Standard Furniture traces its origins back to 1912, when a local family began traveling through Birmingham, peddling fine household furniture out of a wagon. Four generations later, the business has blossomed into 13 retail stores throughout Alabama and Tennessee, and its century-long commitment to quality furniture and customer service won it the Alabama Retail Association’s Silver Award as one of the Retailers of the Year in 2011. Each gallery abounds with bedroom, living-room, and dining-room furniture from top designers such as Lane, along with mattresses in a range of shapes and styles from brands such as Tempur-Pedic, Serta, and Jamison. At each location, a knowledgeable staff awaits to offer design counsel, suggesting pieces that best suit a household’s style or will hold up against a disobedient pet woodchuck.
Lighting Concepts stocks ceiling fans, lamps, and accessories in its show room. Its staff and electronic search tool can help customers select the right lights for their homes. Install a chandelier or pendant lamp over a dining-room table for an elegant look, pair lights with fan blades to cool off damp locations, or place spotlights at strategic points around your house to illuminate distinctive furniture.
Dedicated to a next-day turnaround for many assignments, Thompson's encases everything from diplomas to completed jigsaw puzzles within the ornate borders of more than 2,000 customizable frames. Guests can also peruse a collection of 300 ready-made frames that will fit snugly around standard-size pictures, or commission custom tabletop frames to showcase unconventionally sized posters. More than 100 framed, beveled mirrors further populate the store, silently reflecting the reversed T-shirt graphics and snarky grins of each shopper's personal doppelgänger. Frames and mirrors are complemented by a collection of original oil paintings, which help homeowners adorn their walls with a colorful still life, a muted landscape, or an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the human condition.
Painted By U caters to burgeoning artists and crafters of all ages in a studio that invites visitors to create fused glass works, paint ceramic bisques, or color blank canvases. After choosing their piece from a selection of more than 300 ceramic forms, walk-in artists can elect colors from a rainbow of glazes with which to paint mugs, tiles, and pieces of Atlantis. Meanwhile, a glittering array of glass pieces awaits selection as experts help artists fuse and slump their assemblages into vibrant silica masterpieces. The studio's collection of idea books, stencils, and stamps kindle artistic inspiration, while studio assistants lend tips and tricks to creators hard at work. Party-planners can rent out an activity room that accommodates up to 18 guests to forge art-filled birthdays, bridal showers, or ladies' nights.
Sips n Strokes gifts paintbrush-wielding neophytes the tools and confidence to create, with a mélange of masterpiece-making tutorials and a bring-your-own-beverage policy. Artists can elect a class from the shop's calendar to hone the painting style that best complements their home, office, or neighbor's windshield, including picks of imagery from Parisian scenes to funky roosters. Each course, led by an instructor well versed in the trade, pairs well with the liquid inspiration of each student's choosing. Silence-seeking artists or easily corruptible mimes may opt for an afternoon or weeknight session, as the weekends generally garner 20 to 50 rowdy rookies.
Night Owl Paper Goods makes all of its modern yet folksy hand-crafted paper goods by hand from sustainably harvested wood, letterpress, or a hybrid of the two. The Pup with Leaves design ($6), for example, blends Night Owl's eco-friendly yellow birch cards with an aww-inducing hand-drawn illustration. Stock up for the traditional round of holiday cards and break-up letters to Santa with the Pine Penguin ($16 for box of six), or regale a moody teenaged girl with a broad range of journals, jotters, and other gifts. And Night Owl's many customizable cards give the vicariously creative a one-of-a-kind way to announce birthdays, births, bar mitzvahs; formal raves, or a button factory promotion to Assistant to the Regional Hole-Puncher.