When designer Cindy Smith embarked on her dream of creating a furniture line, she called upon her creative coalition of design colleagues. She had been yearning for more unusual pieces for her design clients which she could not find in the marketplace. Always known to turn a negative into a positive, Cindy let her frustration fuel her creation of the Catbird Collection, a bespoke line of furnishings created by eight of the country’s top designers and architects.
The personalities behind Circa’s newly launched Catbird Collection have many common traits…each is individually recognized as the best and brightest in their respective fields of architecture, interior and kitchen design. Thier humility is beyond impressive considering their incredible talent and amazing accomplishments. Despite their various areas of expertise, Cindy refers to them as “members of the same tribe. We may not have the same taste, but we have the same passion for and love of beauty in the home.”
I had the pleasure to view the collection firsthand today with many of the designers. Each piece is distinctive in that it can inspire the design vision for an entire interior. The designers were given parameters on what to create for the collection. The group met several months ago with sketches in hand and the collaboration began. They helped each other to refine the designs, perfect the proportions, and select the finishing touches from fringe and nailheads to removable down filled palettes. Cindy chose fabrics that would work well with neutrals including silks, mohairs, velvets, and linens in a dramatic palette of charcoal, deep tan, mustard, grey and gold.
Cindy describes Circa’s ‘Catbird’ collection as”an embodiment of the passion that fuels the creative spirit. It is a collection of inviting seating thoughtfully conceived by a coterie of singularly talented architects and designers. Artful designs that express the distinct sensibilities of their creators. Created with the notion that a single, beautiful piece of furniture, can inspire a room, and the spirit. Whose form draws our attention, beckons us to repose, to pause and sit, for conversation, for reflection, for simply slowing down and spending time with our own thoughts. Unseen but essential is what lies beneath the surface: quality and comfort crafted by furniture artisans of the American tradition. Circa invites you to discover and delight in our debut collection and hope that you will be inspired to find yourself in the catbird seat.”
“I affectionately call this sofa ‘my nest with feathers.’ A slim, tight outline filled with loose fitting, unstructured luxury – it always looks a little bit well loved and is perfectly imperfect. Developing the Catbird Collection presented a welcome challenge and privilege that I have been fortunate to undertake in the company of immensely talented and prized colleagues. As a lover of antiques, I treasure the one-of-a-kind piece and hope to translate this individuality into a range of upholstery. My aim was to create a collection of pieces that has a life of its own, holds your attention, gives spirit to a space, and perhaps even inspires a room’s design.”
Cindy Smith founded Circa Interiors & Antiques in 1979. What began as a small bungalow full of treasures collected throughout Europe has grown into a premier,multi-city retail destination and go-to design source for home furnishings and interior design expertise. She lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Although it’s a clean-lined piece, I designed this sofa to act as a bridge between modern and traditional styles through its combination of long, low lines with luxurious tufting details, bronze buttons, and silver silk velvet. Bates Corkern Studio is defined by the union of classic tradition and modern simplicity. We strive for honest and authentic results in all of our work. Whether it be a finely crafted home, or an elegant chair to rest, our work is grounded by tradition and celebrates life with a modern point of view. We are honored to join, alongside similar thinkers, in the conception and celebration of Circa’s Catbird Collection.”
Paul Bates and Jeremy Corkern founded their practice in the year 2000. Today, Bates Corkern Studio is a small atelier of five focusing on custom residential architecture, furniture design, and interiors. They live and work in Birmingham, Alabama.
“With the strong, elegant posture of a thoroughbred, the Kathryn is free to indulge in all things feminine. She adds romance to a dining room, but is equally comfortable in the kitchen to commune with family and friends. I opened Bourgeoisie, Inc. in part to better understand my insatiable desire for beauty. This passion is more universal than I could possibly have realized. It brings wonderful clients year after year. While each expresses it differently, there is a common thread. We all find absolute joy in honest materials used in an unpretentious way. Tethered to the ancient tool of pleasing mathematics, our goal is to design spaces that in subtle ways allow the grace of beautiful materials, shapes and shadows to inspire our clients’ everyday lives. For me, Circa’s Catbird Collection is the pinnacle of delight on this journey. It provides a creative forum for designers to be inspired by peers who see the world in the same sparkling light. I am excited to be part of Cindy Smith’s clear vision and by her unfaltering ability to bring like people together to build beautiful things.”
Emily Bourgeois has long been one of the Queen City’s leading designers. Since opening her firm’s doors in 2002, Bourgeoisie, Inc.’s kitchens and interiors have developed a fervent following throughout the Southeast. She lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I designed this sofa to be a modern antique, a pared-down version of a nineteenth-century Sheraton sofa. Equally at home in a traditional or contemporary setting, the piece has classic lines but doesn’t feel like your grandmother’s sofa.”
