Story and Photos by Kaitlin Hill
“A good design will last forever.” Joanne Swift, owner of The Shaggy Ram, explains, “There are no ins and outs of design. There is only good design which is timeless.”
Swift would certainly know, as a 50-year veteran of the home decoration business. The last 30 of those years spent on Middleburg’s main street, where she sells pieces she has personally selected from at home and abroad and offers design services to clientele near and far.
“I import most of my furniture from England and France. Not all, but most.” Swift says gesturing around her shop. “I have gone to England and France probably over 80 times. So, I am very familiar with what I’m seeing and I am always looking for the unique, the unusual.”
Many of her treasures are made a little closer to home with artisans from across the nation on display. “There are various artists that I represent in here, some Virginia, some Pennsylvania, some Ohio.” Near the front window, a gorgeous decanter and set of glasses delicately engraved with a mare and foal come from an artist in Kentucky. And around each corner, striking faux flower arrangements assembled by two local girls.
Swift says, “I try to mix old and new and feature artists that I feel are really good…I love anything that is quality, unique, honest and in good taste.” Her collection has something for everyone and every budget. “I do everything from $6.50 up to $10,000. It’s a whole variety,“ she notes. The home décor and furniture store even has a children’s shop, adorably dubbed “Little Lambkins,” so youngsters can be draped in English imports, too.
Beyond retail, Swift is well known by clients all over the world and right here in Middleburg for her design services reflecting her decades of experience. “I have been here for 30 years, this is my design room,” she explains as she opens the doors to a room overflowing with fabric swatches, sewing machines and measuring tapes. “I have drapery people; I have carpet people; I have wallpaper people; upholstery people. We do it all out of here.”
Her skill set is as limitless as the scale of projects she is willing to take on. From refurbishing a set of chairs to re-hauling the decorative vision of the Ambassador’s residence in Morocco and completely remaking a chateau in Switzerland – Swift can do it all.
With her wealth of experiences and a keen eye for style, Swift has curated a collection and a design philosophy that are consistent and simultaneously eclectic. She pairs elements of new and old, homegrown and international, modest and grand resulting in timeless installments that are reflective of her simple yet purposeful principles.
“A good design will last forever. It can be contemporary, traditional; it can be whatever you want as long as it is done properly.” Swift adds, “I only buy what I absolutely love…That’s the best advice I can give. Don’t buy anything you don’t love. Don’t buy anything you think you are going to replace.”
Love and timelessness could easily describe Swift, too. Love for her job and her clients are immediately apparent upon entering The Shaggy Ram, which she has re-leased for at least seven more years. She remembers a client telling her, “’You’re not working here, Joanne, this is your passion.’”
“So many clients come in year after year and they have become my friends. That’s what I love about being here.”
This article first appeared in the June 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.