living brand, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. With its beautiful coastline and chic style, its effortless elegance is hard to beat. “Escapada” means “escape” in Spanish, so it’s no surprise that those beautiful destinations have served as the inspiration for the brand!For my next trip, I’m heading to Peru with my niece – specifically Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. I have some family in Lima, and it’s a wonderful up-and-coming city that’s growing really quickly. With its vibrant colors and rich culture, Cusco is another incredible source of inspiration. Many of the people there still wear traditional Peruvian garb, which is full of amazing colors, textures, and details. I visited Machu Picchu years ago, and I have a feeling this time it will be completely different. Back then, everything was totally unregulated – you could wander around anywhere, and it was totally free to visit. It will definitely be interesting to see it again now, and I’m so excited to share such a special place with my niece.

 2) Did you always envision going into brick and mortar retail or is it something that happened organically?

It was always my plan to have a brick and mortar location that worked as an extension of the Escapada Living brand. My career actually began as a buyer for Macy’s department stores, so I’ve always been passionate about brick and mortar, and I had experience with retail in that format. I love having our own store, and it’s truly a place where the Escapada Living brand comes to life. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to connect with customers, hear their feedback, and see them interact with the brand. It makes my day when I see a happy customer get really excited about their new purchase!

 3) What are the other lines you carry outside of your own Escapada designs?

Our Signature Store is full of brands that complement Escapada Living and hang well with our line. We carry clothing lines like Tori Richard, Julie Brown, Just Madras, Gretchen Scott, THML, and Barbara Gerwit. For jewelry and accessories, we’re proud to sell several local brands, including Candy Shop Vintage! Our customers love the Charleston Rice Beads collection, and we also carry pieces from Hart Studio, The Tiny Tassel, Sangria, and more. Our store has completely different inventory than our website, so it’s been really fun to tailor its selection to fit our local customer.

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The Escapada Signature Store

 4) What is your most popular print?

We initially introduced our Jungle print for the summer 2017 line, and it became an instant favorite. It’s a fun, abstract palm print with a playful, hand-painted feel and lots of movement. We’ve created a few versions of it in different colorways, and will feature it in our upcoming resort 2018 collection as well. That collection will be available starting in December – just in time for a winter getaway!

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Our Charleston Rice Beads paired with a tropical Escapada ensemble

 5) Have you ever thought about venturing beyond apparel design into other products? What is next for Escapada (maybe for Spring 2018)?

I’d love to create an Escapada Living home collection with pillows, blankets/ throws, placemats, napkins, etc. Customers always tell us that our brand makes them smile every time they see it, and I think a home line would be a natural next step – extending that happiness beyond the closet and throughout the rest of the home.

For the immediate future, we’re thrilled to debut our new plus size collection for resort/spring 2018. This line, called Escapada Living Curve, features our best-selling styles and prints in sizes 0X-3X (numeric sizes 14-24). It’s been available to our wholesale retailers for a little while, but this is the first time that it will be sold on our website and in our store. Those new sizing options are truly an instance of “ask and you shall receive.” Customers kept telling us they were looking for more sizes in our clothing, and we couldn’t be happier that we’re able to fill that need now.

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An Escapada model in a summery Escapada dress wearing our Summer White Charleston Rice Beads wrapped as a bracelet.

 

Join Us for Small Business Saturday

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and we are celebrating at Candy Shop On Cannon. We’ve had almost three wonderful years in our shop and are really looking forward to three more! Tomorrow is a day to kick back, toast, maybe eat some doughnuts or drink a whisky sour. We will be offering 25% OFF storewide plus coffee and doughnuts in the morning and whisky sours all afternoon. Join us for the fun at 9 Cannon Street in Downtown Charleston!

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In case you can’t make it, or you don’t live here you don’t want to miss our on our whisky sour recipe – it can be found here in our blog archives. Mix up a few pitchers and you will be the toast of the party!

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Thank you to everyone who supports Candy Shop Vintage year round. We are extremely grateful to our friends and customers! xoxo

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A Gift That Gives Back

I am excited to share that we are bringing back our popular Kelly Green Charleston Rice Beads for a limited time this season. $20 from the sale of each Charleston Rice Bead Necklace in Kelly Green and $10 from the sale of each Charleston Rice Bead Bracelet in Kelly Green will be donated to the new MUSC Shawn Jenkin’s Children’s Hospital Campaign in Charleston, SC, thew new state of the art facility being built in Downtown Charleston. You can also visit their website and donate directly there and learn more about their mission and building project. Any one who has children in Charleston or has had the unfortunate experience of having to visit the MUSC Children’s Hospital, long or short term, knows what an incredible place it already is. But this new building and its facilities will continue to elevate the level of services they are able to provide to children around the country. We will be promoting this campaign in partnership with I Heart Radio and Y105 Charleston.

