Feeling Romantic? Bestow One-of-a-Kind Jewels
New local boutiques, businesses and brands you may not know — but should.
Diane Harris is awed by the fact that platinum or gold can be formed into a piece of jewelry that might become a person’s most treasured heirloom.
So when she opened My House of Style in Birmingham two years ago, it was not only fulfilling a passion but also coming full circle in a path that seemed meant to bring her there.
In the 1980s, Harris, 54, often went on buying trips and trade shows to choose artistic jewelry, pottery, glass and collectibles for the highly regarded Ilona & Gallery at the Orchard Mall. She also soaked up all the knowledge she could about jewelry and the American craft market before moving on to Pentimento Fine Jewelry, where she learned about diamonds, precious stones and high-karat metals and drew sketch designs for pieces that would be brought to life by the bench jewelers.
But in recent years, she began to notice a change in the jewelry industry. “The traditional platinum and diamond pieces were now competing with pieces crafted of different materials and designs that were more unique and eclectic,” says Harris.
So she made a list of 100 people to invite into the Huntington Woods home she shares with her husband, Daniel, and two dogs, for her first trunk show of one-of-a-kind jewels, hoping for 25 to show up. “My entire street was parked full of cars,” she says. “My home was filled with supporters who had heard from others I was going into business.”
Over the next four years, Harris developed an open-door policy in her home. “Customers would stop by for a cup of coffee and to see what was new. Sometimes we would serve lunch and just play with the jewelry,” she says. In her comfortable and welcoming atmosphere, she grew a thriving business “in the worst of times,” gaining referrals and hiring a staff, until finally, in October 2009, she grew out of her house.
“I had always fantasized about opening a boutique filled with unique pieces, by trendsetting young designers, that expressed the individual style of the clients,” says Harris. “It was the most incredible experience to see my idea come full circle.”
Bringing the casual, cozy elegance of her own home to her business’ new home, Harris has filled My House of Style with welcoming chairs lit by a crystal chandelier and a help-yourself kitchen while large glass candy jars lining the front walkway welcome guests inside.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere as if you were visiting my home, and there just happened to be hundreds of fabulous pieces of jewelry to feast your eyes upon and make your own,” she says.
Reflecting the years of Harris’ on-site education, travel to shows and interaction with clients learning what they really wanted, My House of Style brims with a luscious assortment of fine diamond pieces mingling with fashion jewelry, showcasing national designers including Jordan Scott and Lika Behar and hot local names like Michele Saulson and Jolie Altman — as well as unique gift items like jewelry boxes handcrafted of inlaid wood, leather or lacquer and handmade jewelry holders recycled from antique dishes by Jennifer Kroll.
Harris also often works with customers to create custom pieces or incorporate heirloom elements into a piece that suits the client’s style. “I love to help my customers and talk to them, or help them style an outfit. We encourage touching and trying-on,” she says.
“It’s all about the experience here and building trust in our advice,” says Harris. “I am in love with my store. I turn the lights on in the morning, and it is every girl’s dream come true — cases filled with brilliant sparking jewels and rich gorgeous colors, and where people leave happy.”
My House of Style, 574 Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham (248-594-7776; myhouseofstyle.com).