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From kitchen-table beginnings, a Michigan store now draws crowds.

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My House Of Style; Birmingham, MI

URL: myhouseofstyle.com; OWNER: Diane Harris; FOUNDED: 2005; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2009; LAST RENOVATED:AREA: 1,200 square feet; 2012; EMPLOYEES: 7 part time; TOP BRANDS: Independent designers; ONLINE PRESENCE: 4.5 stars on Yelp, 1,530 likes on Facebook


IMAGINE YOUR JEWELER AS the redoubtable Cersei in Game of Thrones.

It wouldn’t surprise clients of My House of Style in Birmingham, MI.

Owner Diane Harris occasionally plants her visage atop a character’s body from her favorite TV show in the photo that accompanies her quirky emailed newsletters.

“It brings people into the store. It starts conversations,” explains Harris, whose 9-year-old business doesn’t know the word “traditional.” It was founded in her own kitchen after she left a sales position with a jeweler to source her own designs. Her first customer’s fiancée-to-be, nonplussed, followed her boyfriend into Harris’ home, where he showed her Harris’ custom-designed ring and dropped to one knee.

“She said yes. In that exact second I knew My House of Style had been born,” Harris recalls.

My House of Style grew to consume Harris’ dining room. Five years ago, she moved her operation to Old Woodward Avenue, a foot-traffic mecca for independent retailers and unique buys.

Harris remembers stomach butterflies when she opened in the gray-and-white painted-brick building, an L-shaped 1,200-square foot space, at the height of the recession. Would the moms who crowded her home showroom to drink coffee and look through her inventory follow her?

The answer was yes, thanks to a triple lure of mouthwatering social-media marketing, targeted customer care and inventory spanning a wide range of price points.
The store, redecorated in 2012, maximizes eye appeal with subtly varied cabinetry, inventory, wall color — and a full-length mirror for total-effect checks.

Customers can browse along one side, then another, and then weave among freestanding, table-legged glass-and-wood cabinets.

Federal-style white wood floor-to-ceiling built-ins along a sage-tone wall feature eye-level locking glass jewelry cabinets; open upper and lower shelves are devoted to accessories.

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The shorter opposite wall, in the store’s signature chocolate shade, holds hung glass-and-white wood cases. They’re enhanced by the painted graphic ornaments that are part of the MHOS logo.

That wall is not simply chocolate, either.

“It’s the color of a Hershey Kiss. I had a friend come in with foils that matched the My House of Style logo (for the wall ornaments). I randomly paint. I change light fixtures. I change music,” she says. “I create a place I’d like to shop in.”

Right now there’s track lighting focused on the jewelry, but softer pendant fixtures and a chandelier illuminate the center of the showroom.

The sole light cherry cabinet holds a screen/register combination, flanked by a white corner case holding another trademark: jars of bite-size sweets.

They echo color-centric jewelry. While Harris, a graduate gemologist, occasionally still designs engagement rings, she prefers natural stone jewelry: “I don’t like to have them colored or irradiated. I like the idea that this just came out of the earth and we polished it up.”

She invested in a lighting tent and collaborated with associate Trish Orndort to create eye-stopping photography for the store’s presence on its website, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Branches, petals, foliage and blooms make striking close-ups with the jewelry, and there’s constantly new photo work being done. It’s not uncommon to see Orndorf in the store’s sunlit window working on a setting.

Harris ferrets out independent designers like Avindy, Jordan Scott and Presh for one-of-a-kind natural-stone pieces.

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“I travel all over the U.S — California, Atlanta, Florida, New York — six times a year. I’ll be in a market talking to designers and ask them ‘Who’s impressing you right now?’ Harris says. “They know the niche.”

She wants a Euro vibe, too, and buys from several young European designers.

“I’ve always bought my merchandise for the store with this in mind — 50 percent is for me, what I like and what I’d want to wear. I’m eclectic — I wear a big brooch one day and tiny layers of chains the next. Then 25 percent is for my best girlfriends — they’re all very fashion-forward in different ways. And 25 percent are things I’d never wear in a million years.”

But even the things she wouldn’t wear have to be beautiful — and well constructed, she says.

Lest the store be regarded as a feminine preserve, My House of Style added a men’s counter three years ago. Currently it carries leather-and-stone wrap bracelets from Chan Luu, watches from Uno and leather cuffs from Rebel Designs.

Further, some of their most memorable shoppers are men. Sales associate Wendy Bakst still recalls one of them: a 15-year-old who came by bicycle to buy a gift for his mother.

“He’d seen our bags and knew his mother liked to shop here. So when he saw our store, he brought in money he had saved up by helping around the house and babysitting so he could buy her something from My House of Style.”

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About My House Of Style

1. . IT HAS FRIENDFEST: Harris wanted to celebrate her customers with an evening like no other: catered food, drag queens, balloon animals, henna tattoos, 100 suspended pompons, a selfie photo booth. And no selling allowed. Later, a woman who had been brought by a customer came back — she needed seven gifts, “so here I am,” she told Harris, who called it “an aha moment.”

2. THEY’LL WORK WITH EVERYONE’S JEWELRY: Wendy Bakst, who describes herself as “one of the ladies of My House of Style,” says the staff encourage people to bring in their own jewelry and the store will help them accessorize it: “We like people to walk out of here feeling gorgeous.”

3. THEY HELP SPRING THE QUESTION: Sarah Burstein, another associate, recalls a man who wanted to organize a scavenger hunt for his intended. MHOS staff put clues in her favorite places — the florist, Starbucks — ending at the store. When she arrived, he was there with the ring, and both families, and proposed. “It was emotional for everyone — us, too.”

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4. YOU CAN BRING THE KIDS: Harris makes sure the store carries jewelry for children (“Those are my customers of the future!”). It’s the only stock in which she carries duplicates: “At that age (preteen) they all like to fit in and be each others’ mirrors.”

5. IT SELLS JEWELRY BOXES: “It is next to impossible to find a jewelry box in retail stores, and if you do they’re poorly constructed,” Harris says. She has brought in quality lacquered and glass ones. There’s been a second market for them, she’s learned: Some people buy them to stow remote controls.

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My House of Style builds traffic with a local landmark contest, putting out a number of photos of details from local public places, with a $100 prize to the first in.” People aren’t going to make the effort for $25, but for $100, they do,” says Diane Harris. A side benefit: Some people may come in just to see where the winner found all the landmarks.

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