This Occoquan store exhibits a vintage, rustic, French vibe and also offers twice-monthly paint workshops.
Niki VanEch is no novice when it comes to interior design or owning a brick-and-mortar store. She started with a boutique on North Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria, which was open for seven years, but closed up shop when she had her first child. Though the storefront no longer existed, she continued with her design business and worked out of her home. After her son went off to college, she decided to go back to what she loved and began looking for another retail space.
“I desired a quaint setting, and there are so few of those little towns around,” she says. What caught her eye was a space right on the waterfront in Historic Occoquan. Five years ago this past September, she reopened VanEch Studio, a store that has a vintage, rustic, French vibe with the wares it carries. And though her interior design taste moves more toward transitional, she utilizes pieces she carries in the store. “You’re not going to see one look [in my designs],” says VanEch, who has been a designer for more than 20 years. “You’ll see a lot of elements from different aesthetics.”
Though the two sides of her business differ slightly at initial sight, she keeps the two bound by her philosophy on overall design and how it is incorporated into one’s home: “In my heart, I love old things, and the shop is filled with things I think have soul. Every home, even if more on the modern side, should have some element of old in it just to create some character.”
At the store, patrons come across unique finds that are modern productions sourced from VanEch’s trips to home shows, newly made pieces as well as vintage and antiques that she curates from her trips to West Virginia, western Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kentucky and North Carolina. When on the hunt, she looks for “what I feel is current and looks good, tweak it and create my own look.”
In her store, VanEch carries everything, including decorative pieces, furniture, lighting, artwork, candles, small gift items and repurposed vintage jewelry. And she is always on the lookout for local artisans who will fit the aesthetic of the store—a palette based on muted gray and taupe with coordinating pieces throughout. This focus, VanEch says, makes it so customers come in and say “they feel as though they’ve stepped into a home where they could live.”
VanEch Studio also hosts twice-monthly workshops based around the two paint lines the store carries: Pure & Original, a clay-, chalk- and lime-based line from Belgium for furniture and walls, and Miss Mustard Seeds Paint, a milk paint for furniture.
VanEch recently moved her shop down a storefront, giving her more room to merge her two businesses by bringing her design services into the shop with displays of textiles, wallpaper and other home services aspects of the business.