Laurie Bell, Inc. is woven into the fabric of the South
Nicole Crews -- Casual Living, 1/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
LAURIE JENKINS IS NOT YOUR STANDARD-ISSUE southern belle. Yes, she comes equipped with a drawl as long as a South Florida summer without air conditioning. Yet she's a tough-talking textile chemist and fabric designer who knows both the science behind outdoor fabrics and the fashion trends on the forefront. She carries a fan to match every outfit, but quips, "Honey, it's not pretentious, it's the vapors."
| ||Jenkins, a.k.a. Laurie Bell, has thoroughly embraced the indoor/
outdoor lifestyle of South Florida. She serves up citrusinfused
culinary delights to patio party guests at her Sarasota
home. She boats over to waterfront concerts regularly, and
Miami has (almost) replaced New York as her city of choice
for culture and other urban delights. Photo: Max Kelly|
|Lido Stripe and Orange Crush from Laurie Bell Fabrics
make up these custom poolside loungers with a Laurie
Bell outdoor ottoman thrown in for good measure. Jenkins’
favored color combination of orange and coral pop
up throughout her fabric, pillow and rug collections. Photo: Max Kelly|| |
| ||Outdoor textiles from Laurie Bell Fabrics upholster Jenkins’ indoor furniture. She also lined her Robert Allen draperies with
Outdura Canvas to protect the fabric from the intense Florida sun. A collector and regular attendee of the internationally
lauded Art Basel, Miami, Jenkins recommends outdoor fabric-lined window treatments as a preventative measure against
sun damage to original art. Photo: Max Kelly|
Style mixed with practicality is indeed woven into every move Jenkins makes. "Sun, dirt and moisture in all their various forms really do a number on outdoor furnishings, but I knew I could find a better-performing outdoor fabric," she said. "So I set out to engineer and design a line of outdoor furnishings and accessories that are fashion forward as well as universally more luxurious, longer-lasting, easier to care for and customizable to an individual's needs."
Enter Laurie Bell Fabrics, her namesake company launched in 2002. Licensing agreements for her high-end pillows, umbrellas and table linens with Lane Venture and Biltmore Estates followed. Outdoor ottomans, cushions and drapes were added, and Horchow catalog, Charleston Gardens, Home Infatuation and Home Depo Expo jumped on board. All the while, Jenkins continued her consulting business with manufacturers that included Hatt eras Hammocks, Gloster, Brown Jordan, Winston, David Rothschild, Clayton Miller Hospitality Carpet and Frontgate.
"Laurie Jenkins, consultant, is still a big part of my business and identity," she said. "I think it's important to bring my talents to manufacturers and also to be in the mix of the market."
Laurie Bell Rugs’ Daisy Hankie (in Kona and Pesto) is fl anked by her custom upholstery in Sand Textura and Asian Circles Espresso custom cushions. Photo: Max Kelly
|Sarasota developer Trey Desenburg, Wilda Taylor
(Jenkins’ neighbor and former Hollywood dancer and
actress who appeared in “Roustabout” with Elvis Presley),
John Allaman and Arthur James Jr., president of
Casual Creations, gather for a typical “casual” party at
Jenkins’ Sarasota home. Photo: Max Kelly|
|Dining al fresco is par for the course for this North Carolinian-turned-Floridian. Custom-cushioned dining
furniture is shown in Whimsical Ikat Terra with Italian Stripe toss cushions. Photo: Max Kelly|
Around 2007, the born-and-bred North Carolinian decided to take a leap and move to Sarasota, Fla. "It just seemed like the right place for my business. There are manufacturers and retailers right in my backyard, and for custom cushion work I couldn't be in a better place," she said. "Plus, I think I needed to shake things up."
In 2009, Jenkins commenced that shaking and released a licensed collection with Appian Textiles and launched Laurie Bell Rugs. Just this last year, she did a soft launch of the online retail division of her line at lauriebell.com, and it's manufactured not just in the USA, but specifically in the South.
"Dalton, Ga., is the carpet capital of the world, so there's no better place for outdoor rug technology, and our factories in North Carolina do an outstanding job manufacturing our cushions," she said.
"It's wonderful that I could take a concept that started in the American South and make it better right here in my own backyard."