Ethereal furnishings down below

Sisters JoAnna Geraghty and Wendy Lavachek offer vintage home furnishings and accessory items at Ethereal. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Sisters JoAnna Geraghty and Wendy Lavachek offer vintage home furnishings and accessory items at Ethereal.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

At first blush, “shabby elegance” seems to be one of those oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” – two concepts that can’t readily co-exist.

Sisters JoAnna Geraghty and Wendy Lavachek disagree, so much so that they are basing a business on the “shabby elegant” look.

“It looks like something you inherited from your grandmother,” said Lavachek, describing the furniture and accessories on display at Ethereal, the pair’s store in the basement of Sandy’s Barber Shop on Winslow Way.

“It’s one of those looks that you either like or you don’t,” Lavachek said. “There are pieces that truly speak to you – they have lots of character and whimsey.”

The two moved their operation to Bainbridge Island earlier this month from old-town Silverdale, where they operated under the name of Le Garage.

The beds and sofas in their 650-square-foot space display a soft, pastel look more readily associated with New England or the American South then the Northwest. And indeed, much of the merchandise comes from the South.

“Nashville is the hub,” Lavachek said. “Our family is originally from there, so we use that as a base to go to flea markets, garage sales, auctions and estate sales.”

They bring back several truckloads of merchandise from each of their annual buying excursions to Nashville, Lavachek said. And their trips have a treasure-hunt aspect to them.

“We were picking ivy off one garden bench,” she said. “It was a real find.”

Not all of the items in the store are old. In fact, one of the characteristics of the “shabby elegant” look is that you can’t tell whether a piece is old or new. Take the iron window-size planter box, for example.

“This is new, but it looks old,” said Geraghty. “A company in Alabama uses a special process to give it an antique look, like it’s been outdoors in the weather and humidity for years.”

They also reject the term “antique” for their merchandise, preferring instead to call it “vintage.”

“Antique to me is something over 100 years old in perfect condition,” Lavachek said. “Vintage is fun and livable. If children spill, you can throw it in the washing machine.”

The business started to fill a Northwest shopping “deficit.” The two, both Navy wives, moved to the Silverdale area from Southern California when their husbands were transferred to Bangor. When they arrived here, though, they couldn’t find the furniture they both liked.

“I was looking for slip-covered furniture, but I couldn’t find anything,” Lavachek said. “The store was born from that.”

While the business did well enough in Silverdale, the owners couldn’t help notice that most of their customers were from Bainbridge or North Kitsap. They jumped at the chance for space on Winslow Way.

They opened the first week in September, and after a day off caused by the New York attacks, have enjoyed what they call “a nice steady flow” of business.

“We’ve had lots of European tourists come in, and they’re pleasantly surprised – they’re very familiar with this type of look,” Lavachek said.

While the space is small, that’s an advantage, the women say.

“People come in once a week. They’re regulars, and they want to have a new store every time,” Lavachek said. “A bigger spot would get stagnant.”

The two not only find that their work-styles mesh, but there are practical advantages to their partnership. While one minds the store, the other minds both of their children.

Although they are new to the island, they feel right at home.

“It’s very much like the Palos Verdes area of California where we come from,” Lavachek said. “It’s very tight-knit, but people are very warm and friendly. We’ve been overwhelmed by the welcome.”

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