“The store evokes a sense of discovery and adventure,” Michael Dukes says of Royal Circus, Nashville’s newest home store you must visit. In a space that sat empty for many years, Michael Dukes and Geoffrey Gill created a highly curated shop with the intent of showcasing home furnishings with texture and patina. The duo’s collaboration began three years ago when the pair started sourcing unique home furnishings, antiques and home accents. “We have gone out of our way to forge connections and to find items you won’t see elsewhere,” Michael explains. Three years of sourcing culminated with enough inventory to fill the 5,800-square-foot space in Wedgewood Houston. Houston Station, which now houses Royal Circus alongside local businesses including Sara Ray Interior Design, Bastion and Hemingway’s, dates back to 1885. Once home to The American Syrup Company, the historic building is the perfect backdrop to Michael and Geoffrey’s collection.
The collection includes items new and old, ranging from upholstered pieces from CoCoCo to antiques from Tibet and China to Hollywood lights restored by John Scarpati — all of which have enduring appeal. “We imagine our customer as someone who wants their place to be a reflection of their own path and stories,” explains Michael. “The soul of Royal Circus is in the thrill of discovering and finding things that enrich your life profoundly.”
Everything in the store was purposefully chosen, even the flamboyant, faux ostrich chair. There doesn’t seem to be any disagreement on what constitutes a Royal Circus piece. “If you give us a list of 100 products and told us to pick 90, we would pick the same ones — even if you told us to pick 15,” Geoffery says. The overlap in taste and appreciation for unique, quality pieces is what makes the partnership successful.
When Michael and Geoffery point to their favorite items, they both gravitate towards antiques and upholstered pieces. Geoffery is smitten with a chest from the Chinese province of Shanxi that was crafted in the 1840s. Michael leads us to a 1860s banquet that has been slightly upcycled. Two other items they hold near and dear to their hearts are the Hollywood lights and the CoCoCo couches.
CoCoCo is short for The Comfortable Couch Company, a North Carolina-based furniture manufacturing company that celebrates quality. Michael discovered the company while researching a leather couch to buy for himself. “I felt confident they are premier in what they do,” Michael says. “Their upholstered pieces are a complement to what we do.” The couches are displayed in the space, making Royal Circus the only retail store in the country to sell their items (aside from a family-run CoCoCo showroom in Atlanta). Geoffery acknowledges the tufted sofa Michael is sitting on during our chat as his favorite. “It is a modern piece with a vintage feel,” he explains. The upholstered items are built as showpieces exclusively for Royal Circus, the only exception is a Chesterfield loveseat that came from the CoCoCo showroom and shows how the leather wears and ages. “We gravitate to the waxier leather finishes that ages gracefully,” Michael explains.
The pricing the inventory was intentional. “We don’t want people to be intimidated,” Michael explains. “The prices are attainable for many people furnishing a home.” A new mahogany desk is priced at $504; a large 1820s console sourced from China is priced at $6,700; a large shelving piece handcrafted in India is priced at $2,200. “There’s an emphasis on statement pieces, whether large or small,” Michael says. The pair want the pieces to become a beloved part of your surroundings.
You can always find one — or both — owners at the store, which is a treat, because they are as unique as the items they source. If you are lucky, they will share their experiences, including Geoffery’s time in Spain, Africa and Europe, or Michael’s appreciation for Asia’s sights and smells, which was discovered during trips to Nepal, where he adopted his daughter.
“If we were ever voted anything, we’d want to be voted Nashville’s most vibrant store,” Michael tells us.
Well, Royal Circus, you have our vote.
Royal Circus is located at 438 Houston St, Nashville, TN 37203. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Thank you to Caroline Sharpnack for the beautiful photos that showcase the space so wonderfully.
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