HELEN RUTLEDGE was minding her own business, buying antique Chinese screens at an antiques store, when her life changed. “You don’t want to buy an antiques shop, do you?” the owner asked. Rutledge is an adventurous spirit and has worked for fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, as a chef in New York City and as the director of development for the Historic Charleston Foundation. She said yes. Six months, 10 dumpsters and one construction crew later, she relaunched the store as Bibelot, an antiques and home goods shop that carries global artifacts, fine antiques and rugs, architectural and garden elements, and lots more.
Pronounced “Bibloh,” the name is French for “objects of rarity.” If you’re a longtime resident looking for Bibelot, just head for what was formerly Bill Musser’s antiques warehouse. If this is your first time, the hot-pink building is tucked off the road at the crossroads of Bowman and I-526, right as you come around the curb, next door to 360 Yoga.
Entering Bibelot feels like falling down the rabbit hole. The fine European and Charleston antiques are still there, but they’ve been turned into vignettes with a kaleidoscope of colorful accessories and vintage textiles. Rutledge has also added garden ornaments, unique marble statues, old doors from Charleston houses, antique doors from India, stained glass, iron fencing, vintage saris, kuba cloth, African mudcloth, Moroccan rugs and Berber boujad rugs. There are incredible statement pieces as well, such as an intricately carved Indonesian platform wedding bed from the early 1900s and ancient Chinese granite basins, 400 to 800 years old, in the store.
At the start of her venture, other antiques dealers told Rutledge that the era of antiques was over. This is crazy talk, and she knows it. “I created Bibelot because I wanted to recast antiques as a stylish proposition for design now and in the future. Bibelot is a modern approach to an antiques store,” she says. “We offer beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces curated in a modern, unexpected way that is sure to turn heads.”
Lowcountry homes, with their neutral color palettes and requisite slipcovered furniture, need antiques. Without at least a few pieces, it’s easy to create spaces that are a little too generic and devoid of personality. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have inherited their great uncle’s collection of Amazonian artifacts. Some of us have to improvise our histories. Rutledge gets that. “Antiques bring harmony to a room. It doesn’t matter if your style is Lowcountry chic, modern maverick, traditionalist, whatever … you’ll never tire of having antiques in your home,” she says.
Bibelot isn’t just about antiques, though. Rutledge has curated a wonderful collection of jewelry handcrafted by local, regional and national artists. She also works with local tastemaker Leila Ross of Show and Tell Art and Design to curate a collection of modern paintings. All in all, the store is a treasure trove for designers. “When you’re trying to bring your client something special, you’re looking for unusual things that bring a room to life. Bibelot gives Charleston designers a unique opportunity to provide their clients one-of-a-kind pieces at affordable prices,” Rutledge says.
While Bibelot is fully formed as is, Rutledge has designs on the future. She plans to use the store’s vast space, and generous outdoor space, for pop-ups, food trucks, community gatherings, salon-like discussions and lectures, and to feature regional designers and promote causes close to her heart. For the time being, with our homes being more important than ever before, a fun trip down the rabbit hole may be just what we need. *
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.