A Chat With The Ladies Behind Novel. Showroom

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It all began when creatives Lauren Lail and Jane Pope Cooper were struck with a novel idea to create their own temporary pop-up shop and showroom in Charleston, S.C. Five years later, and the showroom—aptly named Novel.—has proven itself to be far from temporary. It still serves as a showroom for creative businesses like Way Way Allen Art, Library by Lauren Lail and Bon Vivant Stationery.

With an über-positive vibe and light-filled open space, it’s easy to see why Novel. has fostered so much creativity. Whether it’s the collaborative atmosphere, the massive windows or the fact that it’s based in culturally-rich Charleston, all it takes is one look at the art that’s made there to realize that the studio is the ideal atmosphere for artists and entrepreneurs alike.

In case you haven’t guessed it already, the fifth and final part of our Charleston co-working space tour is all about the Novel. showroom. Feast your eyes on one of the most fertile cradles of creativity in the city.

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Library by Lauren Lail

Tell us a little bit about your design and selection process.

My design process is heavily textile driven. I almost always source my fabric first and then let that steer me toward what I sketch. I look at the hand, the weight of the fabric and then decide the shape.

How would you describe low-country women’s fashion? 

Women’s fashion in the low-country has really evolved. There is an artfully-minded style to dressing there with so many amazing designers, artists and creatives in Charleston. Women have broken out of the stereotypical southern mold.

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How did you find out about the Novel. showroom? How did your partnership with the company begin?

My friend and jewelry designer, Jane Pope Cooper, and I started the Novel. showroom five years or so ago as a temporary pop-up shop and showroom space at an Upper King Street location. We had such a great response collaborating between ourselves and others, that we decided to keep the Novel. concept going. Way Way, Liza and I all operate our businesses separately at the showroom and Jane has since moved, but we still love sharing our workspace collaboratively. Way Way and I worked together on two prints she painted for my Spring/Summer 2016 collection and we have such fun Novel. events throughout the year.

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Spill! What’s your favorite Charleston dish to indulge in?

I can’t pick just one dish because I would want the meal to be from Chez Nous and the menu selections change daily. Anything and everything from there is delish!

Do you use any specific apps to keep you organized and on top of your to-do list?

Evernote and Things are both great apps for staying organized and managing tasks. There’s nothing like an old-school planner to handwrite and scratch off tasks, too! I got the most beautiful one from Julia Kostreva this year.

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Way Way Allen Art

How has your artistic style evolved over the years?

My style has definitely evolved. As a fine arts major at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., I was naturally drawn to an earthier, natural palette living in the Tennessee mountains. I painted large scale and developed my abstract style while in school there. Fast-forward to my current work since living in Charleston and you will find my palette has grown much more vibrant while maintaining a light and airy feel. Surrounding myself with sun, sand and surf makes its way into all of my work. You will see a pop of blue in almost every one of my paintings!

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What is it about abstract style that draws you in?

I love how freeing the abstract style lets you be as an artist. There are no rules to follow and no constraints. It’s the only time in my day that I’m not following a plan or schedule.

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Tell us about the atmosphere in the Novel. showroom.

Nothing beats working in a light-filled space surrounded by some of my closest friends. I feel very fortunate to work where I do! There’s a positive vibe from the moment you step foot in the sun-drenched open studio space. I literally cannot wait to get to the studio to paint each day!

Spill! What’s your favorite Charleston dish to indulge in?

Sounds crazy, but I’m going with a salad as my favorite dish to indulge in. The Siam salad at Leon’s on Upper King Street in Charleston is beyond good! I am a huge fan of Thai and Vietnamese food, and this salad has all of my favorite flavors wrapped into one bowl. My mouth is watering just talking about it!

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How do you utilize technology and apps to enhance the productivity of your business?

Technology has been a huge part of my artistic presence! I have been fortunate enough to be represented by Charleston Artist Collective, an online art gallery representing local Charleston artists, where my art is not only viewed by locals but by people all around the world! Charleston Artist Collective developed a partnership with Serena & Lily last year as I was coming on board. I have been lucky enough to be represented by both online sites!

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Bon Vivant Stationary

Where did you get the idea to start your business, Bon Vivant Stationery?

Bon Vivant began as I left my previous career in the textiles and home furnishings sector with the urge to start a business of my own. With a degree in graphic design, and after years of classes in fine arts, I knew with certainty that my next venture had to be something creative in nature. I combined my love for all things tactile with my obsession with all things artistic and a paper and design company was born. We meet the needs of clients who desire custom, interesting designs, making their invitation, project or personal stationery stand out.

Why did you choose the name Bon Vivant for your business? Tell us the story behind it.

French for “living well,” bon vivant represented to me a larger attitude about enjoying the finer things in life: the handwritten note, the elegant dinner party with hand-delivered invitations, the care and detail spent putting calligraphy on envelopes, and the textural cotton paper evoking memories of a more gracious past. My company represents a lifestyle more than a singular category; an outlook on reviving and perpetuating time-honored traditions, taking time to entertain the ones you love and enjoying and savoring life rather than rushing through it. The future holds an evolution that will represent more than just paper products from Bon Vivant, and we will continue to grow into a brand that represents more unique goods—with the “from scratch” and artistic details that makes them special.

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Which apps are always open on your smart phone?

1. The Health app because I’m obsessed with measuring my steps and seeing how many calories I burned while spinning!
2. Instagram and Pinterest for their constant sources of inspiration.
3. Pandora or Spotify to get my juices and energy flowing when designing or drawing, or Overcast when I’m delving into a new Podcast. Try “Here’s the Thing” with Alec Baldwin—an incredible source of interesting interviews with some of the world’s foremost artists, policy makers and performers.
4. The New York Times is where I spend my extra time reading and catching up on news.
5. Patternsnap, which is a must-have for the pattern- and design-obsessed!
6. Camera and Camera Roll where I have an ever-evolving list of 12 albums dedicated to categories of inspiration for upcoming projects, things I’d like to draw or paint and color combinations and patterns found in the world around me that I want to revisit.
7. The Food Network and The New York Times Cooking apps, which are treasure troves of foodie inspiration for my next meal. I love to cook (and eat!), and so my recipe boxes are full on both of these great resources.

Spill! What’s your favorite Charleston dish to indulge in?

Charleston is already a well-known destination for food, so I can’t name only one favorite dish, but I can narrow down the list to a smattering of beloved standbys and standouts:

1. As a dedicated Francophile, I have to lead off with the crêpes at Queen Street Grocery for a deliciously French breakfast or lunch.
2. The three side special (not on the menu) at Butcher & Bee where I double up on hummus and kale slaw (works for a hectic meatless Monday supper or anytime for lunch)!
3. Oysters and champagne at The Ordinary for a light supper or happy hour with friends.
4. Whatever is on the daily dinner menu at Chez Nous (seriously!).
5. Any opportunity to eat at Fig, even if it’s just at the bar for a late dinner—there’s rarely a table without an advance reservation.
6. Finally, being a Bon Vivant means one can survive on wine and cheese alone, so Bin 152 is a favorite after-work stop to share a cheese and charcuterie board and a great Bordeaux.

How would you describe the aesthetic of the stationery in your collections?

I have been told before by an observer that the themes seem to ring through as pattern and color studies, animals, nature and type. As a whole, I’d say traditional with a touch of whimsy, appropriate yet irreverent, classic while still fresh—kind of sounds like the definition of a true Bon Vivant, no?

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