Bethany James has always had a passion for design. The founder and managing director of luxury furniture retailer James Said, she’s a born aesthete drawn to classic glamour, opulent visuals and luxurious finishes. In fact, prior to launching James Said in 2016, Bethany had a cosmetics business where style was just as important as substance.

“I have a creative spirit,” she explains. “Even when I had my own cosmetics company, it was really all about the packaging and the creation of the products and the marketing. That’s what I was passionate about and what drives me, so it was a natural progression into interiors.”

Walking through the grand doors of James Said’s latest store, located in the former Armadale Picture Theatre on High Street, this natural affinity is plain to see. The heritage building has been reimagined as a two-storey gallery, dotted with more than 20 room settings, expertly arranged in the retailer’s hallmark Hollywood Regency style.

Launched last month, this is James Said’s first Melbourne incarnation, and, at 1400-square metres, its most ambitious showroom to date. Bethany, a Perth native, already has bricks-and-mortar stores at home and in Sydney, but much of the business operates online. She describes the new Melbourne base as the realisation of a long-held dream.

“This has always been the vision for what I wanted to do, I just never had the space or the scale to be able to communicate it the way that I wanted to.”

It took roughly six months to renovate the space so that it aligned with Bethany’s vision. The end result is a light, airy building with a statement staircase by the entry, ornate, soaring ceilings and rich, dark parquetry flooring. Feature mirrors that make the space feel even bigger than it already is and black glass display cases – a James Said signature – showcase books and homewares.

Bethany says that landing here was more serendipitous than planned. When first scouting Melbourne for an ideal space, she made a conscious decision to avoid suburbs that are already home to a host of furniture stores, such as Richmond.

“We do our own thing and that’s the same for our location. To stand alone somewhere else is more our style.”

When she learned a period building at 926-930 High Street was available, “the opportunity was just too fantastic to pass up”.

“All our furniture has a nod to the past. Everything you see has a mid-century feel and has been reproduced in a modern way,” she says. “An old, 1920s building suits our style.”

For the unfamiliar, the Hollywood Regency aesthetic has its origins in the 1920s, inspired by the homes of movie stars during the Golden Era. Think: light and dark contrasts, bold splashes of jewel tones, rich velvet, lavish mirrors and glass accents.

When Bethany began working in interior design several years ago, these styles were difficult to come by at home, so she imported them from European and American designers. From there, Regency Distribution, her furniture distribution business, and James Said were born.

Visitors to James Said not only see examples of Hollywood Regency reimagined for modern Australian homes, they also receive a complementary home consult from a member of staff, all of whom are experienced interior designers. There’s a browsing bar where you can explore the entire collection online and have a tech expert mock up a picture of what particular pieces would look like in your own home.

A concierge offers champagne and coffee on arrival, and there’s also a café on the ground floor that delivers upstairs. These touches are key to the James Said experience, Bethany says.

“You’re furnishing your house, so when people come into the store I want them to feel at home; food and drink is a big part of home entertaining.”

So far, locals have responded in kind.

“The reaction that we’ve had from the public and also other retailers around the street has been so welcoming,” Bethany says. “We’re just delighted to be here and we feel at home already.”

Images courtesy of Bethany James

Bethany James The founder and managing director, James Said

James Said Melbourne store

James Said Melbourne store 3

Lifestyle & Design

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