When Dee Hencken struggled to come up with the perfect name for her Chesterfield home furnishings store in 2000, nothing sounded quite right. “When I would sit down and try to think of a name, I just couldn’t!” the designer confesses. “But I had been taking French lessons for about eight years, and one day I was doing something else and said, ‘Ooh la la!’ And immediately I knew it was the perfect name for the store.”

    A decorator since 1987, Hencken finds that most of her customers are looking for classic designs. “We don’t really do a lot of trendy things, like designs that incorporate the season’s latest color schemes. Our store has an autumnal feel throughout the year because our customers prefer the rich browns and golds,” she says. “I would describe many of the fabrics and paint shades as ‘latte colors.’  They’re the kind of colors that make you feel comfortable—when you come home to them, you want to sit down and have a cup of tea.”

    To accent the earthy tones, Hencken suggests red, green and occasionally orange. One trend Hencken does feel has ‘staying power’ is black furniture. “It seems like everyone is asking for black furniture. It’s very popular and works perfectly with autumn tones.”

    The designer says her clients’ interests influence the store’s furniture and design choices. “People are really into wine, so they are looking for wine cabinets, or they have wine cellars and they’re looking for furniture or accessories to use in them,” Hencken says. She adds that many of her clients travel to Napa and Sonoma and want to incorporate elements of their trips into their own homes. “We’ve worked on a lot of wine cellars and it’s fun. And we had one couple ask us to design their dining room like an Italian bar, because they wanted something different from the traditional dining room.”

    Hencken reports strong interest in themes. “We have beautiful oversized wine bottles, copied from French and Italian originals, with elegant ivory labels from different wineries,” she says. “There’s even a Lazy Susan that’s been fashioned to look like the top of a wine barrel.”

    Accessories are a specialty at Ooh La La, she adds. “Quite often people just walk in the store and see what we do, and then ask us to help them pull their home together. It might just be the bookcases, maybe the mantel. Then one thing leads to another and they become clients,” she explains. “Sometimes we’ll work with clients for four or five years, as they do different areas of their home. We have long relationships with people, and it’s always a little bit sad when we’re finally finished.” One longtime client has hired Hencken for four different homes, three of them in Illinois, she adds.

    The key to accessorizing, Hencken says, is to keep things you already own and incorporate them into any new scheme. “We always ask our clients to tell us what they absolutely want to keep. We don’t want it to look like a display home, we want it to look like their home.”

    Ooh La La will add 2,000 square feet to its current location soon, Hencken says, enlarging the showroom to nearly 10,000 square feet. “The new space will feature an Express Blinds design studio—we are a Hunter Douglas Showcase dealer—and a design studio with a coffee bar where customers can look at books and samples.” 

On the Cover: Ooh La La is a home furnishings store that offers design expertise along with its wide array of elegant appointments. The expansive space is about to get bigger, with a planned 2,000-square-foot addition that will feature an Express Blinds design studio and a coffee bar where clients can peruse design books and samples. Ooh La La is at 17701 Edison Ave., 636-532-3353. Cover photo by Jason Mueller