For thousands of years, people in many cultures have made tassels from beautiful cords or simple strings in order to bind fabrics, or merely to create decorations. During the Victorian era, the French raised tassel-making to a fine art of opulent ornamentation.
Since 1995, Tassels, 12004 Shelbyville Road, has maintained a similar standard and luxurious feeling in its custom-made furniture, bed linens, window treatments, pillows and headboards. Its room groupings display a wide range of manufactured and hand-decorated items for home or office.
Leila Davis, daughter Daven Barnett, and Daven’s friend Marsha Riggle first opened Tassels on a nearby Middletown street. Within less than a year, it had outgrown that site, and they moved it to its current location. Leila and Daven brought their business backgrounds to the enterprise, while Marsha contributed her experience in custom-making draperies and interior design.
“We put our heads together,” Leila said, “and here we are 17 years later –the three amigos.”
At first, Tassels sold only fabric, but furniture and accessories quickly followed. Jewelry is the latest addition, with pieces ranging from wide leather cuffs with fleur-de-lis embellishments to sparkling jeweled watches.
Over the years, the store has earned a reputation for keeping up with the latest and biggest trends.
“There have been several phases: the opulent Roman look, for example, with lots of black and gold; and French Country, with its distressed furniture,” she said. “What’s happening now is that our customers, who tend to be younger than baby boomers, want furnishings that are more practical and streamlined. A lot of people call it Transitional style – neither modern nor traditional.”
People want to feel comfortable, cozy and connected at home, she explained. Furnishings and accessories which imply that their owners are well-traveled are very popular, because they proclaim, I’m a citizen of the world, and my home is the center of my world.
“Travel nostalgia continues to be a big trend,” Leila said. “That includes the ‘postage’ design, with elegantly written addresses and postmarks in French from the Thirties. It lets you have something that looks elegant on a simple, neutral fabric. Our trends are taking us backward, not forward, and usually are trying to find something that was comfortable in the past.”
Those neutral fabrics often are shades of beige or gray these days; in fact, gray is the new black. It provides a dramatic backdrop for chartreuse green or crisp yellow. Tassels’ designers, who provide in-home services or complementary consultations in the store, remind their clients that a neutral background can be updated, even seasonally, by adding bursts of color on pillows, rugs and other accents.
“Animal patterns are always in style, although they may be in unusual colors or textures—orange zebra stripes, for example,” Daven said. “Two other patterns are our most popular right now: Suzani, which has colorful concentric circles; and Ikat [pronounced “Eye-cot”], mainly on cotton and linen, which has tiny striations. Both styles have an exotic feeling.”
Tassels orders furniture, fabrics and accessories from almost 1,000 vendors, including Highland House, Fabricut, Circa, Pearson, Tibo and Scalamandre.
“We pick and choose from our vendors, and don’t do entire lines,” Leila said. “We look for their best pieces, then mix and match them with some less expensive ones. That keeps us more in control: If you carry an entire line, they are in control – take it or leave it. We try to be more responsive to the customer’s needs.”
These three entrepreneurs recently opened a second store next door.
“It’s called Tassels Too! and it’s for inventory that has been in Tassels longer than we would like,” Marsha explained. “We think of it as our outlet store—the place for any scratch-and-dent items and the short ends of our fabrics. It’s great for customers looking for bargains.”
Tassels and Tassels Too! attract shoppers from all around the region, including Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
“We knew we had ‘arrived’ when the Baptist Urgent Care center described themselves as ‘next door to Tassels on Shelbyville Road,’” Leila said, laughing. “That proved to us that we had been chosen as a destination.”
Tassels, 12004 Shelbyville Road, is open 10 a.m. and to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. For more information, visit www.tasselsfabricsanddesign.com, like the store on Facebook, or phone 502.245.7887.