Last November, Laura Cottrill opened the doors of Vignette, settling into her pretty new storefront at 43 Broad St. and enjoying the warm Southern hospitality she has received from all who visit.
Vignette is a welcoming space, full of character and intriguing merchandise, where visitors can take pleasure in a shopping experience for the senses. Passersby will be drawn into the store by the delicious scent of candles, music, a dramatic floor-to-ceiling tropical wall mural, urns spilling over with dried branches and palm leaves, and moody chandeliers. Add to that shelves and tabletops romantically layered with colorful glassware and dishes, olive wood boards and utensils, and a myriad of linens and napkins. Gentle lighting illuminates vignettes of distinctive accent furniture, pillows and zebra-pattern rugs.
One of Vignette’s signature pieces is an oversize bust of David that whimsically graces the main pantry table amid wooden serving boards, glass cloches, bundles of dried flowers in woven bags and other specialty items du jour. Chandeliers are another highlight of the store, varying in style and scale. Moroccan fixtures lend a more contemporary look with clean geometric lines done in leaded glass, while New Orleans-style chandeliers drip generously with strands of rustic wood beads. Also distinctive are traditional French chandeliers whose similarly styled candelabra are perfect for tabletops and sideboards.
Other collectibles in the store are equally satiating, namely Vignette’s pantry items and one-of-a-kind personal effects. Vignette offers out-of-the-ordinary dresses and tunics in natural linen with block print designs, assorted handcrafted Navajo glass-beaded cuffs lined in soft leather, simple bracelets with beads of natural stone and crystal, and rhinestone jewelry strung on vintage chains.
Cottrill is all about entertaining, and the store’s “pantry” has perfect products for this. Vignette’s coffers are replete with flavorful sauces, squid ink pasta, artisan crackers, condiments and preserves, fancy tinned seafood, craft cocktail mixes, premium olive oils and jarred olives, honeycomb, seasoned nuts and dried fruit, and, most importantly, gourmet chocolates. After stocking up on Vignette provisions, Cottrill recommends customers make their way to Goat, Sheep, Cow, a nearby shop that carries artisan cheeses and charcuterie, plus wines that pour ever so nicely into Vignette’s pretty wine glasses. And upon returning home, all of these treats can be generously laid out on one of Vignette’s exquisite wood cutting boards.
Consider pairing your new pantry items with tabletop items designed for properly serving these delectables: hand-painted plates, antiqued wooden bowls, oven-safe ceramic oyster shells, cheese knives and shell caviar spoons. Additional functional beauty is found in the way of vintage silver-plated forks and spreaders, wicker chargers, olive wood utensils and rough-hewn or stained wood cutting boards. And don’t forget to pick up a couple of block print table linens and a stack of Cottrill’s humorous (or what some might call outright rude) cocktail napkins.
Throughout the showroom, antiqued wood and upholstered seating is suggestively nestled up to rustic tables of various size and purpose, and sprinkled about are accent furniture pieces, some with hand-painted designs, others in soothing faux antique patinas. Tactile experiences abound in the way of Turkish and Moroccan wool shag rugs and pillows, zebra faux hide floorcloths, bold print throws and plush footstools.
Let Vignette’s colorful Instagram page provide inspiration for gift giving. Favorites include decoupage oyster shells, scented candles, wine glasses, stationery and smudges. And of course, pantry items, such as a bottle of premium olive oil or a box of chocolates, will be a hit with almost any recipient. Vignette’s ever-changing inventory makes it the perfect go-to for gifts.
Prior to Vignette’s opening in Charleston, the store had its home in Annapolis, Maryland. The original Vignette opened in March of 2020, just three days before the COVID-19 lockdown. This false start might have deterred a less ambitious person, but Cottrill was not one to let go of her life’s dream. Four months later, when restrictions lessened, Vignette reopened and Cottrill settled into the work she loves.
Enjoying the retail life and hoping to open a second store, Cottrill and her husband began making excursions down to Charleston. “We loved these trips,” she says. “The weather was always beautiful, there were gorgeous beaches nearby, and there was just something special about Charleston. It has big-city style with a small-town feel.” For Cottrill, a career art consultant and interior designer, the draw to Charleston was magnetic. She describes an “eclectic aesthetic” that drew her in and captured her imagination. She found it everywhere—in the architecture, the food and wine, in antiques stores and art galleries.
In this connection with Charleston, the pieces of the puzzle were coming together, and a move soon followed, with Cottrill and her husband buying a second home in the area. As they spent more time in Charleston and their connections grew, a decision was made to reverse their living situation, whereby Charleston became their primary residence. Moving Vignette to the region seemed the logical next step.
Finally, in finding the quintessential Charleston storefront in the heart of Cottrill’s favorite South of Broad neighborhood, the picture was complete. Cottrill and Vignette had found their home. *
Christina Andrews is a freelance writer from the Napa Valley who specializes in personal and business bios, food and wine, visual arts, music, hospitality, the event industry, community interest stories, obituaries and political satire.