Charleston's design scene is booming. A number of artists, designers and chefs call the charming South Carolina city home, and where there are creative minds, good design follows. The restaurant scene has been hot for some time, and with all the vibrant vacationers and visitors to the area, art and design is becoming a reason to visit. Located in a former cigar factory, Sarah-Hamlin Hastings has opened Fritz Porter, an antique and design center that welcomes the retail client and interior designer, featuring small boutique textile lines, antique dealers, local artists work, and more, rooted in traditional decorating with a youthful feel. I recently caught up with Sarah-Hamlin, an interior designer who began her career in New York City, and she filled me in on what she set out to achieve with this new Charleston design destination. Next time you are there, visit 701 East Bay Street to shop.
How did Fritz Porter come to be? What was your vision for it?
I envisioned a place where one could walk in and the work was done for you: Antique dealers who were hand-picked for their varying aesthetic, art dealers who represent a wide range of genres, and small, boutique fabric, wallpaper and lighting lines that cannot be found anywhere near Charleston. I wanted a resource for designers, yet be open retail customers. It is a hybrid representing the best of the trade-only showrooms that offer upholstery, lighting, fabric and wall coverings, the finest source for unique antiques and collectibles, and a gallery for original contemporary art. While we welcome retail customers who want to have a resource for unique furniture, lighting and fabric, yet we protect trade pricing so we can serve as a resource for designers in the area.
Why was now the time to do this?
After moving back to Charleston after many years away, I realized when I was renovating my own house that there were very few places to shop for your home. We are 5+ hours away from the nearest designer showroom, and sourcing things was quite inconvenient. Serendipity would have it that this fabulous old cigar factory had just begun a massive, yet thoughtful renovation. It offered not only a a fantastic space for such a showroom, but a great location and plenty of parking. It was time to jump in the deep end…..
What does the name Fritz Porter mean?
My maternal aunt and uncle, Porter Aichele and Fritz Janschka are two of the most progressive, intelligent, creative people I know. They are the inspiration and namesake of this endeavor, the Fritz Porter Design Collective… A unique retail concept that bridges the gap between the beautiful traditions and history and provocative, sophisticated design. Just like Porter and Fritz….
Where did you begin when planning what you wanted to assemble?
A couple of years ago, I literally took a legal pad and a stack of shelter magazines and a back log of design blog posts, and I made a list of people who I thought would make a good fit as part of a design collective in the Charleston market. Then I hit the road…..I met with everyone I could, asked a lot of questions, took notes, and eventually culled the group down two 12 antiques dealers, 3 furniture lines, 9 fabric/wallpaper lines and 3 lighting lines. Each one is unique and each is new to the Charleston market. We opened Pandoras box….
Was there another design area or concept you used as your creative guide?
Not really. It was more of a hybrid of several different concepts. A traditional “antique mall”, a furniture/fabric showroom and an art gallery. I also wanted to be open to retail customers rather than becoming a “trade only showroom” Of course we also want to be a resource for interior designers and architects, so we protect all trade pricing on our lines. .
Tell us about Charleston. What is the design scene like now, vs how it was 5 or 10 years ago. What's changed?
Charleston has always been a destination for visitors interested in history, architecture and design. But this was focused primarily on historic preservation. In recent years the city has rapidly grown more progressive, and is being recognized as the gem that it is. It started with the food scene—we have some of the most amazing restaurants in the country. And then it moved to the art and fashion scene, yet the interior design element took longer to catch on. When I first moved back to town from New York, I was shocked that there were not places to shop that represented the level of taste and sophistication that Charleston emulates, so I sought out to change that.
What do you want people to think of when they think of shopping at Fritz Porter?
Confident, intrigued and most of all, inspired
A display wall highlights decorative accessories in this dining area niche with an Apparatus fixture hanging from above
The Atelier, shown above, is a display area that will feature different designers and artists work every few weeks
A mix of vintage, retro pieces sit next to English antiques and assorted accessories
The spaces are cross merchandised and there is a real sense of discovery in shopping the different vignettes
I love th rusticated mix of textures in Rogue Antiques area
The textile assortment includes boutique fabric collections from Rebecca Atwood, Madeline Weinrib, Studio Four NYC, Holland and Sherry, Maresca Textiles, Halsey Spruce, Ann Jackson and Coleman Taylor
Madeline Weinrib brings her exotic global textiles that provide a worldly assortment of bold pattern and fabulous color
My friend Katie Barbatsuly has joined Fritz Porter, sharing Moffett Home, her vintage finds culled from buying trips around the country. Her eye picks up on great materials and punchy designs with personality. Her other locations are in Delray Beach and Quogue on Long Island.