New J Bella Loft Boutique Is Like Being a Designer's Friend -- With Benefits

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Interior designers have a pretty sweet gig. Not only are they encouraged to be creative in their job, they also get to work with gorgeous, magazine-worthy furniture and accessories that most of us would need a lottery windfall to own -- perhaps a sleek leather couch from from Austrian modernist Manfred Wakolbinger, or Katharina Styren's cool leaning bookcase divider. What most people don't realize is that these lucky designers often score below-market prices and have a cache of cool furnishings in storage, just waiting to be used.

That's where Phoenix-based interior designer Jennifer Dudones got the idea to open a small, chic furniture and home accessory boutique where locals could pick up some of her favorite finds. "It seemed like a shame that the furniture was just sitting in a warehouse," says Dudones. Her new J Bella Loft store officially opened to the public this past Saturday night, and guests seemed surprised at just affordable her offerings are.

Sure, an original painting by Phoenix-born international artist Steve Hickok will set you back about $4,500, but a couple of armless brown leather side chairs with a travertine marble coffee table costs well under a grand total. And handmade jewelry by local artists including Aleese Murik runs as little as thirty bucks.

More on what's lurking inside J Bella, after the jump.                

The same style is reflected at J Bella. In one corner, a neutral sofa is tucked beside a strange leaf-shaped "Seat Belt" chair made from what looks like the neon orange tie-down straps you find at Harbor Freight tools. A low cowhide lounger is a striking showpiece in the center of the boutique.

A few feet away, on a table of locally made jewelry, was a chain-and-feather necklace we were totally crushing on. "Feathers are really hot right now," said a customer in a printed blue silk dress as she picked it up and headed towards the register. 

It's a little odd to see handmade leather flower purses and rhinestone necklaces among the upscale furnishings, but somehow it all meshes together into a portrait of one woman's style. 

And Dudones is pretty confident that her picks will appeal to funky local artist types, as well as the college crowd. "I'm a Tempe girl," the bubbly designer boasts (though she admits she currently lives in Ahwatukee). "I know the people here. And I think they should be able to buy trendy things nearby."

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Click through to see more pics of J Bella Loft.

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