The City of Light is the inspiration for Seaside boutique owner Sylvia Forbes, owner of An Apartment in Paris.
An art gallery featuring home furnishings and accessories, gifts, jewelry and clothing in Seaside’s Ruskin Place, An Apartment in Paris is reminiscent of a rustic Parisian apartment with contemporary home décor. The cheery potted pink impatiens and hydrangeas on the front porch hint of the eclectic shopping experience awaiting beyond the front door. Inside, the unframed artwork on the bold pink walls commands attention. “Usually you don’t see pink walls in an art gallery,” Forbes says. “But it works for me. I like stepping out of the box and seeing things differently.”
The boutique is laid out like a tiny apartment, with a Parisian-inspired kitchen from which customers can choose dishes and kitchen décor. “I have a French rolling cart,” she laughs, “which I use when going to Modica Market.”
In the salle de bain, or bathroom, you’ll find artwork hung on the walls, also available for purchase. “It gives people a chance to see something displayed, so they can imagine it in their own home,” she explains. And an open closet features a small clothing collection, including a slip that has been converted into a tank, pairing well with a French country skirt. Handmade artisan jewelry features one-of-a-kind pieces.
On the dining room table, you may want to pick up a French butter container, or a charming Brie baker and goat cheese baker, both of which come with instructions in English and in French. Forbes is admittedly obsessed with white dishes and has them on display throughout the shop. “Many people purchase just one latte cup for themselves, saying it will be their special cup,” she says, pointing out the stacked latte cups, which could easily be mistaken for soup bowls by Americans.
Forbes grew up in Fort Walton Beach and later ran a modeling school and agency there. She then lived in Virginia Beach for 10 years, working as a set dresser for several television series, documentary films and commercials. Though she’s had no formal design training, she says she has always had an eye for the way things should look, and wants people to feel inspired when they shop at her gallery. “If they are artists, I want them to get their creative juices flowing, whether it’s in fashion, jewelry or paintings,” she says. And Forbes loves to show people different ways of using something they purchase. “You can use platters, vases, jars and pitchers in different ways and in different rooms of your home,” she adds, pointing out a water pitcher filled with pink roses and a painted platter she converted into a Lazy Susan.
Forbes also has artifacts from other European countries, and has converted wine bottles into lamps. One of her favorite recent finds is a collection of facet-cut soaps in the shapes of jewelry pieces, “It’s so beautifully done, and comes in many colors,” she adds.
After going through a recent health crisis, Forbes changed her priorities — and her answer to an oft-pondered question. “Years ago people would ask, ‘What would you have if you could have one wish granted?’ And I would say, ‘An apartment in Paris.’ If I were asked that now I would say, ‘Good health, world peace and then An Apartment in Paris.’”