Shared love of sand and sea turns into a business for sisters on US 1

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Sisters Lori Auer-Smith and Karen Marcil have turned a lifelong love of all things of the sea into a unique interior design business based in Vero Beach.

While “home” is Vero’s barrier island, they have a showroom on U.S. 1, but the focal point of the business is on online where they recently launched And it is from there that they can cast their net far and wide to attract clients that range from other designers to homeowners that share their passion for the sand and sea.

“It is not so much nautical as coastal — by the sea,” said Auer-Smith, who has been designing homes for 30 years. “Some people like nautical more than others so it is not like every house has so many things, but they all have the feel of the sea in it.”

The idea for the business started unbeknownst to them when they were children growing up in the Hamptons.

That time spent searching out nautical “treasures” engendered a connection to the sea and the coastal living lifestyle that has stayed with them.

To this day they still take time for “treasure hunts” where they search out the odd and interesting and unique items and ideas that populate their Web site.

Their criteria is “special, unique, nautical treasures that have history, character and a beachy feel,” said Marcil.

The idea to open the business crystallized just after the 2004 hurricanes when Marcil’s Veromar home was flooded and she and her husband, Roger, renovated with the help of sister Lori.

The final product was a Nantucket style home with gray cedar shake shingles, white trim and an inviting porthole door that emphasizes the family’s coastal-loving lifestyle.

“We had been collecting those types of pieces for many, many years but the hurricanes gave us a chance to utilize them all with an open canvas to do it all exactly the way we would like to do it,” Marcil said. “We had people stop every day during the renovation to see what we were doing and when we were done they wanted to know about all the pieces and how did we do it. “We decided it is so hard to find these things and we got the idea for a Web site so we could offer it to everybody throughout the county and around the world.” They launched a beta version of the website in November and it is live now, though they say it will never be completely done as each treasure hunt will bring new finds to add to their collection.

There are sections on the site for Ship Authentics, Nautical Lighting, Home Accents, Entertaining & Gifts, Treasures, Outdoor Living, Slip-covered and Coastal Furniture items on sale.

The collection includes what they call “Ship Salvage” consisting of repurposed nautical antiques weathered by ocean currents and found in small fishing towns and villages around the world.

They also provide home accents and coastal furniture built with reclaimed wood, copper, rope, hemp, coral, sea glass among other natural materials, and slip-covered materials.

Outside of items they find on their own, they have a network of about 100 suppliers from around the country who shop the world for the items that they can feature on their site.

“We realized these things are hard to find so we decided to market to all the coastal towns from Nantucket to the California coastline, to Annapolis, all the really nice coastal seaside towns,” Marcil said.

Because they are selling such niche items, Auer- Smith and Marcil are targeting individuals who want to enjoy the coastal lifestyle, and to interior designers as well.

They have already signed up 30 designers from around the country who share their passion for the theme, but have put that project on hold for a while so they can concentrate on other parts of the business.

“The wholesale designers that have signed up realize how much time and money we can save them, they can come to one source,” Marcil said.

For individuals they will also provide design advice as they consider their purchases.

Marcil’s background was in math and computer science and she worked as a systems analyst for the South Florida Water Management District before opening Absolute Protection security company with her husband.

Her technical background and her sister’s artistic flair make their site a rarity in the design world, pleasing to the eye for its look and feel and fully supported on the backend.

“That is why we make such a good team,” Marcil said. “I am more technical, computer, marketing and Lori is more into the designing.”

Marcil is constantly monitoring OurBoatHouse. com and says users are staying on the site for an average of 8 to 10 minutes.

“We had one person on our web site that was on for 95 minutes and looked at 175 pages,” Marcil said.

And they are coming from more than tiny seaside towns.

“A lot of the traffic is coastal towns, but there are people that love the sea that are in the middle states,” she said. “We have also had people on our site from Australia, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic.”

But more important to the sisters than the raw numbers is the lifestyle they want others to enjoy.

“We are focusing on coastal and that is our niche and it comes across so it is not like we are selling so much as sharing and the people that love it want to be a part of it,” Auer-Smith said.

You can visit the website at or visit the showroom at 4320 US 1.

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