Story by Sabe Fink and photos by Kate Reali
When Suzanne Winston enters a room, things happen. The very air seems charged. There is excitement, but it’s serene excitement, if such a thing exists. It’s a heightened awareness of light and beauty and possibility. Winston, a former television reporter turned home décor maven, plus entrepreneur and budding philanthropist, says, “My experience renovating homes began in Fairhope’s iconic Fruit and Nut district and Mobile’s historic Oakleigh neighborhood. Combining this background with my travels around the world, where I was exposed to beautiful things and the people who crafted them, led to my decision to open an interior design studio and shop where I can share my passion and ideas with others in our community.”
And so, Towne + Beech was born. Winston found an historic cottage, right on US 98 in Foley, with additional property to be developed in the future. “There’s fantastic potential for growth right here, with so much going with the Main Street Foley initiative,” she says. “Plus, it’s central to the entire area – the Eastern Shore, the beach communities, and even Mobile and Pensacola.” The shop serves as a showroom for everything from furniture and kitchen appliances and rugs to wallpaper and fabric samples, window treatments, cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, tableware and lighting fixtures. It’s a place to see – and source – just about everything imaginable for an entirely new home, for a total renovation or just a simple facelift.
Towne + Beech is small and sweet, but mighty in its breadth of inspiration and imagination. The shop includes an up to date working kitchen designed by Winston, with the good bones of the original, complete with plaster walls over heart pine. “We managed to save an original kitchen cabinet with delicate curved ends, and we incorporated it into the room for very efficient storage space.” The kitchen features high-end appliances, all able to be sourced through the shop, and all is ready for light refreshments at the end of a work session. The gas range is set into a nook in the wall, with a backsplash of Moroccan zellige tile, a glossy white square tile made by hand in a method unchanged for 10,000 years.
“Towne + Beech carries lots of items that people just won’t see anywhere else,” Winston notes. “We have tiles I have chosen from tilemakers in Morocco, and fair trade handwoven baskets made by women in the Republic of Rwanda, a hilly, landlocked country in south central Africa. By providing a market for their artisanal wares, we assist the people – mainly the women – of these countries to achieve economic stability while practicing their ancient and beautiful arts.” Rugs and textiles, stoneware and pottery, and breathtakingly beautiful glass pieces make the cottage shop into an exotic bazaar of fine home décor.
Winston notes that their clientele is really threefold: the homeowner who comes to Towne + Beech for inspiration, guidance, and professional expertise; other designers who do not have the network or access to such a broad array of stock; and custom builders, who look utilize the shop’s resources and relationships to select and source finishes for their projects. For the individual homeowner, Winston finds her greatest satisfaction in helping her client tell the story of a life and create a home with a soul. “We love eclectic interiors with stories to tell, and a feel of special things collected over time,” Winston says.
In the near future, the shop will begin to host some intimate cooking and entertaining demonstrations, featuring many of the “Made in Alabama” foodstuffs and serving ware that Winston carries in the shop. “We have cheese boards and cheeses, jellies and spreads, artisanal Bloody Mary mixes in a plethora of flavors, and so much more. And it grows and changes every day!” Plans include expansion of the business to incorporate the existing garden area, and to add garden antiques and furnishings to the mix. “We have been asked about adding a little café and perhaps some other showroom space along the US 98 frontage, tying the property together as a cohesive unit. We’ll have to see how that plays out, but it’s certainly an intriguing idea,” Winston says. “The thing I’m most excited about for the future is the work we will soon be doing with foster and adoptive children, and with older youth who age out of foster care and need to make a home for themselves. I’d like to play a part in providing them with the sense of security and belonging that makes a place truly “home.”