Gallery of eclectic delights

Terri Hartwell Easter, wner of The Maris Elaine Gallery at National Harbor. Behind her to the left is The Phillips Collection's Round Galvanized Wall Decor. The store features original art and home furnishings.
Terri Hartwell Easter, wner of The Maris Elaine Gallery at National Harbor. Behind her to the left is The Phillips Collection's Round Galvanized Wall Decor. The store features original art and home furnishings. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

Terri Hartwell Easter has an interior design philosophy that incorporates three of her favorite things: furniture, art and fashion.

They converge in high style at the Maris Elaine Gallery, a fine-art and home furnishings store at National Harbor in Prince George's County.

"I like to think of our furniture as a great wardrobe item, like a classic black dress," says Easter, who opened the showroom in August. "The accessories and the original artwork are the jewelry that makes it sparkle."

Named in honor of the owners' late mother, the 2,100-square-foot gallery includes "livable" and luxury furniture, fine art, floor coverings, lighting, glassware, handcrafted ceramics, mirrors, designer clothing and baubles.

The array — created by American and international craftspeople and artisans — runs the gamut from whimsical to provocative. Tradition gets a nod, without being cookie-cutter.

Take one occasional chair, dubbed "The First Lady." Constructed of Indonesian tanguile wood, it's upholstered in a striking chocolate brown and turquoise print.

Nearby sits a delicate alabaster-hued coconut shell lamp handcrafted in the Philippines. Along one wall are a series of galvanized steel drum oil tops.

"There are certain things you can't get at Pottery Barn or Walmart," Easter says. While conceding that big-box retailers have their place, "we offer something that's more personal," she says.

Maris Elaine also boasts eco-friendly and repurposed furniture, ranging from a coffee table that was once a barn door in Maine to a recycled teak cabinet that was formerly part of a boat or bridge.

Just like the furniture, Easter has an interesting back story. Formerly the chief operating officer of a Washington law firm, she quit her job several years ago to pursue a longtime dream of opening a combined gallery and furniture showroom.

She and her husband had a weekend house in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore, and the first Maris Elaine Gallery was launched in 2007 in the town's historic district.

Two years later, she opened a second Maris Elaine in St. Michaels. Business was good initially, says Easter, but the sluggish economy and a desire to return to her native Washington led her to close that operation late last year.

Now she has put her energy into the National Harbor location, where her husband, two adult sons, daughter-in-law and other relatives are involved in daily operations. "We all move lots of furniture," she says with a chuckle.

Easter also designs an in-house line of furniture called the New Vintage Collection, and she offers custom-made furniture. Customers can peruse hundreds of fabric swatches and textile samples.

"We often use vintage furniture completely redesigned," she says, pointing out a Queen Anne sofa upholstered in steel-gray mohair. "In this case, the hip fabric gives a more contemporary style."

The seating is for sale (about $2,200), but it's also meant to inspire customers in terms of how they might use color, texture and imagination to create one-of-a-kind pieces.

Largely self-taught, Easter started sewing in grade school and over the years progressed to custom-window treatments and upholstery.

"I'd find a chair left on the side of the road," she recalls, "bring it home and refinish the wood, reupholster the fabric. Whatever was needed to bring it back to life."

While the shop does carry a few items similar to those found in national outlets, Easter takes pride that most of her accessories, wall decor and art are originals.

"We feature emerging and juried artists, as well as artisans from the United States and all over the world," Easter says of the sculpture, photographs and other artwork on display.

Maryland artists get play, too. The store carries several works by Gary Hall of Easton, who creates symmography art forms — geometric metal wire sculptures that resemble string art.

"I have an appreciation for beautiful things, and I wanted this to be a place where creativity, comfort and sophistication converge," says Easter. "I love to give my customers something beyond the expected. Something extraordinary."

Home shopping

Several shops at National Harbor feature home furnishings and other items that can take your home beyond the ordinary. On your next visit, check out these fine stores. Go to nationalharbor.com for a full listing.

Artcraft, 140 American Way, 301-567-6616. Handcrafted furniture, accessories and more.

Coco Blanca, 122 Waterfront St., 301-567-2002. The store, which recently relocated to a larger space, features furnishings for the home all done in shades of white.

Stonewall Kitchen, 170 American Way, 301-749-6902. The well-regarded artisan food company based in Maine offers cook's essentials and other accessories for the home.

Strictly First Glass, 201 Waterfront St., 301-965-2000, Contemporary art glass for the home and wardrobe.

The Maris Elaine Gallery, 178 Waterfront St., 301-686-0323. A mix of all sorts of styles and pieces for rooms that are one-of-a-kind.

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