The Nesting Instinct

“I’m addicted to people,” says contented entrepreneur Debra Prince Slosman. Photo by Matt Rose

Debra Prince Slosman, owner and creative director of Porter & Prince in Biltmore Village, was indelibly influenced by her grandmother’s style. She also inherited her fortitude. Slosman’s aesthetic role model lost everything — twice — as a result of lightning striking to two different homes. And yet, through the years, “she pulled out all the stops for guests, would do anything to make them comfortable,” says Slosman.

After an intense decade as a fine-jewelry account executive, Slosman followed her love (now husband) to Asheville and in 1996 opened Porter & Prince, a monument to comfort and indulgence that’s been recognized by Huffington Post and Cottage Living magazine. “Our customers’ lives are busy, and we offer soft music, even softer textures, and soothing colors. If the only peace you can find is behind a locked bathroom door taking a soak, then we want to help them experience that,” declares Slosman. The store also offers a full range of design services.

As she and her staff test many-hundred-thread-count sheets and glorious-smelling soaps (someone’s gotta do it), they help clients outfit the most intimate spaces in their homes. “Bedrooms are magical havens,” says Slosman, “and we click into high gear from October through December, when we do 60 percent of our annual business. People want to nest indoors then, and the holidays bring customers who anticipate houseguests and don’t want to be judged for their ratty towels.”

How did you realize you had a knack for design and merchandising?
I studied Communications at Wake Forest, but started helping a friend at the High Point Furniture Market when I was in junior high. I did whatever needed doing, and found out I was good at putting together showroom spaces, and particularly adept at visual merchandising. [Working in jewelry], I was over a team of merchandisers and 400 stores. I traveled and trained salespeople; it consumed me for nearly a decade. Then I said “I’m getting too old for this,” and opened the store.”

What design instincts went into Porter & Prince?
I grew up with three brothers but still loved “girly” things. Asheville didn’t have a store that provided the kind of pampering products that ours does. We’re a remedy for women whose self-care goes by the wayside as they care for others — we believe wholeheartedly in the therapeutic power of a long and lovely bath.

There’s more to it than eyelet dust ruffles, though …
Yes, we educate our clients, solve problems … [we might] mediate a mother-daughter design disagreement about teen bedroom design or assist a customer with products that help regulate their body temperature for better sleep.

You’re obviously customer-focused, but what brings you joy in your work?
I’m addicted to people! Porter & Prince allows me to build wonderful relationships. I have customers who’ve been with me since the beginning, and it’s a privilege to work with their children. I also love being creative every day, and helping people create homes that hold and love them. The same goes for my team members, who’ve been with me seven years, 12 years.

But how do you convince someone to invest $225 in a throw pillow?
We carry a wide range of merchandise at different price points, and we’re more about helping the customer when needed, then giving them room and time to decide on purchases … a set of gorgeous sheets is an investment … and our products come from the hands of makers from around the world.

If you’re “Prince,” who’s Porter?
Prince is my maiden name and “Porter” originated years ago. My husband helped me work this woman’s linen showroom at the High Point Market. He impressed her and she said, “You were smart to bring a porter with you — you’ll do fine at Market.” Then we had our name.

You’re located in an original Biltmore Village cottage, packed with character.
Our cottage was built in 1895 and was the original Biltmore Village post office, and the interior wood wall, original pebbledash, and windows lend charm.

Any ghosts or spirits?
No … our space’s energy has always felt warm and happy.

Hangouts you frequent after a long day at the store?
Wherever my two teens and husband are after we close, that’s where I roam.

Porter & Prince, 6 Brook Street, Asheville, 828-277-2337. www.porterandprince.com.