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Each necklace and bracelet comes in one of our Charleston Rice Bead bags with an insert card printed with a lovely illustration by local artist The Town Serif with a description of the partnership on the bag. This makes a great gift for any Charleston lover who also wants to contribute to the community. They will be available until Christmas or until we run out of inventory!

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Retailer Spotlight: Gwynn’s in Mt. Pleasant, SC

Marshall Simon, the owner of Gwynn’s in Mt. Pleasant was one of the first people I met when I moved to Charleston ten years ago. His well loved department store Gwynn’s, was hosting a charity run benefiting the MUSC Children’s Hospital called The Stiletto Stampede that I was participating in. His name is familiar around town and always associated with different philanthropic endeavors and Gwynn’s quickly became of of my go to stores that had a wonderful combination of local hospitality – he is almost always in the store greeting his customers – and sophisticated merchandising. You can find anything from local brands he supports to luxury bath and beauty products, high fashion lines and even vintage CHANEL handbags. When I started Candy Shop Vintage, Marshall was one of the first people I went to for advice and of course, to try to sell my line. Before he owned Gwynn’s, he was one of the sales reps for the original, vintage lines of Charleston Rice Beads ours are modeled after. He was the first person to tell me the story behind them!

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The entrance to Gwynn’s at 916 Houston Northcutt Boulevard in Mt. Pleasant.

Since picking up the Candy Shop Vintage line three years ago. Gwynn’s can hardly keep it in stock. I am so grateful for them as a retail partner and to have Marshall as a friend. So it seems only fitting they be the first retailer in our monthly retailer partner spotlight. It also happens to be their 50th anniversary and they recently underwent a huge renovation inside and out. He runs the store with his beautiful daughter Madison and I met with them this week to take a peek in the store and learn a little bit more about his successful family business.

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Marshall and Madison Simon, the owner and his daughter who jointly run the department store.

Any special pans for your 50th Anniversary year?

Our 50th Anniversary was actually on July 27th, but we will celebrate in September with a party at the store.

Has Gwynn’s always been in the same location?

No, Gwynn’s was in 3 other locations in Mount Pleasant, but has been here for the past 25 years in a spot that we own.

Was Gwynn’s your first venture into retail?

I bought this store 27 years ago, but I grew up in the industry and my family had a store in Greensboro, North Carolina called Laurie’s. It was very similar to Gwynn’s, so it’s always been in my blood. In my early days (after college), I was a wholesale manufacturer’s representative for women’s apparel and jewelry where I traveled and worked with stores in the South East. 

What is your favorite thing about owning a store?

I love meeting our interesting and talented clients. They all have such intriguing stories to tell. It’s always been fun getting to know these people. My talented employees makes it all worth while too.

Where do you do most of your buying?

Mostly NYC. A little in Las Vegas and Atlanta.

What the best selling small designers you carry/top three large brands you carry?

The top three small designers are Candy Shop Vintage, Leo + Sage, & Christy Jervey. Our top three larger brands are: Lafayette 148, Trish McEvoy, & Emenegildo Zegna.

What is your history with selling Charleston Rice Beads? (i.e. the original ones then ours)

In the early ’80s I worked for a large costume jewelry house selling rice beads, which was our most popular item, especially here in Charleston. 36 years later and I’m still selling rice beads!

Marshall told me how he used to walk up and down King Street selling the Rice Beads to almost every boutique Downtown. They were hugely popular in the Southeast until the original company making them was acquired and discontinued that line!

What is your favorite time of year/season at Gwynn’s?

Spring when everything comes alive, and also Christmas when business follows suit.

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Our Charleston Rice Bead display in the Gwynn’s jewelry department.

