Home & Garden

Designs on redesigning

Redecorating at a time like this may seem frivolous. But Julie Moore of Willis & Bennett in Arroyo Grande strives to find ways to make home decorating more practical.

“Customers aren’t buying just to buy things anymore,” she explained. “Everything has to have a purpose.”

Julie and husband Greg opened Willis & Bennett in 2003, selling mostly high-end antiques that they hand-picked and imported from Asia and Europe. They still travel abroad on shopping trips, but they aren’t returning with full containers of goods these days.

Instead, they have added boutique items like jewelry, scarves, handbags and gifts. They have also expanded their lower price-point home décor items. You’ll find small dishes to embellish a wall or accent table, starting at $4.50. Small vases for fresh or dried flowers are available for under $20. A pair of stone urns imported from Europe, usable as vases or bookends, sell for $40.

They’re even hunting down bargains on larger-scale items. They recently imported a container of European-style wall mirrors from China. A three-by-four foot mirror can make a big impact for $150.

Always adept at finding novel uses for antique finds, the Moores are now concentrating on creating functional items for the home. Antique wooden boxes from China become small accent tables with the addition of legs — ideal for a small hallway or foyer. Old porcelain vases and silver teapots are wired to make lamps. “We just add a new twist so the piece becomes really usable,” said Julie. “It’s still old and unique, and nobody else will have anything quite like it.” Willis & Bennett’s design services have skewed toward re-designing lately, as people are striving to find new ways to use what they already own. They’ve tailored their inventory to mesh with this trend. They’ve added a new line of washable, cotton throws in a variety of colors that can make over a neutral sofa in seconds. Firm believers that floral arrangements can lift any room, they offer custom artificial arrangements. During the holiday season, they sell ready-made wreaths, table arrangements and fully-decorated miniature artificial Christmas trees. Willis & Bennett still offers Asian and European antique furniture and has even made these pieces available online. Although most would consider these items an investment, Julie believes they will always be a fundamental component of any home.

“Even if you have a modern room, you add one antique piece in, something creative and different, and the look is more designer, less cold,” she said. “I think antiques will always have a place in the home, no matter what style you like.”

Willis & Bennett is located in the Village of Arroyo Grande at 134 East Branch Street, 474-6300.