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Joyce Endee

American Cottage finds a new home

Jodi and Kevin Sleeper sit at a long hand-made dining table in their newly renovated showroom at 9 Gilford East Drive. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
February 08, 2012
With a fresh coat of paint and a fresh set of eyes, Jodi Sleeper and her husband Kevin, proprietors of American Cottage, have transformed the former Gilford Volkswagen dealership building on Gilford East Drive into the store's new home.

This marks the third move for American Cottage, as the Sleepers' business outgrew its two previous locations.

Now, Jodi Sleeper figures the former car dealership building at 9 Gilford East Drive with the large garage area will be well suited for the expanding business. She said the transition to the new location was not easy, but the couple wanted to own their business space.

She and Kevin, with his background in construction, set about transforming the building to better showcase the American Cottage wears.

"We didn't want the focus to be on the room," said Jodi. "We want everything to focus on the products."

They opened up the former showroom even more, expanding it into a single large room with different themed areas, such as a dining room with a long heavy wood table and a bedroom area with a wood-framed bed with thick bed posts and decorative engravings, and a few hand-made dressers.

In fact, Jodi said all her items were hand-made; every piece of furniture, and especially the many decorative rugs.

According to Jodi, she and Kevin always have about 5,000 to 6,000 rugs on the premisses. Jodi, with a background in art and botany, designed many of the rugs herself.

In her American Cottage designs, Jodi said she does not like to follow any rules. She likes to add colors that pop with her eye-catching floral designs — even a design with words from the Preamble to the US Constitution.

With hand knotted rugs using materials from wool to silk, her collection of rugs are made around the world, from Asia to South America. She was particularly fond of the rugs from Nepal. According to Jodi, she and Kevin have become close friends with the folks from Nepal after a few visits to see the manufacturers.

She estimated that, depending on the size and design, the average hand-knotted rug in her shop took two or three people between four and five months to complete.

Jodi pointed out one extravagant silk rug on display which had 400 knots per square-inch. She said this type of rug sells for about $200 per square-foot, and explained that one would not find anything like their stock of rugs from New England to New York.

According to Jodi, even with the range of products, from rugs to furniture to decorative elk, moose and deer antler pieces, she only stocks items from five or six manufacturers other than American Cottage. While she has a full display of wears, she said that about half her sales are special order.

"Someone might come in and see a piece they like, except they want it taller," explained Jodi, pointing to a chest of drawers.

But this would not be a problem for her, she explained. She would simply call her manufacturer and order another piece with more drawers. Since all pieces are hand-made, however, no two are identical. Each piece would have unique markings and wood grain, making each piece a work of its own.

Jodi said she got into the interior design field while designing for companies like Claire Murray and the Bob Timberlake collection. She said one can still see her designs in pieces by these companies and many others, as her designs have been licensed to other manufactures.

Now, she follows her own guidelines in her designs, mixing her love of old and new with some modern designs using antique pieces.

Jodi said she also offers in-home consultations, which she admitted was an unexpected but welcomed aspect of her business. She explained that her goal with any consulting is not to remodel, but to liven up existing features with a fresh perspective.

"If a customer is willing to do a little painting instead of buying new kitchen cabinets, they might save a few bucks," said Jodi.

Sleeper hopes to build trust with customers. She wants people to save money in their interior decorating ventures so they might be able to expand beyond working on one room at a time and maybe,hypothetically, pick out a new coffee table after with the leftover funds from their kitchen remodeling. She said she offers a whole package, as opposed to a typical furniture store, where one might pick out a single piece, and she encourages customers to maybe pick up a rug that would go well with the dresser they like or the coffee table to go with the new couch or the lamp and pottery to go with the new rug.

With their new location comes new possibilities, and the Sleepers are excited to begin the next step in their business venture know as American Cottage.

For more information, call American Cottage at 877-263-7268 or visit their Web site at www.americancottagerugs.com.

Martin Lord Osman
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