Sticks sprung from humble origins when, in 1992, Sarah Grant began carving ornaments and candlesticks from birch, poplar, and driftwood in a small studio in Des Moines. As her work began to attract national interest and demand for it grew, Sarah enlisted the aid of other local artists and expanded her inventory to include handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture, whimsical sculptures, and intricate keepsakes.
Today, the artists’ work is showcased in more than 100 galleries across the country. Their installation projects have even decorated the walls of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa, and the student center at Iowa State University.
Sticks artists can often be spotted by the shores of local rivers, gathering driftwood for their work. They assemble the wood into custom-designed tables, beds, and armoires within their spacious, light-filled studio before painting them with colorful, whimsical designs, from smiling suns and moons to lush landscapes. The versatile artists even take their tools and paintbrushes to homes, businesses, and underground mad-scientist labs to craft custom art installations and interiors.
With members certified by the American Lighting Association, The Ar-Jay Center’s staff of seasoned illuminators shine a new light on hum-drum homes with stylish accessories including lighting, ceiling fans, and mirrors. Brighten shadowed corridors with the aerial radiance from an oil-rubbed bronze mini pendant light ($38), or pinpoint bodily smudges underneath the cascading effulgence of a three-bulb bath light ($47). Halogen desk lamps keep work on schedule with brilliant light and built-in clocks ($30); the blades of a bronze 52-inch ceiling fan supply rooms with the wind power required during hot summers or indoor parasailing practice ($75). The center's experienced design staff stands ready to assist with any furnishing inquiries, helping customers tease out the personality of otherwise bashful roosts.
The blossom specialists at Coe’s Floral and Gifts arrange flowers for spontaneous gestures and a host of special occasions. A 12-stemmed pink-rose bouquet nests in a shapely vase with ample greens, and a dozen roses in assorted colors keep semioticians guessing. Tulips slap smiles on faces with 15 cheerful stems, and any buds in the store may be combined to create hypnotic palettes or floral supergroups. The store, which has been in business since 1932, hosts floral-design workshops on a variety of topics each month, including seasonal decorations and how to conceal a trebuchet in a bed of roses during a siege.
Operated by a family with more than 80 years of experience in furniture retail, Artis Home Gallerie outfits homes with opulent chairs and tables from upscale brands such as Stickley and Harden. Elegant interiors find the ideal appointments with leather or stylishly patterned sofas ($3,000–$3,600), and bodies weary from holding floors in place find comfort in chairs with intricate Morris upholstery and tiger-print styles ($1,900–$2,500). Knowledgeable designers squire visitors around geometric coffee tables bearing colorful glass vases and fluid sculptures, and a fanciful wine-barrel lamp ($625) illuminates abstract paintings and landscapes. Meanwhile, dining room tables admire their silky dark-wood reflection in mirrors framed by metallic curlicues.
Since 1932, Lumbermen's family of businesses have aimed to fulfill their motto of bringing quality to life—expertly cutting stone for projects including the face of The Village of Ponderosa, PF Changs, Scheels, Fleming's, and a tiny fireplace for Barbie’s upscale dream house. Their most recent store, Fireplace and Stone Center, specializes in hardscaping materials as well as stone veneers for home and commercial façades. The center’s vast display area also boasts an array of outdoor-living merchandise, such as outdoor fireplaces, kitchens, and stylish patio furniture.
The expert mechanics at Hill Motorbikes service 50cc–250cc mopeds and scooters from companies such as Lance Powersports, Puma Cycles, and BMS MotorSports. Safety-conscious riders can pick up a new helmet from the store to defend their craniums from bumps, scrapes, and segway-riding sharks ($50–$100), or order an oil change that douses engines and rear ends in lubricant to keep street prowlers purring ($35). Bike bosses kick off tune-ups with a test drive to check on-road performance before cosseting crafts with an oil change, a sparkplug replacement, and an inspection and adjustment of the valves, carburetor, brakes, and clutch ($75). Hill Motorbikes' knowledgeable staff can also dispense useful advice, such as how to winterize your bike by teaching it to hibernate in a hollowed stump.