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Photograph by Curtis Cartier
Something old, something new: Locally made Nuala purses hang around with English teacups and midcentury Russel Wright ceramics at Stripe.

The Curated Domicile

Three design stores bring a new esthetic to the home front

By Jessica Lussenhop

What you find in three distinct new Santa Cruz shops--eclectic and whimsical home décor cherry-picked from flea markets all over the country--directly reflects the homes of the business women who run them. The best part? The sophisticated and stylish minds that built the stores' collections are for rent: each is also an interior design business, so you can bring each shop's unique look to your own home without having to be a denizen of décor yourself.

At Saffron & Genevieve, owner Colleen Hickey provides her customers access to a unique, one-of-a-kind home-decorating tool: her instincts. "I've just thrown things together that are interesting to me," she says. "It totally comes from my gut." That can make describing her aesthetic a little tough, but the style of her Soquel Avenue shop is best approximated as modern urban country. "I do like very simple English and American antiques. I also like the primitive stuff that farmers would have," she says. "I just don't get anything from the new stuff. I don't get any soul." Simplicity and whimsy run constant in her collection--as does the predominantly muted palate, heavy on the white--culled from antiques fairs and flea markets in Texas and Alameda. Hickey reimagines rusty gates as message boards and even gave an old mounted deer's head a coat of white to take him from rumpus room trophy to otherworldly artwork. She'll also make an exception for well-made new products--from ceramic makers Juliska or scent masters Votivo--that fit seamlessly into an antique context. "I really think this is sort of the way things are going. More recycling, antiques, anti-Pottery Barn, all the mass-produced stuff that's horrible for the environment," she says. "The future is all antiques and stuff you make up yourself."

For Suna Lock, an interior designer with 13 years of experience, her new store Stripe was an epiphany. Lock was already feeling a bit creatively stifled when she decided to clear out the clutter in her Santa Cruz home. "I was just selling all the crap from the basement, stuff I'd bought from flea markets, and had this amazing day. I made a grand and talked to all of the neighbors," she says. "I realized there are so many people in this town that get it. It is quite an artistic community." She teamed up with Dana Norrell, a recent UCSC graduate and professional fashionista, and began scheming. Fourteen months of serious synergy later, Stripe opened its doors in March with a mission. "This is a one-stop shop for all thing gorgeous," she says. "It's sort of a carefully curated, hand-picked collection of beautiful things for you and your home." The cumulative effect is midcentury glam with an earthy soul. Old advertisements, rustic cabinetry and midcentury chairs skimmed from estate sales pair with playful elements from Lock's own possessions, like her skeleton key collection, which now adorns the Stripe sign. "In some ways the store is a manifestation of my alter ego. If I lived on my own in my home, that's how it would be," she says.

Anne Bruns Richardson is a graphic designer, and it shows in her Westside shop Storefront & Studio. "I'm not afraid of color," she says, gazing at the bold graphic upholstery on a set of vintage Danish chairs. "Everything is either sustainably made, vintage, or things so well-made they can be kept for a long time," she says. "They're not based on trends. You can pass them down." Each item in the store is hand-picked by Bruns Richardson to fit her "useful, playful, beautiful" mantra, including shiny green vintage California pottery or chairs made entirely from recycled aluminum. She uses old instructional science posters from the '50s as wall art and bold yet practical floor coverings by eco-friendly carpet maker Flor. She is particularly fond of flea markets in North Carolina and Chicago, where she uses an eagle eye for panache to separate the tired from timeless. She partners with Kathleen Schaffer, a landscape designer with a similarly mod design aesthetic, making their airy studio workshop just behind the storefront a homeowner's style mecca. "I work really hard to make sure each and every item is here because it said something to me," says Bruns Richardson. "My taste is a little quirky."

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