A new import furniture store in Winter Garden is putting Eastern artistry in the spotlight.
Element by Shangri-la started a soft opening for its new location on July 17, with a grand opening tentatively set for the first week in October.
The store sells imported furniture and decor from India and Indonesia. Ornate doors, intricate arches, weathered planks of boat wood and other materials are repurposed by artisans overseas into decorative wall art, coffee tables and book shelves. Hand-crafted metal tools and trinkets, beaded chandeliers and woven baskets offer more subtle touches to a living room or counter surface at home.
It’s a business that owner Smita Patel hopes will draw customers who are curious about Indian and Indonesian culture.
“It’s exciting — it’s something new to the area and we’re getting very positive feedback from people,” Patel said.
Element is a brand that stemmed from Patel’s other business, Occasions by Shangri-la, which provides event decor for weddings and other events that blend Eastern and Western culture.
Patel has been traveling overseas for years as part of her business. The company purchases and commissions many handcrafted items as decorative pieces for the events — customers started to take notice, asking if the items were for sale.
“I go to Indonesia and India for our other business, and we used to bring a lot of furniture and people loved it,” Patel said. “We were using it for events and we wanted to bring that sort of culture.”
Back in October, Patel went to Indonesia for two weeks and India for two more weeks. Six containers later, she had a store full of items in a warehouse along West Colonial Drive. Patel runs Element alongside her son, Remmal Karamsadkar, and daughter, Rena Popat — also getting help from her other daughters, Tina Alice and Kamine Mehta, with some design advice.
All the items are authentic — Indonesian pieces primarily come from Bali and Jakarta, and items from India come from the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
It gives residents of Winter Garden and Central Florida a place where they can take a piece of culture and display it in their homes — regardless of whether they’ve traveled there or not, Karamsadkar said.
“(It’s) importing culture … making it available,” Karamsadkar said. “What we want to do is tell more of a story.”
“That’s what we want people to see.”
Vignettes within the warehouse also give customers an idea of where the pieces can fit into an existing design. A decorative piece of teak wood might not mesh within an existing home at first glance, but the examples help provide context, Karamsadkar said.
“Some people say ‘Well, that’s not my style’ when you see a whole warehouse full of it, but when you break it down in front of a black-and-white wall or a brick wall, you get to see ‘Oh, I can use it with modern. I can use it with a regular Macy’s sofa and I could have that one coffee table and it looks amazing,’” Karamsadkar said.
Patel said she hopes to gather imported items from other countries like Morocco, East Africa, Vietnam and Mexico in the future to expand her offerings.
“(We want to) bring culture and educate people on different things,” Patel said.
“It’s exciting to see how they react to all of this.”