Emily Hudgens and Toni Hollingsworth met at a Charlotte design firm in 2006 and immediately clicked. Emily grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, where she says she was always rearranging her childhood bedroom. Toni grew up near the High Point furniture market surrounded by designers. Both studied interior design in college and decided to team up and go out on their own in 2010.
They quickly made a name for themselves in the builder industry – often working on model homes from scratch. They help pick everything from interior and exterior paint to lighting, furniture, cabinetry and accessories.
“We space plan the home, select interior and exterior finishes, do electrical and lighting plans and do all the finishings and window treatments from top to bottom. When the model home is ready, we travel to install everything over a two-day time period,” Emily explains.
The women say they design differently but have the same sense of style – a style that’s worked so well for them that, in addition to their design work, they’re now celebrating their second anniversary in their popular Dilworth home store, Theory. Emily says, “We both are a little bit edgier. We have a masculine edge to us, kind of like that focal point or pop, and you can see that throughout the store.”
In the store, you’ll find a fun mix of home decor, lamps, pillows, art, dinnerware and furniture pieces as well as a large gift section – including many local lines.
“When we were designing for builders, people would ask us all the time, ‘Where can we get that lamp or a set of pillows, bedding?’ — different things that were in the homes. We got so many inquiries that we decided to open the retail store,” Emily says.
There’s also a price-point for everyone. Toni says, “We wanted to have something here for all walks of life – both the established mom with kids in college and the girls just graduating from college and starting to fill their first home.”
The designing duo also has a special design center inside the store where clients can select custom couches, wallpaper, accessories and more.
Tucked away in a restored Dilworth home, Theory is right next to the popular Starbucks on East Boulevard. The store is, as you would expect, beautifully decorated, and everything there is carefully curated.
Maximus, a 5-year old Wheaton terrier who, not surprisingly, has a specially designed haircut (he looks like a little lion) is the store mascot. Even the mailman says hi to Max every day when he comes in. Make sure to pet him and take a picture – he has his own Instagram account.
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Hands down, the girls say their custom candle is their bestselling item. You immediately catch a hint of it as you walk in the store. They worked with local company Ella B to design the candle that has touches of sandalwood, musk and linen. “One woman wanted to gift them to all the doctors and nurses who’d cared for her husband in the hospital, so she came in and bought 30 candles at once. She told us she wanted everyone to know about this candle!” At $28, the Theory candle makes a great hostess gift as well.
The girls say they purposely seek out fun and funky accessories and point to another of their hottest sellers as the reason why. Customers go crazy for their ceramic hand sculptures. Some feature the peace sign, others an OK sign or some just a hand, and all fly off the shelves. Snag one for $18.
If you’re looking to update your space with some current trends in interiors, Theory can help. Below are some hot looks to look out for that you can pick up at Theory:
Theory Design Studio and Boutique is located at 1405 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Mondays by appointment. To learn more about their services and shop, visit theory-designstudio.com or call (704) 900-0840.
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