LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Janice Langston admits that once in a great while she will set a fancy meal on the dining room table that's part of the dining room suite for sale just down the hall from the family kitchen.
It's one of the benefits of having a house full of fabulous American and English antique reproduction furniture, lighting and accessories just steps from her private home.
"It is our little nest. We couldn't be happier," Janice Langston said. Her favorite place is her "throne" -- a comfy, skirted, wingback chair in a floral print in the small living room. Don's preferred perch is the plaid couch.
For 23 years, the couple has lived and worked at 859 E. High St. in Lexington, Ky. The first floor and part of the second are stuffed with merchandise. Tucked in an upstairs corner is the two-bedroom, 2½-bath home the couple shares. The only differences between the warm, lived-in feel of the retail space and the family home are the price tags in the store and the lack of family photos on the tables that are for sale.
Langston designed her home with such traditional touches as Victorian-themed art in gilded frames, wood boxes with tasseled keys and even a cherubic girl in a large frame over the bathtub. The hardwood floors, installed when they moved in, have an antique feel accented by the oriental rugs that echo the traditional theme. The rooms are a mix of dark, rich colors, floral wallpaper and gleaming wood furniture, reproduction and antique. The secretary in the couple's bedroom was handed down several generations from Don's family. The hanging cabinets in oak and mahogany were bought on a trip to London.
To transition from home to work, Janice Langston said, they just shut the door.
But living above the shop is very different from how the couple started out. They met at the University of North Carolina, where she was studying nursing and he was on the football team, and spent the first half of their 58 years together in suburbia. But, Langston said, as her children got older, she became more involved with interior design and selling furniture. She said she didn't grow up with a lot of nice things, but her mother made the most out of what they had. Langston inherited that knack.
She started doing interior design work for friends and then ran a business out of the family home in Lexington's Lansdowne neighborhood, where she would feature furniture from her home state of North Carolina.
When Don Langston retired from IBM, the couple looked for a place where they could expand the business and downsize their home.
They bought The Salt Box, which was a lighting store at the time. It had only one floor, so the Langstons added a second and an extension out the back with a three-car garage to create a 6,800-square-foot shop/home combo.
Friends wondered whether people might take advantage, calling at all hours with decorating emergencies or asking the Langstons to open the store during off hours. But that hasn't happened, Janice Langston said.
She said the shop's location was ideal because of the thousands of cars that drive by each day. While that might not be ideal for a home, the sound of traffic has never been a problem, Langston said. In fact, when the weather is nice, she and her husband like nothing better than hanging out on the upstairs patio, which she fills with flowers during the spring and summer.
Don Langston likes Lexington's Chevy Chase neighborhood and the easy walk to the hardware store, restaurants and other shops.
Janice Langston said working at home doesn't get claustrophobic because she gets away a couple of times each week to play golf, and her husband has lunch with friends.
Besides, she said, both of them can't think of any place they'd rather be. They have all their favorite things right at hand: each other, walls of family pictures, quilts she made, her collection of ink wells, his crossword puzzles.
Langston said not much has changed in what she considers her dream space since they moved in, except for a few pieces of well-worn furniture that were re-covered. And, although they both are 80, they have no plans to quit working and move to a condo in, say, Boca Raton, Fla.
"We'll be here as long we can walk up and down the stairs," Langston said.