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Furniture buffs set up shop for vintage lovers

Burlap Home, newly opened on MacDill Avenue, offers a hodgepodge of restored pieces at bargain prices.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 7, 2003

SOUTH TAMPA -- The style goes by so many names -- eclectic, flea market, French country, shabby chic -- it's hard to know what to call it exactly.

Those who love it dream of a sweet, once-upon-a-time cottage, perfect for curling up with a cup of tea and a Jane Austen novel. Something you never really do but think you will.

Hang on to that fantasy.

Burlap Home opened last month at 3220 S MacDill Ave., offering a particularly feminine twist on the enduring vintage decor look. Owners Charlie Anderson and Jennifer Louthan have taken a small, otherwise nondescript house, painted it a pretty shade of camel and filled the rooms with finds from all over Florida and the deep south.

Here's how they describe it:

Louthan: "Very eclectic."

Anderson: "Everything we really love."

Louthan: "A little glamorous."

Here's an even better way to explain it: "Cool girl stuff."

Beaded antique chandeliers glitter amidst white chairs, hutches, tables and desks. Many of the furnishings wear a studied -- and deliberate -- banged-up finish. A turn-of-the century cradle on a wrought-iron base begs for a creative soul to heap it with flowering plants. A china cabinet from south Georgia was built with old windows as the doors. White wooden church pews await the perfect breakfast nook "and lots of kids," Louthan says with a laugh.

Prices on many items are low enough (a sweet, French provincial writing desk was listed at $150) that it's tempting to buy with reckless abandon.

Louthan, 34, a mother of two and an interior designer, and Anderson, 37, a legislative aide and third-generation Tampa resident, were introduced last year by the owner of another favorite furniture haunt, The Blue Moon Trading Company, also on MacDill Avenue. Both love to scour estate sales and flea markets for interesting furnishings and accessories. Both love to fix stuff up. Both dreamed of opening a shop. It was a perfect match.

"This store is really for customers who don't have the resources, ability or time to hunt, find and restore furniture," says Anderson.

"That's our favorite part," says Louthan, who rented a truck late one Sunday afternoon for yet another furniture-finding mission.

You can't miss their shop. The front yard is an outdoor showroom for those crazy old patio dining sets -- the kind your grandparents had on their porch in the 1950s.

Maybe you can't own that storybook cottage. But you can still pretend.

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