A retail retreat in The Woodlands: Soft Surroundings debuts first Houston-area store
The soothing and sophisticated Soft Surroundings women's retail store put on a dessert-and-champagne opening event Wednesday night at the company's first Houston area location at The Woodlands Mall, which opened its doors in November of last year.
A homey store consciously devoted to "me time," the Soft Surroundings motto is just inside the door, designed to be seen by customers as they leave: A reminder to honor "my time. my place. my self."
This ambiance is recognizable even from the outside, where it appears that a Tuscan villa has been inserted into the mall wall. Inside, the shop has the feel of a well-decorated home, with custom cabinetry and faux finishes. Products serve as decoration: Coffee table and conversation books, small girlfriend gifts, gloves, necklaces, pillows and panels, lamps and mirrors.
The Soft Surroundings motto is just inside the door, designed to be seen by customers as they leave: A reminder to honor "my time. my place. my self."
There are Nest and Ineke fragrances, three signature scents exclusive to Soft Surroundings, and a very large beauty area designed to be a solution-based assortment of products.
High-end color and skin care lines contain makeup, lotions and cosmeceuticals from brands including Aptiva, Osmotics, Dermelect, Paula Dorf, Payot Paris, Perricone MD and Laboratoire Remède. The beauty specialist on staff provides shoppers free makeovers, and beauty events are regularly held in-store.
The store's apparel collection, elegant, drapey patterns and basics, has been very popular both in this fledgling location and in others: Soft Surroundings has tapped into practical dressing for the stylish over-forty set, the baby boomer demographic who may have difficulty finding clothes that both fit and flatter, and women of all ages who may be pressed for time in general.
Every item is designed with comfort in mind, but cut to compliment. Many of the fabrics were inspired by those utilized for baby clothes; society's youngest members' togs set the softness standard.
Comfort is emphasized also in conveniences not often seen outside department stores: Little red buttons in the dressing rooms call a salesperson, and in the store there are drinking fountains and men's and women's bathrooms. Crystal chandeliers and detailed cabinetry are everywhere — even in those restrooms.
Comfort is emphasized also in conveniences not often seen outside department stores
Soft Surroundings' current catalog, Retreat, is its first solely devoted to furniture. So many catalog shoppers have asked over the years to buy the French antique furniture behind the models that a new furniture line has been added to the company's clothing, bedding, home decor and skin care lines.
Antiquing excursions to France each spring result directly in the reproduced pieces which make up the company's collection of furniture, such as the Amelie writing desk ($598.95), with
"the design of an antique French writing desk we fell in love with in Aix-en-Provence," or the hand-painted Cecilia chest ($798.95), with a pattern "garnered from antique grillwork on a cathedral in St. Paul de Vence."
The company, founded as a catalog in St. Louis, Mo. in 1999, has since expanded to 10 brick and mortar stores including three in Texas — one in Southlake opened in Nov. 2011, and a San Antonio storefront opened last September. The company is actively scouting other Texas locations.
Two other retailers also recently opened in The Woodlands: Madewell, J. Crew's more casual "downtown counterpart," opened on Woodlands Market Street in January, and Flip Flop Shop opened on Market Street in December as the second of three Houston-area franchise locations that exclusively sells flip flops and sandals.