Stepping inside Shoppe NEAT is a dream fulfilled for best friends Jennifer Shelby and Darcia Smith.
After 20 years of friendship, careers and family, they decided two years ago to open the luxury interior design boutique in the Bannerman Crossing Shopping Center off Bannerman Road. They envisioned a space where modern and vintage pieces can complement each other and still represent the traditional and transitional styling akin to Tallahassee.
Yet, neither had formal training with interior design. Smith is a former chief of staff for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Shelby was a stay-at-home mom who previously worked as the office manager for the Florida Petroleum Council, a lobbying firm in Tallahassee.
“After about 20 years of doing different things, we were like, ‘Let’s do something fun together,'” Smith said.
So they did, even though it was a bold and impulsive move to venture out on their own. They both had an eye for refined decor and brands that resonate with others, especially family and friends of Shelby’s who sought her design touch that eventually sparked the idea to open a unique store.
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They’ve modeled the retail store as an interior design and lifestyle boutique featuring a wide and unique inventory: home furnishings, throws, pillows and accents that add personality to a room.
The idea is to offer items they and other interior designers would use on a client’s job to create a custom-design space. Items include the African Senufo stool ($298) and the teak erosion stands table ($3,698) that resemble rustic white painted logs.
It also offers clothing, such as the Cleobella Cecilia Shea Ankle Dress, a long flora dress with a stunning high split and ruching detail ($298) and the Pistola Rumor Channel Dress, a pale denim shirt dress ($198).
“It’s like your vibe you design your house with,” said Smith, referring to clothes and accessories. “You kind of see it in your outfits, too. It’s just been fun to take the store where we see ourselves going and growing and our clients. It’s been an evolution of our impulses.”
How Shoppe NEAT started
Shoppe NEAT works primarily with residential clients.
In addition to being designers, Shelby and Smith are helping their peers in the business community by offering exclusive access to home furnishings and accessories to other interior designers, architects, set designers, home developers and hospitality insiders to help them create custom spaces — a service only offered to business owners in the design and hospitality industry.
Shelby said the business works with other designers and artists by showcasing their items in the store.
Since its inception, the business has stayed busy. Smith and Shelby said they’re already booked through the fall and nearly for the rest of the year.
“Sometimes we’re able to take on smaller projects when people just want to refresh a room,” Smith said, adding some clients opt not to commit to a full service design. “You can come in our shop and just book some time with us, and we’re glad to meet with people so you can have a designer’s eye and look at furniture lines that we carry. We know that what we’re picking is something we can get behind.”
In November 2019, a few months before the world felt the COVID-19 pandemic’s full impact, Smith and Shelby got their first taste of reimagining a home as a team when they flipped a 3,500 square-foot home with four bedrooms in the North Ride area.
“If you saw the before and after, it looked like a completely different house after we left it,” Shelby said.
“So we were able to continue on the journey of working while everybody else was at home. We actually rented an office during the pandemic to get away from our homes because our husbands both came home. So we rented a small little space and moved our shop upstairs and a little loft commercial space.
Together, they’ve found their niche for creating spaces that reflect their client’s interests while bringing their professional background to the table.
“I would say we feel confident in our ability to manage a project, to quote a project, to walk clients through like the different phases of design that are, you know, quite emotional whenever you’re renovating or whenever you’re spending something that would be considered an investment in your home.”
Smith said many Tallahassee residents want to work with a designer and there’s growing demand for custom living spaces, adding she often here’s that in from other local interior designers.
When asked if the finished product is the most rewarding part of their work, both Smith and Shelby said working together was the best part. They work, travel and spend family time together.
“We say all the time if something happened, we will quit the business before we quit our friendship,” Smith said. “You kind of have to have that commitment to one or the other and ours is to our friendship.”
Contact Reporter TaMaryn Waters at [email protected] and follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.