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Meet the Designer: Steven Shell

January 24, 2020

Steven Shell Living brings London-born designer Steven Shell’s eclectic designs to life with stores in both Charleston and Raleigh. Since they offer handcrafted and hand-finished pieces available for custom order, I got to work with the store to find the pieces that best suited my historic Charleston home. There are plenty of nautical influences to Shell’s designs, and it’s apparent that each piece is stunning and unique. Their furniture and accessories helped finish my living and dining space beautifully.

In the living room, your eye is immediately drawn to the turquoise coffee table. The oval coffee table is manufactured by Steven Shell Living and has a two-tone finish, which is available on many of their pieces. The brown wood finish on the drawer adds another layer of dimension to the table, effortlessly tying in the natural tones in my floors, sofa and rug. The oval coffee table retails for $574.

Continuing the turquoise pops of color throughout the room is the Montgomery Serving Cart. The cart is part of Steven Shell Living’s reclaimed line, which features furniture designs that are constructed using reclaimed wood. I love that the wood had a life before its purpose in my home and it looks so good in this Sea Mist finish. It matches perfectly with the coffee table, and it’s a nice addition to the Harrison Blackford painting on the same wall. Harrison Blackford is one of my favorite local artists, and she’s actually from my same small hometown of Spartanburg.

A good serving cart can be just the finishing piece you need in a living space, and it can serve so many functions! I’ve style mine with baskets, trays and vases made from natural materials in a neutral color palette to balance out the vibrant finish. This cart could make a good bar cart, hold trinkets and photos, or even serve as extra book or entertainment storage. Imagine it stocked high with gorgeous glasses or antique board games!

The Montgomery Serving Cart comes in two finishes, the Sea Mist color shown here and a natural finish. The Sea Mist finished cart retails for $792 while the natural finish retails for $756.

Opposite the sofa are two of Steven Shell Living’s Lind Island Lounge Chairs. A set of armchairs is a nice complement to a sofa, especially in smaller spaces. You can move around two chairs easier than a sectional or love seat, and these chairs from Steven Shell Living offer even more customization options. You can choose from a wide variety of custom color and fabric options that arrive in 8-10 weeks to finish these accent chairs.

I love the classical nautical look of the navy and white windowpane pattern. The almost rope-like design of the chairs themselves also adds some nice texture to the room in a way that’s both classic and unique. Plus, the padded arms make sure these chairs are comfortable as well as stylish! These specific models retail for $1260 each, but price varies by finish and fabric.

In the dining room, I chose these four Farringdon dining chairs manufactured by Steven Shell Living to go around our circular table. With an open floor plan like we have in our Charleston home, it can be hard to find the right size dining chair that look nice in the space without taking up too much visual space. Solid backed chairs can be clunky and awkward looking, especially around a smaller table like the circular one we have. The design of these Steven Shell Living Farringdon chairs fit perfectly and the geometric design is interesting yet delicate. There’s a classic sort of style to the look and it definitely goes with the rest of our interior design!

In addition to Steven Shell Living’s furniture pieces, they offer many unique and affordable accessories, including these blue ceramic ginger jars. Ginger jars are so iconic and bring a level of class to any space. I love them for styling on shelves, tables, carts, you name it! You can see I’ve tried them in a bunch of different spaces in my home, and they’re all great. These jars retail for between $28.74 and $60.73.

Interview with Steven Shell

I got a chance to chat with the man behind all of these pieces, Steven Shell, himself, to ask him a bit about how Steven Shell Living came to be and where he finds inspiration for his designs:

What brought you to Charleston?

I was living in Sarasota and was only supplying trade in Europe and the U.S. My daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, Paul, were my partners in the store and were living in London when Elizabeth became pregnant. I wanted them to be with me stateside, so I drove everywhere looking for a great place to live and open a store. It came down to Dallas and Mount Pleasant, but it was no contest. I loved the people, the beaches, and the history, and I felt our look would be appreciated in the market there. Coming from London, the feeling of King Street and the surrounding areas made me feel at home, and I think the beaches are the best in the world.

How did you develop Steven Shell Living? What inspired you to start your own design brand and store?

I visited approximately 100 other retail stores and decided to be the Anthropologie equivalent in furniture – cool, relaxed, and not mainstream.

We opened our first store with 6,000 square feet and doubled in size a few years later. About 18 months ago we extended the store space to 25,000 square feet. We also have a store in Cameron Village in Raleigh, which is used extensively in Love It or List It. We have become a destination with clients coming in from all over to see our unique store and our sales continue to grow.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Pretty much everywhere. I might see a chair leg in Russia and a motif on an antique front door in London and somehow try to blend these feelings and designs into furniture of my own.

What is the favorite piece or collection you’ve designed so far?

It changes yearly. Unfortunately, many of my favorites are not great sellers. I design furniture that I love as opposed to what may sell. Of course, the affirmation that people like something by buying it is great, but it’s not my main driver.

What is important to you when creating furniture?

The excitement of developing the product. It’s a long process – taking an idea, turning it into many drawings, getting samples made, coming to Java and seeing the samples in the raw state, tweaking them, selecting a finish, and seeing the designs laid out in our showrooms.

What makes your designs/furniture unique from other furnishing options available?

We use solid hardwoods, use only sustainable sources, and we plant a tree for every piece of furniture we sell. We have planted over 1.5 million treees so far. You can choose from approximately 120 color options for your furniture, our drawers are dovetailed. Most of our products are individually made and finishes are applied by hand.

What’s next for Steven Shell Living? What are your plans for the future?

Well, we have so much going on at present, so probably not a lot. However, I do love a project!

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