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I think this jewelry box is just about the right size for me…

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Thank you Marshall and Madison for having us! We’ll be back this holiday season for our annual Holiday Trunk Show just before Christmas. Stay tuned for the dates later this fall… Photos: Clay Austin

The Madonna Inn: A Vintage Inspired Retreat

For our tenth anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a trip to the west coast. We have a lot of friends in Los Angeles, but also I have been wanting to check out this totally crazy hotel that was recently featured on BuzzFeed called The Madonna Inn. We spent a few really fun days in LA catching up with friends and checking out the best LA spots like LACMA below (featured in an earlier post) and then rented a car (ironically we were given a pick up truck – they must have seen we were from SC!) and drove North up the Coast to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

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The drive from LA is absolutely beautiful, and doing it at the end of the day watching the sun set over the mountains was especially peaceful. You can read about the full history of the Inn here, but the short version is that it was built in 1958 (possibly one of my favorite eras in design) by a highway contractor named Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis as a retreat marking the halfway point in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. With Alex’s construction knowledge and his wife’s quirky and fanciful design sense they created a quirky, fabulous and unforgettable retreat.

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And when I say unforgettable, I mean that literally. Every single room is different – each has a different theme and its own unique features (you can see them all here). We stayed in two of the dozens of rooms (one each night) and both of them had glitter wallpaper which seemed to be a common thread in many of the room designs. There was a heavy handed use of pink – their trademark ice buckets are cotton candy pink and a bottle of their house champagne was waiting for us when we arrived.

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I am not sure if “romantic” is precisely the word I would use to describe the first room we stayed in – Carin – it was more like a spectacular pink palace or a ride at Disneyworld, in a good way. There was literally a huge gold cherub hanging from the lofted ceiling – this is the room frequently used as the bridal or honeymoon suite.
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This is the full view of the glitter wallpaper – I think this was one of the original 1950s features so the Madonnas gave the glitter wallpaper industry some big business.
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Every nook and cranny of the bathroom was consistent with the room’s theme – I especially loved the sort of damask pink and white ceramic sinks (where do you begin to source something like that?!):

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We ate at the Inn’s trademark restaurant, The Gold Rush Steak House, the exterior of which is lit with rainbow lights at night and the interior filled with winding, pink tufted leather banquettes and thick, floral pink hued carpet. They gave pink balloons to us and anyone celebrating something (which turned out to be a good portion of the restaurant) and (not pictured) was a dance floor and a live band which really made you feel as thought you had stepped back in time and had sort of a Dirty Dancing vibe (remember that mountain resort?).

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The food was all really good – classics like a baked potato wrapped in foil and filet mignon. But my absolute favorite thing was their trademark pink champagne cake, which is one of their many fabulous cakes you can buy to-go in their bakery which also caters weddings and events. I mean how amazing would it be to have the Champagne Cake as your wedding cake?

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After dinner, we had a drink in The Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge and I ordered this drink called “The Pink Cloud” which is basically how you feel when you are staying at the Madonna Inn. Oh, and it’s made with half and half… Their cocktail menu was pretty great, full of vintage favorites.

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The next morning we woke up to this pretty view from our balcony. We ventured over to the stables and took a trail ride which went up the mountain next to the inn

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Basically the whole Inn looks like a gigantic, ornate cake. It is sort of “Swiss chalet meets Boogie Nights meets The Parent Trap” in its aesthetic and time period.

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It was actually really nice to be back on a horse. I rode for years and I really miss it. The horses were all named after famous singers like Johnny (Cash) and June (Carter).

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And their pool and Spa, a more recent edition to the retreat, was the perfect place to cool off and relax after a trail ride:

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Our second room “Merry” was similar to the first room but a little bit smaller and less pink.  It was kind of like being inside of a bottle of champagne…

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I love their logo/coat of arms featured on everything from their wine to their ice bucket to their golf carts. And there were just touches of pink everywhere you looked – even the lamp posts were pink!

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But the thing I most wish I could have taken on the plane was the Champagne Cake. I will be dreaming about it until our next visit because for some reason, I don’t think I can easily recreate this at home:

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These are all my own photos, it was hard to even edit them down but I highly recommend just googling “The Madonna Inn” you will not be disappointed. Really, it was a magical step back in time – to a time and place that I didn’t even know existed! Madonna Inn loyalists, like a gentleman who joined us at the bar one night, go back again and again, staying in different rooms each time. They have their favorite cocktails and collect their signature, colored wine glasses and seemed to have been bitten by the insatiable need to experience the magic over and over again. It must be something in that champagne cake, but visiting definitely makes you want to come back for more!

