Florida Keys Business
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Stylin' in theislands
Boutique features island home decor

"I'll take one of everything."

"This is exactly how I want my whole house to look. It's so bright and tropical."

"Can I just move in here?"

Such is the reaction of sun-seeking tourists and appreciative locals to the view inside Island Style, a tropical boutique and gallery that recently doubled in size when it moved to a new building in the 500 block of Duval Street, constructed after a March 2009 fire destroyed three shops.

The comments are calypso music to the ears of owner Dyan Stuglin, who knows a thing or two about sun-drenched islands, as she divides her time among three of them -- Key West, Sanibel Island and Nevis.

Stuglin, a retired teacher, opened the first Island Style location on Sanibel Island 35 years ago, when she traded a Michigan classroom for a Florida beach.

"I moved to Sanibel to start the store. I've always been an island person," she said.

Her frequent trips to Key West and eventual purchase of a home in Truman Annex led to the second Island Style boutique on a second island.

"I would always want to bring something unique home from Key West," she said, but often had trouble finding upscale, handmade items. "I thought a store like mine could do well down here."

It did.

There is also plenty of island style in Stuglin's home on Nevis in the Caribbean, but the treasured items are not for sale. Stuglin is living the design dream of most of her customers by furnishing her waterfront Nevis home entirely with items from her boutiques. An entire staircase is hand-painted and etched with a story Stuglin wrote about island living.

"It's heaven," she said. "We spend two weeks a month there in the off-season. Fortunately, my husband's job with the airlines makes that possible."

Stuglin opened Island Style in Key West nearly 15 years ago at 620 Duval St., where she filled the shop with colorful, whimsical art, wooden wall signs, hand-painted and carved furniture, jewelry, wine glasses and other decorative items.

"Our goal is to create a fun atmosphere that embraces the joyous spirit of island living," she said, adding that most of the artists she features are from Florida, and she has exclusive rights to sell many of the works, meaning they aren't available anywhere else in Key West.

Stuglin also attends several trade shows each year to find additional pieces to add to the store's collection, which doubled in size this year when she moved to 512 Duval St. After the fire, the new building was divided into two larger shops instead of the three smaller ones that previously housed La Creperie, now at 300 Petronia St.; Montage sign shop, now at 439 Duval St.; and American Royal Arts, which moved to 622 Duval St. in July 2009 but since has closed.

"The new building was what my architect, Michael Piazza, called a vanilla shell," Stuglin said. "It was an empty, blank canvas, so we had the opportunity to design it ourselves and I could decide where to place every shelf and electrical outlet."

The result is a welcoming, vibrant space with high ceilings that Stuglin filled with art, collectibles, gifts and a new clothing section she calls wearable art. Handmade, lightweight sweaters are featured in colors and patterns that coordinate with leather sandals and handbags.

"Because most of my artists and designers are Floridians, it makes things easier, because the sweater designer is friends with my shoe designer, so we work together to offer continuity in styles, color palettes and prints," Stuglin said, holding out a tiny, hand-knitted sweater for island infants and then moving to a collection of handbags that combine the rugged earth tones of burlap with tropically printed fabric accents that sell for less than $40.

"I try to feature something for everyone in all price ranges," she said.

The shop carries everything from $20 gift items to $3,000 pieces of furniture, art and sea glass chandeliers.

"I hear from people every day that this is their favorite store. We've had people come in and say, 'I want this whole section,' " Stuglin said, sweeping her arms to include a collection of dishware, wine glasses and a colorfully painted shelving unit.

Stuglin lives full-time in Key West during the winter tourist season, but still has a home on Sanibel and goes back and forth twice a month, she said. Come spring, Stuglin answers the Caribbean call of her third island -- that's just her style.


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