When Carole Marcotte started scoping locations a couple of years ago for the interior design store she planned to open, she noticed something.
The existing design stores in Raleigh were grouped in clusters, and she knew she wanted her store to end up somewhere on “this imaginary map in my head.”
But why, she thought, should the map be imaginary? And so the Design District Raleigh Map was born in 2013. The map, a printed brochure as well as a website, designdistrictraleigh.com, is now in its third edition, with a new version printed each June. Thirty-four businesses are listed on the current map: 28 locally owned stores that specialize in some aspect of interior design, along with six restaurants (“because when you’re shopping, you’re hungry,” Marcotte said).
Marcotte, who owns Form & Function just off Whitaker Mill Road, calls the map “a community-based joint marketing effort.” Simply put, she adds, “There’s strength in numbers.”
In addition to a dot on the map and a descriptive listing in the key below it on the brochure and online, Design District members – who pay an annual fee to be included – get frequent mentions on social media as well as opportunities to network with each other and with other designers in the area.
Marcotte had seen the idea of a design district work in other cities, including Los Angeles and Savannah, Ga., and believed the collaborative spirit of designers in Raleigh could make it a success.
“You don’t create competition with each other,” she explained. By raising the profile of locally owned shops and referring customers to fellow map members when necessary, “you’re creating goodwill and future sales.”
Even before Jeff Snyder, owner of Simon’s House Interiors, officially opened the doors of his store in Glenwood South earlier this year, he knew he wanted to be part of the Design District map he’d seen at shops around town.
“Being a new business, I wanted to make sure that I covered every avenue that I could – and also that I could afford – to make sure our name was out there,” he said.
Already, he said, he’s gained customers who found Simon’s House on the map, and he’s used the map to point people in the right direction when Simon’s House doesn’t have what they’re looking for.
“I’m able to circle it for them, maybe one, two or three places I think may be able to help them, and they’re able to carry that away with them and actually go visit those stores,” he said.
Eclectic Furniture and Décor has been in business since 2000 and has relatively good visibility for traffic passing by its bright green building on Wake Forest Road. But it signed on to the very first Design District map, co-owner Liz Ennis said, for the publicity benefits and more.
Ennis said she’s been able to network with other businesses on the map as well as with designers and other experts in town, which helps her better assist customers who come in for advice, even if that advice might lead outside Eclectic’s doors.
“Competition is a good thing,” she said. “You can’t be all things to all people. So when you give good customer service and you can recommend someone else in town who’s a small business owner like you, it’s only going to benefit everyone in the end.”
Even more valuable, she said, is the social media assistance that being part of the map provides.
“In a small business, you have to wear a lot of hats; sometimes time is your only enemy,” she said. “In this day and time where Instagram and Facebook and your own website have to be constantly evolving and reaching out, if you don’t have the time, they now are a resource for that.”
For Marcotte, the spotlight the map puts on locally owned businesses is its most important attribute.
“The focus of my business is kind of green, sustainable design,” she said, “so the greenest way you can do design is to shop local.” She likes that local shoppers can avoid the carbon footprint issues that come from ordering items from far away, and in design, she points out, it’s much better to see and touch and feel an item before you bring it home – something online shopping doesn’t offer.
Shopping locally, she said, is a great way to elevate the design of your space in a fulfilling way.
“When you want to add that layer of character and all the accessories, these are the places you want to go,” she said. “You can get it locally. You don’t have to shop online or via catalog – it’s all right here.”
Get the Map
To see the Design District Raleigh map, visit designdistrictraleigh.com, or pick up a printed copy at one of the locally owned design stores listed.
We asked designers from stores on the Design District Raleigh Map for their advice on elevating your design without leaving town.
What’s hot in home décor right now?
Several designers are finding ways to bring nature into indoor décor. Jeff Snyder, owner of Simon’s House Interiors in Glenwood South, has been using grasscloth wallcoverings, which also add great texture, he says. And sculptural wood pieces are another current favorite.
How can I up my design game for under $100?
Bridget Jadwick, owner of Cheshire Cat Gallery in Cameron Village, suggests keeping it simple by investing in one stunning piece. “Put it in a prominent place and feature your new acquisition much like the Japanese do or, for that matter, Frank Lloyd Wright. Buy a stand to put under it, if needed, to give a little height and more importance. You can also accent the piece by putting it under a lamp or pairing with a plant.”
A fresh coat of paint is another inexpensive way to change things up. Take a close look at your walls, says Ross Spain, co-owner of Acquisitions, and don’t forget you can use paint to transform your furniture, too, says Charlotte Smith of Studio 123 on Capital Boulevard.
“We always tell customers. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’” Smith says. “Meaning, if a customer already owns a quality dresser (or mirror, chandelier, etc.), there is no need to buy another one. Use what you have. Change the color – change the hardware. Be resourceful.”
If I want to bring a designer item into my home, what’s a good piece to start with?
Snyder from Simon’s House suggests a tray for a side or coffee table as a decorative touch that’s also useful. Smith from Studio 123 adds: “It absolutely depends on your style and budget. At the end of the day we only need to surround ourselves with what makes us happy. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Think about where you spend the most time. For many people it’s the living room or the kitchen. Think about a fabulous vintage Kilim (rug) or a great funky side chair or coffee table for your living space. In the kitchen: light fixtures, the breakfast table. Hunt for something that meets your style and your budget. The great thing about Raleigh is that it is full of great sources to find high quality, uniquely designed items at every price point.”