Awesome Aubrey Home
From home accents to renovations, the Greensboro design showroom meets all needs
By Robin Sutton Anders
Photographs by Amy Freeman
A quiet, predictable calm settled over Sharon Nussbaum’s life when her youngest left for college. In other words, “I was bored,” Sharon says. “I loved being at home with my kids, and I loved volunteer work. But once they left, it just wasn’t enough. I was moping around and my husband, Jim, told me, ‘You need to get a job,’” she laughs.
Jim had an idea. About that time, he’d sold Southern Foods, a family-owned business with warehouse space on Greensboro’s Old Battleground Road. The warehouse’s front offices were sitting empty. “What if you took that office space and did something with it?” he asked Sharon.
They both had a hunch where all this would lead. As an undergrad, Sharon majored in interior design at Meredith College. Before she and Jim started a family, she’d worked as an interior decorator designing commercial spaces. And after she had kids, she worked now and again for an architect and as an antiques buyer.
Seven years later, an Aubrey Home sign hangs over the entrance of that same industrial warehouse on the edge of Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. Two spiral-pruned ficus trees in ornamental pots flank the doorway. A festive wreath and a bench stocked with plush outdoor throw pillows let passersby know this warehouse has been transformed.
Just inside, a 6,000-square-foot showroom offers Sharon’s clientele a mix of furniture, accessories, artwork and gifts. Styles range from vintage to modern, and price points vary to suit most any budget. A resource room — complete with catalogs and fabric samples and a whole wall pinned with patterns, paint colors and textures — lets shoppers order anything they don’t see in the store.
“Some of our customers tell us they’re just coming in for inspiration,” Sharon says. “Others are refreshing a room and need a lamp and some pillows or a rug.” One customer recently came in with an entire set of floor plans, she adds. “We can help with all of that.”
If all you need is a new throw pillow or lamp, the thought of a 6,000-square-foot warehouse may be a bit intimidating.
But that’s not the feeling one gets meandering through Aubrey Home.
When Sharon took over the old warehouse and started to think about how to design her new space, she decided to keep the building’s labyrinth of hallways and offices. Today, the effect is one of a creative journey through a series of small, inspirational rooms.
It’s a technique Sharon learned and perfected as an antique buyer in the early ’90s. “My mom and I would go to Europe, buy antiques, import them and have a big sale six weeks later,” she says. At the time, Sharon didn’t have a retail space, so she and her mother, Nell Williams Schopp, got creative.
“Mom was a real estate agent, and we would find a beautiful old house that was on the market, approach the owner and ask if we could stage it to host an antiques show.” Winners all around, they figured. “We’d get people in to see the house, and it would give us a place to show off the antiques,” she says. “When you put furniture in a room setting, people don’t have to use their imagination. They can visualize it in their own house.”
The same goes for Aubrey Home, she adds. “I think that’s why we get a lot of people in here who say they’re just shopping for inspiration — and people who look around and say, ‘I’ll take the whole room!’”
Sharon rents space in her store to 12 designers — each with their own unique style and collection — so each of the rooms showcases a distinctive vibe. One designer likes antiques; another tends toward the exterior with garden items. One designer has a room filled with custom-made throw pillows; another sells baby décor.
Since Sharon opened shop in 2011, the furniture and décor at Aubrey Home has evolved to meet its customers’ needs. “I’ve always loved antiques. When we first opened we had a lot of antiques, but the store has really changed,” Sharon says. “We still have some traditional buyers, but a lot of the young shoppers who come in prefer a more Modern or Mid-Century look. I think we have a nice mix.”
And whereas a large percentage of her inventory used to be consignment, now most of her offerings are new pieces. Buyers find a wide selection of upholstered furniture brands with classic, clean lines — think Lee Industries, CR Laine and Gabby. “This year, I’ve also gotten heavily into gifts and women’s fashion. We carry pocketbooks and tote bags; scarves, ponchos and sweaters; and a couple of different jewelry lines, including the popular Julie Vos,” she says. “It’s not unusual for people to come in looking for a gift or jewelry for themselves.”
When asked if she has a piece of tried-and-true design advice, Sharon answers almost immediately: “If you find something you love, buy it and incorporate it into your home . . .” but then she stops herself and thinks a minute.
“The thing is, it’s easy for me to say that because I have the training to know whether or not a new accent piece — or even large piece of furniture — will work with what I already have,” she says. “But if you don’t have that experience, you may not feel confident layering furnishings or fabric.”
At Aubrey Home, Sharon or one of the other designers on staff can help. They are trained to work with a customer’s own style. “I think every person’s home should reflect their personality or the colors that make them happy,” Sharon says. “If you love antiques, who cares if they’re all the rage. I like an eclectic look. Everything doesn’t have to look brand-new.”
Sharon and her team welcome partnerships with other interior designers, who can benefit from her connections with certain furniture and fabric lines. “The way the furniture industry works, you have to buy a minimum amount of inventory,” she explains. “So smaller-scale interior designers may not be able to meet those minimums.” Working through the resource room at Aubrey Home, these designers can easily satisfy their customers.
For Sharon, that’s the whole point. “I love the creative outlet where I can meet new people and help them solve challenges they face in their home. It’s so fulfilling to see somebody get excited about the space where they live.”
Ultra Violet and Animal Prints: This Season’s Design Trends
Just down the road from High Point’s market showrooms and a day trip away from Atlanta, Sharon Nussbaum at Aubrey Home has her finger on the pulse of interior furnishings and design. We asked her for some insight into this year’s biggest trends.
Q: What’s this season’s hot new color?
A: At furniture market, we saw a lot of orchid. Pastels — especially pastel pink — are also popular. Ultra Violet is the 2018 Pantone color of the year.
Q: Any color combos?
A: Blue and white continues to be really strong.
Q: What about animal prints? I’m seeing a lot of them. Are they still in style?
A: Yes. We’re seeing lots of them in accessories, like pillows. People used to say, every room needs a touch of black. Now I think it’s, every room needs a touch of animal print.
Q: Do you have a top-selling fabric?
A: We’re seeing a huge swing toward performance fabrics, like Sunbrella. We also sell a lot of Crypton-treated fabrics that are easily cleanable. It used to be that people with kids would get a dark, durable fabric that would wear like iron. Now you can get a cream-colored sofa in a fabric you can easily clean, and it’s no big deal when kids spill something on it or pets climb all over it.
Q: What’s your personal design style?
A: Start with a neutral base and layer with pops of color. Personally, I don’t want to look at the same thing all the time. If I use a neutral color for my upholstery and rugs and walls, I can easily get a new look without spending a lot of money. Maybe in the winter I’ll use rich, emerald green pillows and accessories, and in the spring, I can switch it up with a brighter color. — R.A h
Robin Sutton Anders is a freelance writer and illustrator based in Greensboro, and co-author of the recently published book Becoming Durham: Grit, Belief, and a City Transformed.