New York Chaos meets Southern Sensibility

Charlotte Smith, owner of Union Camp Collective, sheds some light on the inspiration for her design style...

Charlotte Smith, owner of Union Camp Collective, sheds some light on the inspiration for her design style and gives us a glimpse into her perfectly organized chaos that she calls home.

"There is so much that could be done with a little more time!” chuckles Charlotte Smith, owner of Union Camp Collective and this incredible eclectic space she calls home. “I would like to upgrade the flooring upstairs, but changing it would mean jostling about all my pretty things in a big way, and I’d rather focus on something less time consuming.” It’s exactly this kind of prioritizing that creates Smith’s trademark style and incredible eye for funky design.

A matter of perfect timing found her this house, becoming available just as she moved to Raleigh from New York. Smith admits she hasn’t changed much about the house, devoting her time instead to collecting and rearranging. A quick look around speaks to the shop owner’s keen mix of New York chaos with Southern sensibility.

“I wanted my home to be an extension of myself, a personal statement of sorts. Bold, funny, well-traveled, clever, inviting,” she says. “Individual touches and my intimate connection to everything here gives this house a heartbeat.”

Layers upon layers in Smith’s home create just the personal statement she intends, with various pieces from every era mingling effortlessly, if not obviously, with contemporary and Mid-Century finds. The result, she’s concluded quite correctly, is a fantastic marriage of old and new with nothing that screams “his” or “hers”.

“Nothing here highlights just one era or time period,” Smith says. “If the design of a room is thoughtfully curated and the items fit comfortably in a space, the age of the furnishings become secondary. I’ll use any piece from any era just so long as it has suitability, interest, and soul.”

Smith combined organic textiles and sumptuous leathers to bring warmth to the space, while white gallery walls create a spotlight for her unique collection of artwork. Paintings from local artists blend with vintage and antique pieces that have been found near and far. The art, books, trinkets, flowers, and furniture all make for conversation starters. “The house is full of clever little surprises that keep things from being too cold or too serious,” Smith says. 

A self-proclaimed culture junkie, Smith has fallen head over heels for the neighborhood in which she lives, which is a diverse mix of college students, young professionals, older couples, and growing families. “I love being near Raleigh’s Flea Market and the NCMA. This area is just minutes from downtown but also has a great deal of greenspace – a combination that can be hard to find in a city that seems to be growing by the minute.” It’s this inherited sense of soulful style that Smith thrives on and by which her passion and business are driven. She explains that her foundation growing up came from a set of parents who loved to travel, collect, buy, sell, and cherish things, art, and heirlooms.

“Our house was always an eclectic mix,” Smith recalls,“Past and present was converged soulfully, if unconventionally. This is what helped me to see that space benefits from the unexpected – things that are totally out of context can be just gorgeous.” Of course, owning a home and design shop on West Street means that her personal inventory at home is often a revolving door. She admits that most of the things that make it in the door stick, but that ultimately, it’s in a chronic state of “receiving and depleting”.

“My mantra for decor is to surround yourself with items that you sincerely love,” Smith suggests. “If you do this, the pieces that you bring into your life will never go out of style.” She adds that everyone has his or her preferences or ways to use a space. “When a designer disregards or forgets these needs, or, worse, tries to superimpose an alien personality, it never results in that wonderfully warm atmosphere found in a private, personal place.”

When asked to name her favorite room, Charlotte Smith easily identifies the living room. From her grandmother’s Otto Zenke sofa, the “first big purchase” heart pine harvest table and the Kilim rugs collected from her father’s travels to the Jasper Johns litho she found by a dumpster in New York, Smith says nothing could be deleted from this “un-art-directed room”. “It’s swathed in beautiful memories of people and places.”