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A Mad Fantasy Tea Party

This past Monday we had a spring tea party to launch our new Fantasy Garden Collection, a vintage inspired capsule collection and collaboration with New York based jewelry company Ciner. I don’t know if it is the recent release of Beauty & The Beast, spring in general, or the fanciful nature of this new collection but I have had a tea party craving for awhile now. Talented Charleston-based illustrator Daniel Velasco did our invites and we purchased teacups that doubled as party favors for all the guests and turned Candy Shop Vintage on Cannon Street into a tea room for the afternoon.

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Thanks to Ooh events, we were able to squeeze in seating for 18 people down the length of the store. We served Charleston grown tea from The Charleston Tea Plantation in three flavors – Charleston Breakfast, Peach and Earl Grey. Frampton’s Flowers provided some beautiful fresh ranunculus for us in shades of pale pink.

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Out tiered tea towers were brimming with homemade goodies from local bakeries and caterers – Hamby’s, Sugar bakeshop and scones from Wildflour:

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And one of the best details were the beautiful, hand painted unicorn macaroons from Mercantile & Mash:

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The centerpiece of our new collection, The Unicorn Fantasy Necklace:

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Our floral selfie wall was also a lot of fun:

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As were the unicorn horn party hats from Meri Meri party:

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I only slept about two hours the night before but still had a blast:

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Thanks to all who came and contributed to a magical afternoon in Charleston!

Some Bunny To Love

This weekend is Easter and this cake has been a long standing tradition in my house – both growing up and since I became an actual adult to make a coconut bunny cake. It was the first dessert I brought to the first Easter brunch we were invited to in Charleston. Even in the South amongst the stiff competition of easter puddings and the fruit trifles, this cake became a major topic of conversation. Something about it makes me and everyone who sees it just… happy. My cousins used to spend every Easter at our house and after tearing through our Easter baskets and several pounds of candy, this was the sugar high we looked forward to after Easter brunch just as we were coming down from our Peeps. I think the recipe was torn from some early 80s magazine and though I now have it memorized, I remember the way it was stapled to an index card in my Mom’s recipe box, We were fiercely loyal to the bunny cake – not so much for its flavor (although it is pretty good) but for its look, its texture and its comforting consistency of presentation year after year. The acid green coconut “grass,” the jelly bean eyes, the chocolate chip trim… My Mom would store it in what she referred to as the “cold closet” after it was prepared and the cream cheese frosting had a great chill to it when you finally dug in to it. It was even good as leftovers a couple days later with a cold glass of milk. It is remarkably easy to make… and of course, fun.

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Also, proof that I am not lying when I say I have been making this forever, this is me at age 7 or 8:

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What you need (for the cake):

  • A box of chocolate cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • vegetable oil
  • two 9″ round baking pans
  • two bags of sweetened coconut divided into three bowls
  • jelly beans
  • Twizzlers pull and peel
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips

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After baking two 9″ chocolate cakes (and banging them loose from the pan – Daphne’s favorite part) keep one fully intact for the “head,” then, cut the second cake in three pieces, the “bowtie” that is the middle part of the circle and the two “ears” that make up the negative space once you cut out the bowtie.

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All four pieces should then be carefully transferred onto a separate tray or platter. If it is not done perfectly, it is not a big deal because it all gets covered in icing.

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What you need (for the icing):

  • stick of butter
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 box of confectioners sugar
  • vanilla extract

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We always made it with cream cheese frosting (ingredients listed above, basic recipe can be found here). It seems to go best with the flavor of the coconut and chocolate once completed. The entire head, ears and bowtie should be covered in frosting. Then, take the white coconut first and cover all the frosting in a layer of white coconut. Once a layer of white coconut has been added, pink coconut should be used to fill in the ears and bowtie. (This should be made in advance in a separate bowl using red food coloring). Once sprinkled inside the ears and bowtie, use the chocolate chips (evenly spaced) to outline the pink areas:

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The most fun part is the last step… sprinkling the “grass” – the dyed green coconut – around the giant bunny head:

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And our finished bunny!

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Good enough to eat… Happy Easter!

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The New Fantasy Garden Collection

I am so excited to finally announce our collaboration with 125 year old jewelry company CINER and the Spring collection we have designed together, The Fantasy Garden.

