The story behind St. Simons Island’s hottest new boutique hotel involves the combined vision of Hotel Simone planner Kelly Mahoney and the endless creativity of one of the Southeast’s premier furniture designers—St. Simons’ beloved shop owner Stephanie Bramble. The two have collaborated to provide guests with a gorgeous place to spend the night and explore the island. The for-sale environment of Hotel Simone has the potential to transform the hotel venue into a simultaneous guest shopping experience. Any piece—furniture, accessories, or artwork—that guests fall in love with while staying at the hotel, is available for purchase from Dutchmans Designs.
An Entrepreneur Finding Her Way
“When I first came to this country from Australia almost 25 years ago,” Stephanie remembers, “I was working as a floral designer. That’s my background—I had gone to school for floral design in Sydney. And I started doing craft shows on the weekends to save enough money towards my ultimate dream—opening my own store. By March of 2000, I was able to find a small shop with a lot of potential in Highlands, NC.”
She called her renovated space Dutchmans Designs, a tribute to her heritage—her Dutch family name of Nieuwendijk and her creative, talented parents. “My mum was a very determined individual. And my dad could build, paint, garden—all kinds of things,” she says. “He was so creative. He is an important part of my life, and I named the store after him.”
Stephanie’s Highlands businesses expanded quickly. By 2006 she had moved into a 6000-square-foot space, and in the next ten years, she had opened three additional Dutchmans Designs stores in other cities—each offering eclectic, one-of-a-kind furniture and home accessories.
Furniture Is in the Family
“My brother-in-law had started a furniture factory in Indonesia about 25 years ago, building furniture to sell in the U.S. I’d always loved the Bramble brand and wanted to sell their beautiful pieces in my Dutchmans stores but couldn’t afford it.”
So, she began by salvaging damaged pieces from the Bramble warehouse, fixing them, and putting them in the store. Stephanie eventually married into the Bramble brand when she and Ron Bramble wed in 2006. Bramble asked Stephanie to design their showroom and to work as creative director, designing furniture with different finishes. “I would go to the factory twice a year to design pieces for Bramble to show in the High Point Market every April and October.”
Working with Bramble has morphed through the years into an artful sharing of talent. “I design various lines for the company, or high-end, one-of-a-kind pieces for Dutchmans clients, and my brother-in-law has always been happy to make those pieces for me.”
When the Hotel Simone project came up, the Bramble factory once again enabled Dutchmans Designs to make something great happen. “I was going to need a certain number of pieces, and he said, ‘You can do whatever you want,’ which was amazing, really.” Now, three 40-foot containers of furniture have been sent to St. Simons to supply the Hotel Simone project.
A Complementary and Collaborative Brand Partnership
The beautiful Hotel Simone interiors happened largely because of planner Kelly Mahoney’s admiration for Stephanie’s talent and his trust in her ability to accomplish this endeavor successfully. “We had gotten to know each other as Kelly would come down to my stores periodically. He’d buy Dutchmans furniture for housing developments—places where he was staging home interiors. Our first big project together was his home in Athens.” He and his wife loved everything that Stephanie designed, and the project was a huge success.
“So, I have a hotel happening next,” Kelly told Stephanie. “Make me a board of ideas for that next. Let’s go.” And as Stephanie caught Kelly’s vision for the island hotel, it was a beautiful combination of brands and expertise. “He’s decisive, and once we had ideas rolling, both of us were ready to make things work. I was able to use all of the colors that I love, create beautiful pieces, and commission wonderful local art. He let me enjoy doing what I do.”
Loving the Results
The hotel lobby remains Stephanie’s favorite spot in Hotel Simone. “I wanted people to walk through the front doors and just stop—and think, ‘Wow—this place makes me feel happy.’”
The rooms all tell a different story, with each floor featuring a different color palette. “I created each room with the potential to feel like it belongs to the guest. Not a typical hotel room—neutral and commercial—but each room providing a unique experience where people can think, ‘I could imagine this bed or armoire or chair in my house.’"
The commerce component in the Hotel Simone hospitality model is an exciting undertaking. Guests will be able to browse room-specific “look books”—including dimensions, prices, and options in finishes and fabrics. The Dutchmans website will also include a Hotel Simone exclusive tab for easy ordering of the collection. Guests can purchase smaller home accessories on site at the conclusion of their stay, and the hotel will simply replenish the rooms from the St. Simons Dutchmans store. Wall art featured in the hotel—some by local island artist Dawn Newbern—is also available for sale.
Dreams of the Future
Dutchmans and Hotel Simone are poised for success in this new St. Simons tourism adventure. “We have everything in place,” Stephanie says. “And as I continue to visit the factory and oversee things to make sure the colors are right and that all the finishes look like what I planned—we see only opportunity ahead. We proved it’s possible to provide guests with a boutique furniture shopping experience while they enjoy their stay on the island.”
Adventures never seem to end for this home interiors designer, and Stephanie is eager to see what’s next on the horizon. “I would love the challenge of outfitting another hotel with unique rooms full of gorgeous furniture. We are so proud of how things have finished at St. Simons.”