As clothing boutique owner Susan Singletary describes her work and home, it becomes apparent they are directed by the same belief. It starts to emerge when she describes the joy of finding a beautiful garment at a designer’s showroom that’s perfect for a longtime client. It evolves when she mentions the bed she has coveted for years, has finally ordered, and is now waiting four months for its delivery. It crystallizes when she talks about closing the boutique to go on vacation and really, really relax, enjoy her kids and husband, and not worry that a client is not getting the very best customer service while she’s away.
At the core, what motivates and inspires Singletary is the search for quality. Only work doing what you love, only select furniture you adore, only dress in clothes that speak to you: These mandates are dictated by living a life of quality.
Singletary and her mother, Jo Ann Peoples, have been offering clothes of that kind of uncompromising quality for more than 14 years at their Buckhead boutique aptly named Peoples. Singletary was born with a love for design. “I always dressed differently from my friends,” Singletary says. But having an eye for fashion doesn’t always translate into good interior design. She credits her creative home to a natural process of growth and confidence. “It stems from the fact that as we age we develop a sense of style and sort of come into our own,” she says. “I never thought I could do interiors, but it has evolved.”
Singletary grew up in an ultra-contemporary setting, her mom’s influence, and says she took that background and tinkered with it to accommodate her family. She and husband Hugh have two children – Ty and Tess. “The house is streamlined, minimalist, clean. And it lends itself to our lifestyle. I need to keep things in order – the store, my house. It helps to keep my mind organized and less cluttered.”
She accomplishes this difficult task with careful editing. Only making a place for something in their home that she absolutely loves. She also believes this to be the secret of her success in mixing contemporary furnishings with antiques. “I never rush anything,” Singletary declares. “I never just try and fill a space. When I fall in love with a piece, I find a space for it – never the other way around.”
This philosophy manifests in open, airy spaces with just one or two dominant pieces. Neutral tones work with the classic lines of the house and allow Singletary to incorporate both modern materials and antiques. “I seem to fall for antiques that are overscale with simple lines and lots of texture,” she says. An example of this is in the dining room, where a large antique workbench with a metal vice is used as a sideboard. “I like the knottiness of the wood next to the shine of the marble table.” Singletary has found many of her favorite pieces with the assistance of Bill Hudgins, who owns the shop Lush Life, right around the corner from Peoples. “I find that he and I think alike in what we see as visually appealing.”
She also relies upon light as a critical element of her home. Sited on top of a very steep hill, the house is level with the tree line across the river. “When the sun rises and sets it is framed by the windows,” she says. She never uses window treatments. “I don’t want to block out any light,” she says. “I like the light to pour in.”
Singletary allows light to fill in spaces where other homeowners might use home accessories. “I don’t have little knickknacks,” she notes. “I’d rather have one great piece of art and nothing else.” Although Singletary says she never intentionally sought to form any specific collection, she recently realized that women are the focus of all her art. “Choosing the subject was not intentional, but I love dressing women and making them feel beautiful.”
All the pieces in her home are also layered, textured and intentionally unframed. Glass can be a barrier to the paint and to seeing the brushstrokes. Singletary is so committed to keeping her home pared down that she dreads finding any new art right now. She has five paintings and loves all of them. “I couldn’t get another piece,” she says wryly, “because I’d have to take one down that I have now, and I just couldn’t.”
Although determined not to fill the house with too many furnishings, she is enjoying the process of slowly completing their home. “I work on our home for a while, then I walk away from it,” Singletary says. “It doesn’t appeal to me to decorate a house all at once. You have to live there – see the light, see how you use the rooms, where you hang out.”
It is all part of the creative process on which Singletary fuels. Selecting fabrics from the latest season’s fashions or dres
sing her sofa with sequin pillows, Singletary decides by following her instincts. And those
instincts have served her – and her clients – exceptionally well.
Last year, clothing boutique Peoples proved it was at the pinnacle of fashion by being named one of the Top 25 Hottest Stores in the World by Vogue magazine. Owners Jo Ann Peoples and daughter Susan Singletary credit their success to a mix of old-fashioned boutique customer service with contemporary, truly wearable clothes.
Carrying mostly European and Asian designers, because, Singletary says, “that’s what’s really going on right now,” the store has clients ranging in age from 20 to 80. Peoples satisfies this age range by offering neutral colors and updated classics. “We have high-end fashion, but we translate it into everyday life.”
Singletary has worked in the fashion business since she was 15, including a stint at the Donna Karan boutique at Harrods, London, but as a native Atlantan, she knew she wanted to bring a unique store to this city.
Sometimes Peoples is the only store in the United States to buy a designer’s garment in a certain color and fabric, and it often flies out the store, affirming Singletary and People’s instincts are right on target. The boutique stocks designer lines such as Chloe, Stella McCartney, and Thakoon. Peoples, 3236 Roswell Road, Atlanta, (404) 816-7292.