Some Kind of Magic 13

Désirant Offers the Arts to Asheville

When George Vanderbilt envisioned the triumphant edifice that would become Biltmore Estate, it was threaded with French arts and influence, stained with his memories of Châteauesque-style French Renaissance abodes in the countryside. Architect Richard Morris Hunt laid out his extensive plans in the French style and infused them with a special kind of refinery, and Vanderbilt recruited French artisans and makers to complete the tasks within the home. Those French immigrants settled in our hills, influencing aspects of Asheville we all love today: French patisseries, delicate architectural flairs, our artistic soul and most recently the shopping experience at Désirant.

Wrapping through several rooms of the historic building on Broadway, Désirant draws its unique, chic flair from our French history and many of its wares from the fields of France itself. Vice-President Brett Kruger embarks on cross-continental explorations, roaming the markets and antique shops of France to find finely-curated mementoes and antiques to sell in Désirant.

Shopping at Désirant is reminiscent of a cross-continental exploration in itself. “That’s something you can tell about this place—it’s an adventure,” says Shelby Evans, Creative Director and General Manager of the boutique. Strolling the expansive rooms of Désirant (over 7,000 square feet of them) is like walking through the antiquated markets of the French countryside—you never know what surprise you’ll stumble upon. Local wares integrate seamlessly with handcrafted gifts from around the country and the world.

Evans describes the store as part gift shop, part boutique. “It’s so eclectic, you could find gifts for five different people,” she says. Some of the items in the store embody that eclecticism, like the Carolbilt clocks; the artisan uses various vintage and antique parts collected through her travels. She loves to go antiquing, having always been inspired by small trinkets of different shapes and textures with which she makes her clocks. She outfits her creations with feathers, an unintentional twist on the idiom “Time flies” that lends the clocks a whimsically soft tick that draws a smile from passerby. The clocks sit atop dark-grained tables and lightly-rusted shelves brought across the wide Atlantic from France, an iconic representation of Désirant’s ideals.

Nearly every item in the shop also epitomizes the artistic intentions of the Désirant team. Take, for example, the new terrarium lamps from local artist Ricky Sellers. In an exclusive project designed for Désirant, Sellers builds delicate and verdant terrariums within glass-bulbed lamps, creating functional art. “The bridge I’m trying to make here is to give artists a vehicle for people to relate to their work in a functional way,” says Evans, who received her degree in fine arts with a concentration in sculpture. “Coming from an art background into a retail area, that really seems to be my job—to tell artists how their work is marketable and to create beneficial relationships; to allow people to live beautifully and to do the things they love.”

Art is truly at the heart of Désirant. Co-owners and brothers Richard and Michael Krieger are patrons of the arts; when they discovered Asheville they fell in love with the city and the delicate artistic heartbeat that pumps at our center. They wanted to create a fine gallery, boutique and hotel, to invest in Asheville and fill a niche. Désirant upholds that artistic community they first fell for through their wares and aesthetic. Evans envisions the shop taking an even more artistic turn in the future, with windows serving as artist installations and possibly even an upscale bar to foster artistic discussions over drinks as part of the Désirant experience.

The artistic process and exploration define Désirant. “We’re not just here to make money, we have a lot more soul than that,” Evans explains. “And Asheville has a soul, and that’s why we belong here. A place that can sustain the arts like this place can has some kind of magic.”