Old town Bluffton furniture gallery makes the new look old

cconley@islandpacket.comMay 6, 2012 

Allison Fargione, owner of Al Harry Furniture Design is shown here Thursday afternoon inside her business on Calhoun Street in old town Bluffton.

SARAH WELLIVER

Seven years ago, Alison Fargione had a vision for the perfect furniture gallery.

"I was in the store, and there was furniture and it had wood floors, and I just didn't forget that dream," the Hilton Head Island resident recalled last week.

The image came and went over the years, and so did earlier attempts to open a store. Last fall, on her first trip to Calhoun Street, she peered into a vacant space in the Planter's Mercantile building.

"When I looked in and saw the floors, I was like, 'That's it,' " she said.

Thus began Al-Harry Furniture Design, which opened seven weeks ago with pieces designed, restored or refinished under Fargione's direction. Most pieces are less than a year old but are finished to have the weathered look of a family heirloom.

"We have vintage pieces that we find, and we re-do them -- completely fix them, paint them and add different details to them," she said.

"Then there are pieces I have designed and I have local carpenters build them. And ... we (sometimes) get plain furniture and add all the trim and do the finishes."

Fargione, 53, worked in interior design for about 20 years, creating faux finishes and other wall treatments. Her father made furniture for her family growing up, and she said memories of his workshop stoked her interest in the trade.

"It's about passing on a family gift. And I just really thought God gave me the passion to do this, and the ability," she said.

Prices range from about $150 for small side tables up to $7,000 for custom work. The higher-end pieces require more than 20 hours of finish work at the on-site workshop.

"There will never be another exact replica of this piece," said Veronica Martini, a mural painter who works at Al-Harry. "You are buying a piece of art that just happens to be furniture."

Diane Dean of the Old Town Bluffton Merchants Association, said the shop complements other art galleries and shops on Calhoun Street.

"It's a place where people can go and browse," she said. "We were crossing our fingers that we didn't get a lawyer's office or doctor's office. The retail is what we want."

Fargione has sold several pieces since opening, and she expects it will pick up.

"I am just hoping I can encourage other women to take a chance, no matter what age you are. Just because your kids are grown doesn't mean you can't have fun," she said.

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