By Donna Cornelius
In years past, most folks furnished their lake houses and camp houses in attic style. They found unused stuff in the attic, loaded it up in the back of the station wagon and carted it off to their weekend retreats.
As long as that old, chintz-covered couch was serviceable, it didn’t matter that it was more shabby than chic.
Today, second home owners often want their getaways to be stylish, said Kelly Seibels, owner of Seibels in Homewood.
“These types of houses are being used more all year ‘round,” Seibels said. “People envision themselves retiring to the lake, and many want a more comfortable, upscale lake house than the traditional old-fashioned fish camp. They’re being used for football games and entertaining on the weekends throughout the fall and winter more than ever. We’ve adapted our business to the lifestyle they want.”
Seibels said many of his customers want a casual, contemporary look for their retreats.
“With the quality lines we carry, you could place much of our furniture, for example, in just about any house in town,” he said. “For porches, we do a lot of Sunbrella fabrics, with lots of fabric swatches to choose from. We’re the exclusive Birmingham dealer for Kingsley Bate, which makes teak and wicker outdoor furniture.”
There’s still room, however, for the nostalgic camp feel.
“It’s at the heart of the lake life, and clients seem to appreciate some sense of that look blended into their style,” Seibels said.
Seibels and his wife, Suzy, opened their store in Homewood in 2000 after a few years in an English Village location.
“The business has changed over the years,” he said. “We found our niche in the second home and cottage industry.”
The store gives a lot of attention to the lake house market.
“About 10 years ago, a developer invited us to stage a spec house on Lake Martin at The Ridge,” Seibels said. “We were doing lake business before, but once we staged the house, we became more focused on that.”
At the store, you’ll find gifts and accessories for just about every major Alabama lake in the state.
“We have signs, hand towels and framed maps of the lakes,” Seibels said. “We have personalized candles; we can customize them for an individual lake or farm. We’re getting ready to carry coasters, wine stoppers and cutting boards, too.”
The Seibels’ store has furniture, lighting, linens and rugs.
“A big part of our business is that we build our own furniture, particularly for porches and bedrooms,” Seibels said.
One of the products the company is most known for is the ultimate in relaxation: a swinging bed.
“This was the ‘home of the original swinging bed,’” Seibels said. “We build and sell them for porches primarily but also for bedrooms.”
He said swinging beds have been shipped as far away as California.
“We build bunk beds, end tables, bars and other furniture,” he said. “We do a lot with reclaimed wood both in what we make and what we buy.”
“We can build just about anything you need,” Seibels said. “We do some custom woodwork and ironworking. You might find something you like on Pinterest and bring us a photo; we can do it. We just did a built-in armoire for a cubby in a child’s room.”
A step-back cupboard made from reclaimed barn wood is one of the store’s pieces made by a Christian nonprofit ministry in Pennsylvania.
Homeowners can bring in their own designers, but the store also offers in-house design services.
In addition to lake houses, Seibels said his company has worked on beach houses, mountain cabins in North Carolina and north Georgia, recreational farms mainly used for hunting or fishing, and even game day condos.
Kelly Seibels writes on the store’s website about how his family business started: “Our business originally grew out of my father’s lifelong dream to build a family camp on an island in southern Ontario. His grandfather, Dr. Howard A. Kelly of Baltimore, had explored the area in the late 1800s and built the original family camp, Indian Point, on a remote northern lake. Many of his furnishings were handmade locally while later pieces came from the Old Hickory Furniture Company in the early 1900s.
“Dad built his own place, Esther’s Point, 100 years later, and opened our eyes to a life in the north country he had known growing up, with cousins, aunts, uncles and canoe trips in the northern wilderness.”
The family’s love for lake and outdoor living resulted in Seibels Sportsman’s Den, a catalog of sporting art, gear and furniture. The catalog was first mailed from Owens Crossroads in 1994; the last mailing was in 2003.
Seibels credits his wife, Suzy, and two other women for much of the company’s change of direction.
“Suzy helped build this business,” he said. “We hired Trissy Holladay, who ran the women’s department at Parisian, as our general manager and to be a buyer with us.
“Suzy and Trissy really opened things up with their buying and their taste. Before Trissy retired, she trained Chapman Miller, who took over for her as manager. Chapman is great at keeping things fresh. The credit for what we are now goes to Suzy, Trissy and now Chapman.
“If it had been up to me, this would be a man cave.”
Seibels is at 2927 18th St. in Homewood. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit seibelscottage.com or call 879-3558.