“The Piper Swivel chair is named after my constant companion, a rescue dog that was waiting for me. Always intent to please, this generous chair in motion was inspired by a walk along London’s Pimlico Road. I believe in creating atmosphere – soft, a little bit foggy, kind. Design is not just visual – it should be sensual. Looking deeply inward and outward, emotionally evocative, my interiors reflect collected experiences in compelling relationship to each other. Honored by the invitation, I travel forward in collaboration with Circa’s Catbird collection.”
Susan Ferrier is partnered with Ray Booth and Bobby McAlpine of McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors. Together they have created beautiful homes. She is a nationally and internationally recognized designer practicing in Atlanta, Georgia.
“This sofa is named for my grandmother, Fannie Cornelius – a strong, silent type, so well-grounded that she could dispel all manner of chaos. Like her, this sofa is the rock of any interior, beautiful and inclusive of all creatures present. My genuine curiosity to provide what isn’t there led me to Catbird. From a platform of need, I seek, as I have done for decades, to fill the market with what I could not find: a source for mature, quiet furnishings who accept their presence alongside antiquity.”
Architect, romantic, poet, and entrepreneur, Bobby McAlpine, designed his first house at the age of five and hasn’t stopped since. His distinguished and widely published firms attract clients from across North America and beyond.
“The Grace chair was conceived to represent what its name implies, a graceful expression of seating. The elegant lines and gracious proportions allow from comfortable lounging that will blend seamlessly with the interior landscape. Pursley Dixon Architecture is founded of the simple principle that beauty matters. In our travels, our relationships, our work, and in our homes we believe beautiful space has the power to elevate one’s spirit. This thought is at the heart of everything we do. We are excited to be a part of Circa’s ‘Catbird’ collection and join with other like minded designers to create a line of furniture that will continue to perpetuate our passion for all things beautiful.”
Ken is the founding principal of Pursley Dixon Architecture. The twelve-member firm, specializing in bespoke residential architecture and furniture design, was established in 2005. He lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I have longed to discover this piece. Many came close, but this tallish sofa suits many different room types and sizes. Attractive from varied angles, it boasts a practical tight back and a comfortable seat depth. My designs are characterized by a love of art, timeless beauty and quality – ever mindful of the complexities and functional demands of modern family life. I carefully edit objects and furniture to work together in symphony and apply a keen attention to detail resulting in interiors that are not only appropriately balanced but also invitingly intimate.”
Since 1988, Jane Schwab of Circa Interiors & Antiques has created interesting, subtle spaces colored with gracious lines and beautiful fabrics for a myriad of clients across the country. She lives and works in Charlotte, North Carolina
Be sure to check out the Circa design blog for upcoming events in Charlotte and Birmingham.
Recently I wrote about my first job in Charlotte at Circa Interiors & Antiques. While I was finishing my design degree, I was thrilled to land an internship working for Cindy Smith and Jane Schwab. I will be forever indebted to these two ladies for taking me under their wing and teaching me the ins and outs of the Charlotte design community. In addition to being incredibly talented, these ladies are the perfect embodiment of the art of living graciously.
Jane Schwab is the quintessential hostess. She not only makes everything look effortless, but she also makes every event unique and fun beyond imagination whether it is a poolside seated dinner or a lively Easter Egg Hunt. I learned so many helpful entertaining tips from Jane…from creating beautiful tablescapes and arranging flowers to enjoying the details that enhance the event and making everyone feel welcome. I was delighted to interview her about her secrets to gracious living. Her interiors are an extension of how she lives her everyday life…They are welcoming, attainable, beautiful and incredibly charming.
I would rearrange furniture constantly as a little girl growing up in Ridge Springs, SC….not just at my own house but at friends’ houses as well!
I majored in Political Science at Converse College went on to get a Fine Art degree and Interior Design minor at the University of South Carolina. I took Continuing Education courses at Parsons School of Design while working for Marshall Schul in New York.
I had always loved Charlotte when I was traveling for work and when the opportunity arose to work at Circa, I was thrilled.
Most of my creative work takes place early in the morning or on weekends. I am always reading design and architecture books looking for the spark of an idea to ignite the creative vision.
As a combination of pretty collected pieces with comfortable and traditional furnishings updated with an element of “now” through accessories and artwork.
I have always been a neutralist, but lately I have been incorporating more color into my work and have loved it!
