Owner Tiffany Hunter at her design shop, the Wonder Room, in Westside Costa Mesa. Hunter searches for one-of-a-kind pieces best suited to the architecture and style of a home. (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
When she was growing up in Everett, Wash., Tiffany Hunter fell in love.
Furniture became the object of affection, and when she went on to graduate school at Dartmouth College mastering management administration, she’d also scavenge New Hampshire and Vermont antique shops.
Now Hunter is a purveyor of über-chic home goods in her Westside Costa Mesa outpost.
“This is the Wonder Room,” Hunter said, walking past a Lilly Pulitzer wallpaper-lined entryway. “These are things that I found spoke to me. It’s eclectic and it’s been truly magical.”
There in the cheerful creatively-curated space is an array of luxe furnishings, faux succulents, lighting, fine art, off-beat accessories and plenty of color and patterns.
Visitors to the newly-opened shop in the industrial warehouse may browse an assortment of vintage furniture and stylish offerings from a French settee and 1800s Anglo Indian trunk to handmade wooden decorative signs or reupholstered mid-century slipper chairs.
Aside from the store’s healthy variety of old and new merchandise — shipments come in daily — clients may also take advantage of Hunter’s design and trade services.
Refined home decor runs in Hunter’s family history.
Her father was an accomplished woodcraftsman and a collector of early American antiques, and her great-aunt, Elisabeth Draper, was a prominent interior decorator in New York City.
But Hunter, who worked as a financial adviser to affluent individuals and families for a decade, never considered interior design as a career.
That is until she faced a renaissance of her own.
After going through a divorce, Hunter, a single mother, faced a second chapter in life. She needed to find work that was manageable during the day while raising her 10-year-old daughter.
Design, she thought, always made her happy.
She enrolled at Interior Designers Institute in Newport Beach, earned a certificate, and set forth opening her first vintage store in Costa Mesa five years ago.
There was no business plan or structured vision.
“I thought, ‘Let me just heal my soul by having my little business,’” Hunter said, “but I like to say God had different plans for me.”
One day, a Realtor stepped into her shop and asked Hunter if she could stage a $15 million Laguna Beach home.
Hunter didn’t know she could visualize what a space needed, but after walking into the coastal mansion, she gave herself a dose of self-confidence.
The finished project that entailed new paint, landscaping and appealing arrangements landed her a cover on Dream Homes Orange County magazine and she soon was asked to dress a $19 million home with a deadline of four weeks.
The house sold within five days, fully furnished.
Hunter also decorated one of the floor plans featured in the Villas Fashion Island luxury apartment residences and a home spotlighted on the Bravo television series “Real Estate Wars.”
Hunter’s boutique interior design firm, which serves the homes of professional sport stars, entrepreneurs and CEOs, outgrew her original office.
She wished to share her inventory to the public and decided on a retail store featuring her acquired one-of-a-kind pieces.
The Wonder Room, she said, was a natural outgrowth of her staging business and the next step in the evolution of Tiffany Hunter Home.
In addition to her new showroom, Hunter launched “Design-in-a-Dash,” a service where a team member will redesign a client’s living area — or home — in two to four weeks.
As for the Wonder Room, Hunter said it’s an opportunity not only to share her favorite pieces but also serve as a happy place — for customers and herself.
“When I’m out collecting pieces, I wonder, ‘Where was this? Where did it come from? Where is it going?’” Hunter said. “Everything has a story.”