Home: Dressing Rooms
A visit to Joan Shepp’s sleek, sophisticated Walnut Street shop makes it easy to imagine her home with the same pared-down aesthetic. But the retailer’s Rittenhouse Square condo is anything but clean and spare. Romantic details and ladylike frills, like the lace curtains that frame French doors on her bedroom balcony and the languid lines of Art Deco furniture, make it clear that this clothing queen likes to play dress-up at home.
Although Shepp is usually clad in head-to-toe black, her home is full of color. “I like predominately warm colors where I live because they’re easy to live with,” she says, noting her fondness for “deep, vintage burgundies and golds.”
Her apartment-wide collection of vintage European posters in muted colors reflects the eclectic style of her home. In the dining room is a one-of-a-kind French poster Shepp bought at a Paris flea market during one of her twice-yearly buying trips to France. “I love it because of the vintage green colors in the picture,” she says.
Bronze is a common accent, and graces candlesticks, picture frames, light fixtures, chair rivets, even a set of massive gates that frame the archway leading to an intimate dining room. Shepp brought these with her from her previous store in Elkins Park. “I was heartbroken at the thought of leaving them,” she says, “and I couldn’t believe it when they fit the entry as though they were made for it.”
One thing Shepp’s apartment and storefront do share is an attention to detail — and their designer’s fashion sense. “I grew up with a talent for design, and details really matter,” she says. She has stripped down and refinished more than one piece that wasn’t quite right, including a sideboard in her dining room and the display cabinets in her showroom.
Shepp’s love of fashion shows in her collections of “lady head” vases from the 1940s, each shaped like the bust of a woman with makeup and hairstyle appropriate to the era, and vintage hats, whose dramatic colors and exotic plumage decorate chairs, hat-stands and even lampshades. “I think my love of hats came from my mother, who always told me that when I go out, wear a hat to match my outfit,” says Shepp. “I love hats because they are from an era when women really made an effort to dress well, and they give an air of distinction.”
Her favorite hat was worn onscreen by Vivien Leigh in the classic film Gone With the Wind, and she wears many others, including one that once belonged to Marlene Dietrich. She could be channeling the actress, for all the silver screen-era sophistication and glamour she brings to her home, her store and her faithful customers.