It’s no secret we are totally and helplessly in love with Costa Mesa. Her energy, her diversity, her creativity, her vibe…it’s the stuff of sappy, middle-school poetry, to be sure.
And while our adoration for this city is all-encompassing (all-consuming?) – stretching far and wide from Irvine Boulevard to the Santa Ana River, 16th Street to John Wayne Airport, South Coast Plaza to SOCO, and all the places in between – we must admit that certain locales within those bounds do give us a little extra zing!
Yes, we’re not prone to playing favorites – if it’s Costa Mesa, we want to cover it – but we are human, dear readers, and every once in a while we stumble upon a costamazing little find with a je ne said quoi that really bates our breath.
And this weeks’ feature brings the magic in the all the best, most-antiquey and frenchiest ways possible. We’re talking about the lovely, little-corner, quonset hut that calls itself The French Container.
Magnifique! Designer Katherine Shakas At Her Shop, The French Container, Westside Costa Mesa
The French Container is the inspiration of interior designer, Katherine Shakas, who never intended to open the shop.
“I specialize in residential design and I love antiques,” said Shakas. “I always use them in my work – not rooms full, just a piece here or there – so I was looking to build up an inventory of things to use. But of course I needed a place to store all this furniture. I started looking around for warehouse space online but I couldn’t find anything, so I got in my car and was just driving around Costa Mesa.
“I saw this funky little center off Superior and I pulled in to check it out. This space was closed but I peaked in the window and said to myself, ‘My goodness! This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!’ I never had any plans to open a retail shop. But once I saw this space, the shop chose me – so here I am.”
The name ‘The French Container’ has a double meaning for Shakas. First, it’s a nod to the fact that her store is literally a container full of European antiques and accessories. Second, it’s a homage to the journey across the ocean that most of her offerings take.
“I try to get over to France once a year, usually Nice,” said Shakas. “I meet with antiques dealers and shop the markets, looking for beautiful things to send home. Of course, the most affordable way to do that is to shop enough that you fill up one whole shipping container, really maximize the space available. So ‘The French Container’ speaks to that process of putting together a collection to send back to Costa Mesa.”
Serendipity: Shakas Didn’t Intend To Open A Shop, But She’s Taken To It Beautifully
The result of all this shopping abroad and transoceanic transport is a visceral, magical and utterly unique boutique that invites you to get lost in its details.
“We call ourselves an ‘antiques boutique’ to really convey how different we are from other shops,” said Shakas. “This is not your dusty, cramped, run-of-the-mill, tchotchke antiques store. We work so hard to only carry one-of-a-kind pieces you can’t just go someplace else in Orange County to source. The items in our shop, they have their own story, their own spirit – they have the power to change a room. In that way, The French Container isn’t a store at all, it’s an experience.
“I’m always on the lookout for new pieces and I know them instantly. A great piece of furniture will just knock my socks off. The candles and accessories take a little longer because we’re not just looking for one-offs, but to establish relationships with the artisans who create them. Oh, and jewelry! Women are a big part of our community so we will always carry jewelry in some form.”
Accessories For The Body As Well As The Home At The French Container, Costa Mesa
For a once-reluctant shop owner, Shakas sure seems to know what she’s doing. We asked her how she manages to take the learning curve in stride.
“I was a double major in college, Fine Arts and Economics,” said Shakas. “So my arts background obviously provided the foundation for my design, but it’s my economics background that gives me tremendous confidence on the business side. It’s fun to make the store pretty, but I’m also a huge nerd for econ and all the behind-the-scenes appeals to me. So I’m happily using both sides of my brain with The French Container.”
While the boutique may be the most visible part of Shakas’ business, she spends a majority of her time designing residential spaces for her growing list of clients. Everything from selecting finishes and surfaces for new construction projects, to custom furniture and lighting and drapery, to full-service interiors and beyond.
“I find interior design so rewarding,” said Shakas. “You’re really helping somebody define their aesthetic and accomplish their goals. It’s a very personal, very lovely kind of thing to go into somebody’s home and help to bring it alive.
“Design affects every part of our lives, whether we choose to recognize that or not. When you get up in the morning, the room you wake up to is going to change how you feel about the day. When you walk into a room it should be inviting, it should make you happy to stay and sad to leave. It’s form! It’s function! When both of those things come together in a way that all makes sense, well the world just instantly becomes a more beautiful place.”
While her foray into retail may have been slightly accidental, Shakas is so happy to have landed in Costa Mesa.
“This is an exciting time to be in Costa Mesa,” said Shakas. “It’s really evolving and I am fascinated to see how it will continue to take shape. I think the next few years will be very interesting and very formative for Costa Mesa, we’re excited to be a part of it. We want to be active in this community and connect in any way we can.
“Everyone is invited to come over and visit us. I’ll tell you right now, we’re this quirky, little, different spot on the road – but I think we fit right in here.” ♥
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