Our book The Welcoming Home has really had an impact on our business. The friendly, attainable design has attracted many new clients that desire the same lifestyle. Our book tour and lectures across the country have brought us to a new audience. It has been a delight to connect with so many lovely people city to city.
I am working on a 1920s Tudor home in Connecticut, a waterside cottage in Maine, and a house in Jackson, Wyoming by architect Jonathan Foote who also designed our Jackson residence.
That the experience was a positive one, no matter what it was.
Love what you do, be passionate, and connect with your niche.
Bunny Williams…Her ability to effortlessly combine styles and period and always create interiors that look and feel different. She is also unbelievably generous with her time , friendship, talent, and support.
One that you have a trusting relationship with that gives you the freedom to create, is open to new ideas, and is willing to get out of their comfort zone.
Saint Barths surrounded by dear friends and family.
Objects made out of natural materials that also serve a purpose….white horn bowls and antler boxes.
Robins’ egg blue
Decide on a color and repeating it through the room for maximum impact.
Be sure to check out the Circa design blog for upcoming events in Charlotte and Birmingham as well as the launch of their upcoming Catbird Collection.
When I first moved to Charlotte, I was fortunate to land an internship at Circa Interiors & Antiques. Little did I know that this design firm would become such an important start to my career and that I would always be proud to be a part of the extended Circa family. Each designer I have worked for has had their own style…from how they create to how they interact with their clients and employees. Cindy Smith taught me so many invaluable lessons about running a business from the originality of the design process to always making the clients feel heard, understood and valued. She has been someone I have always looked up to and I was thrilled to interview her about what makes her “tick” and her creative process. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
I spent a summer in France and it changed my perspective on life. We lived in farmhouse and my French family took great care to make the most simple moments special. Great care and attention was paid to every detail from setting the table to preparing the meal, from how a napkin was folded to how flowers were arranged. It has stayed with me and inspired my lifestyle.
My mother was very influential to my aesthetic. She was a consummate hostess…she always had an open door policy and made everyone feel welcome. She also made everything beautiful, no matter how simple it was.
Forty six years ago I moved to Charlotte as a young bride and taught school. I started taking antique classes from local legend Ruth Scott and went to auctions and flea markets on the weekends. I began selling objects out of my home when my children were little. When we outgrew that, Circa was created with with two friends. We sold upholstery and antiques out of a small bungalow. When our doors opened, we sold out of everything right away! We were very fortunate with our timing….Charlotte was growing and everyone was ready for a new look and items from abroad. My mother had warned me, “Honey, what are you going to do if this is successful”
I create a blank slate in my mind and try to think of what I envision the final interior to be. It is more about the mood than the actual pieces at first. In my downtime, I scour old historical design and architecture books and always try to incorporate vintage textiles to give a room a little bit of soul.
Working on the upcoming Catbird furniture collection. I had been seeing voids in the marketplace for pieces that could truly inspire a room. Everything is machine produced and created for mass appeal. I had been yearning for a new challenge and struggling with what I wanted the collection to be. My dear friend Bobby McAlpine encouraged me to “Open my mind to the universe and stop putting on the brakes.” I took a weekend to reflect and the idea finally came to me to do a collaborative collection with people I admire. All of the creators are members of my tribe!
When I was first getting started, I was hired to do a house for a client who was on a three month trip around the world. They had an unlimited budget, but it all had to be complete upon their return.
We have a great group of designers and we are always looking for ways to enhance our business. We are looking forward to creating more great interior design projects, upcoming special events, and the launch of Catbird in March.
For being a good mother, grandmother and an honest, caring employer and designer. for being more interested in the relationships than in the bottom line.
Travel, read, expose your senses, know the market inside and out, be passionate about your work. It is a tough business and you have to love it!
Rose Tarlow for her clear voice, Bunny Williams for her kindest and versatility, Bobby McAlpine for his originality and support, and John Saladino for his unique modern perspective on design.
I love working with clients who have their own sense of style, who know what they want and like, are educated and have clear needs.
Travel and buying for Circa. You have to be little bit “touched” to get up at 4 in the morning in the freezing cold French countryside for the thrill of the hunt!
Being at Lake Martin mopping floors with six laughing grandchildren underfoot
Tabletop everything! Glass, textiles, Victorian coconut bowls lined in silver
An indescribable shade of green only found in nature
It is all about the details! Highlighting doors with dark colors, custom nailhead designs, unusual finishing details on drapery and upholstery. I am always looking at things to see how I can tweak them and make them a little bit different.
Be sure to check out the Circa design blog for upcoming events in Charlotte and Birmingham as well as the launch of their upcoming Catbird Collection!