From the August/September 2013 Issue:

Design Destination Cape May Area

    Writer: Robin Amster |

It should come as no surprise that this shore destination offers beach-oriented designs in everything from furniture to accessories. But you don’t have to be a shore resident to find something that will translate to your home beyond the beach. The accent is also on the one-of-a-kind find at an area studio offering a mix of fine art, original crafts and garden accents.

Article Photo
enlarge | Courtesy of Dragonfly Interiors
670 Washington Street, Cape May

Dragonfly Interiors is “first and foremost” a full-service design studio, owner/designer Janis Schmidt says. But in the summer of 2012, Schmidt decided to take her business a step further by opening a shop in the space. “This has been my studio for seven years and I meet with clients here,” she says. “Every single one of them said I?should open up as a retail space.”

In addition to design work on projects ranging from a single room to a whole house, Dragonfly Interiors offers furniture, fabrics, lighting, artwork and accessories. “I cater to potential buyers interested in retaining me to do design work who also walk out with a vase or a lamp or a piece of furniture they like,” she says. “It’s not going to be every person who visits Cape May and walks around on the mall. The shop focuses on people interested in higher-end design pieces.”

Her style? “I’ve had people come in and look for Victorian lace,” she says. “That’s not me.” Schmidt says her style sense is more transitional than anything else, sometimes with coastal influences. She does a good deal of design work for homes at the Jersey shore, though she has projects far beyond the shores.

“I take huge inspiration from fabric and color; they’re the first things I think about and then go from there,” Schmidt says of her design approach. “I have a strong belief that color and fabrics—and the combination of the two—are integral to a pleasing environment,” she says.

While Dragonfly’s focus is on the upscale, “we offer something for most people,” Schmidt says. For example, customers can find a piece of art at $300 and another at $1,200.

Store hours: by appointment. 609-846-3326,

609 Jefferson Street, Cape May

From seashells to sofas, Wanderlust caters to shore residents with its collection of beach-oriented items. “We’re four blocks from the beach,” says Brandy White, who owns Wanderlust with her husband, Bob. “We’re absolutely very beachy, coastal style.”

Wanderlust offers furniture, upholstery services, rugs, lamps, Cape May-style wicker, brightly color-coordinated tableware, vintage beach art, throw pillows and other accessories.

White says the store specializes in slipcovered furniture, a big plus when it comes to beach houses. It appeals to clients who want to use different sets of slipcovers to achieve summer and winter looks. Slipcovers also are ideal for customers who rent out their homes and those wanting something that looks good and also withstands sand and water. Wanderlust offers customers a second set of slipcovers at wholesale.

White moved to Cape May some 15 years ago and found “the whole town was Victorian,” she says. “It drove me crazy. We had a house in St. Croix and I brought things back from the island. I thought it might be a good idea to open a shop.” The Whites still have their home in St. Croix, and they close Wanderlust for three months during the winter while they’re in the Caribbean.

In addition to Wanderlust’s products, the store dedicates one room to full-house design services. “Sometimes people just need a spruce-up or they buy new and need absolutely everything,” she says.

White’s design philosophy is “don’t take it so seriously. I’m not one to say you have to go by this set of rules. Anything goes, and the more creativity the better. If you love it, buy it and you’ll find some way of working it into your home.”

Wanderlust is “middle of the road” in terms or price, White says. “I don’t like outlandishly expensive; there are too many wonderful things out there that you don’t have to go crazy with [in terms of price],” she says.

Store hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily April through December; closed January through March. 609-884-0488.

1028 U.S. Route 9 South, Cape May Courthouse

What is now Crow Creek Studios traces its origins to a garden accents shop that owner Stan Sperlak opened within Cape Shore Gardens, his high-end landscaping business started in 1985.

An artist and teacher as well as a landscape artist, Sperlak decided to phase out the garden accents side of the business in the early 2000s as he was gaining recognition for his art. “I decided to bring in only fine art and contemporary craft,” he says.

Crow Creek Studios was born.

Today Crow Creek and Cape Gardens are housed in a re-created 1890s-style carriage house featuring cedar shakes and single-pane windows. Sperlak’s studio is upstairs while the fine art and crafts are downstairs.

Studio artists’ range from potters to glassblowers, weavers to sculptors. Sperlak works with 10 to 15 artists—Crow Creek doesn’t function like an art gallery, rather as a showcase for their work.

Among the works are terra cotta sculptures; fine turned wood items including bowls, clocks, compasses and art works; garden art including sculptural stone tables; lamps; stained-glass pendants; and wood tables and benches. “We’ve now come full circle,” Sperlak says, noting that he has brought back some garden accents for the studio, including wind chimes, wrought iron garden furniture, large pottery, gazing globes and garden orbs.

“People have an appetite for original, unique items,” he says. “Because we’re small and we buy from other small artisans, customers won’t find these things—not to mention our fine art—at Home Depot or Lowes.”

As for Sperlak, this landscape artist has always painted, and his work is showcased at Cross Creek Studios also. His latest work focuses on Mid-Atlantic landscapes. He teaches art as well as landscape design through Rutgers University’s master gardener program. For the latter, he says, “The idea is teaching landscape design candidates to think as artists.”

Most of Cross Creek Studio’s works are $50 to $300, while Sperlak’s own work may be priced at less than $500 to $5,000.

Store hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 609-465-5161,