Because CINER has been around for so long (over a century!) I became used to seeing their name and mark on one-of-a-kind vintage pieces I collected, like these fabulous giraffe earrings. The quality of their pieces is always unparalleled. Through a friend visiting Charleston, I came to find out that CINER was still manufacturing and producing their beautiful line out of their New York City showroom and factory. So, I flew up from Charleston, SC for a meeting with CINER V.P. Kris Ciulla and owner Pat Ciner to learn more. Needless to say, we all had a lot in common and it was absolutely magical to see their showroom and production facility where so many of my favorite vintage pieces had been born. We decided to come together to produce our own capsule collection with me pulling designs from their archives and refashioning them into a modern, whimsical collection with a candy colored color palate. And so our collaborative collection, The Fantasy Garden was born:

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The Fantasy Garden Collection is available exclusively through our website, our store and cinerny.com.

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On my two visits up there I say down with Pat and Kris and curated this collection of pieces which is a combination of Southern, botanical themes, one of their classic Ciner bees and an element of fantasy – the unicorn (based on a vintage brooch they once produced):

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Ciner has remained in the same family for all 125 their business as been operating. Pat Ciner, left, the third generation of the Ciner family, remains at the helm of the business which is celebrating its 125th year in 2017. It was such a pleasure working with Pat and her team:

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Their showroom is filled with beautiful pieces, new and old – a virtual treasure trove of costume jewelry complete with vintage advertisements dating back to the 40’s and 50’s.

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Behind their showroom is a full manufacturing facility with jewelry artisans who paint enamel, cast, and set stones by hand.

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Below, a member of the Ciner team dedicated to polishing pieces during production works on a design.

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We are thrilled with how the collection turned out! You can see it and shop it here. The wonderful combination of southern botanical influences and elements of fanciful creatures. All behind-the-scenes photography by Lydia Hudgens.

A Vintage Inspired Kitchen

Ever since we moved into a new house in Charleston last fall and have been sharing snippets of our home renovation on Instagram, there has been universal appreciation for our somewhat retro looking kitchen. So, I thought I’d share a few more photos. Not unlike the process I follow with designing jewelry, I tried to take the best elements of our vintage kitchen and bring them out with timely, but updated details. We left wonderful features like the breakfast nook, the original oven hood, the mint green tile (in the most perfect shade of mint I just cannot imagine we would find it again) and most of the solid wood built ins. We took out some of the worst features – the accordion door to the pantry, the dark paint, the chair rail molding and the old appliances. I did have to scrub the tile within an inch of its life but the bright white paint we used all over really helped make it look much more recent than it is (1948!). We also added these fun, retro custom height light fixtures from Schoolhouse Electric that I loved for their chic simplicity. Sarah Yoder’s contemporary painting brought from our previous house and reframed brightened up the breakfast nook perfectly and this fun, vintage pink dining set from Indigo Market (State of Grace Collection) in Charleston looks like it was always meant to be in our kitchen. Olivia Brock of Torrance Mitchell Designs absolutely nailed the paint colors and the updated yet classic brass hardware we put on all the cabinets. I loved working with her because she really honors the spirit and era of a house in her thoughtful, sophisticated selections. Here are the photos – if you scroll to the bottom of the post you can click see the “before” pictures too.

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We only removed cabinetry in two places – the wall behind the sink and the righthand side of the wall in between the kitchen and dining room. The later we did in order to open up a window to the dining room, which brought so much more light in and is great for serving. The cabinets above the sink were also removed to let more light in from that window and help it not to feel so boxed in. Also, I like seeing all my vintage glassware in display.

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The pass through window to the dining room probably made the biggest difference in feeling open. I also found those great, vintage pink storage canisters on Etsy and a new marble kitchen island really connects the space.

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I absolutely love the House of Antique Hardware knobs and pulls we went with thanks to Olivia. Plus, how great is the towel bar? We changed out the fixtures on the sink to gold (but kept the original, enamel sink). And Olivia was also able to perfectly match the paint on the side door – Douglas Fern Benjamin Moore – with the mint tile.

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Mix and match vintage glasses.

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Adding a glossy chartreuse to the swinging kitchen door was a fun detail.

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The island is so great for storage and giving us space to spread out when we are cooking.

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The original vintage hood is still amazing, it just needed a little cleaning. Our appliances are all new but from the GE Artistry collection that has a great vintage look.

As you can tell from the before photos (click below) the floors were also refinished. For a kitchen that had to be done quickly and on a budget I am really happy with the way we preserved the integrity and charm of its original design and updated only the necessary details.

click here for before photos