Celebrating two years this June, House Stuff (3939 Toulouse St., 504-638-7332; www.facebook.com/HouseStuffNOLA) is a small Mid-City trove of vintage and antique furnishings stocked and operated by Flora Shaughnessy.
Her father was in the furniture business for 40 years, and after helping out at his Canal Furniture Liquidators in the days before his retirement, Shaughnessy hatched a plan with her husband Allen to open her own shop.
The store is founded on Shaughnessy's appreciation of well-designed, solid wood craftsmanship — "pieces that have credibility," as she describes them — to the extent that she does not sell items made with particleboard. If she discovers the manufactured pulp in any piece she has purchased, she offers it at a bargain price to move it out of the store.
The delivery truck arrives daily with new pieces, Shaughnessy says. She works directly with secondhand dealers and storied hotels, gets first calls from local estate sales and does her own hunting. All this inventory turns over at a quick clip, she says.
"Often a buyer will find a piece they like, then go home to measure their room, but when they get back it's already sold," Shaughnessy says.
A congregation of chairs greets customers from the corner sidewalks, and inside the refurbished 1920s building one block off Carrollton Avenue, there's an eclectic mix of furniture, lamps, bedding and paint.
"More customers are tackling their own DIY projects now, so they are buying with the intention of giving it a whole new look," she says. Shaughnessy carries Heirloom Traditions chalk type paints and gives away a free brush with each batch of cans purchased.
French Provincial styles are another trend.
"It's ornate and curvy, and very well-made," Shaughnessy says. "That's been selling a lot for children's bedrooms."
Mid-century modern pieces are a favorite among her clientele, which ranges from young families and singles who appreciate all things vintage to the elderly outfitting their grandchildren's college apartments. The upscale, urban-leaning clean lines of the Mad Men era hold huge appeal for a variety of New Orleanians and for Hollywood South. The new ABC series The Astronaut Wives Club, which filmed in the greater New Orleans area, nearly cleaned her out of the style earlier this year, Shaughnessy says.
Whether outfitting a large film production or helping a young couple decorate their first baby's room, Shaughnessy relishes her role. An entrepreneur's daughter, she grew up watching her father work hard selling furniture and operating an ice cream parlor on Canal Street. House Stuff is open seven days a week, and Shaughnessy maintains a "wish list" of items her customers want. If she comes across a piece on the list, she buys it and brings it into the store without any obligation for the customer to purchase it.
"I just love it when I see a customer's face light up," Shaughnessy says. "And there's this moment when they'll say 'I've finally found it, and I can afford it.' And they are so happy. That's why I do what I do."