The low groan you heard at the end of December was not the sonic boom as the space shuttle re-entered the atmosphere, but the collective sigh of Ocalans bemoaning the closing of The Cricket Box, Frances Caruthers’ shop of 27 years on Silver Springs Boulevard. Frances, an interior designer showcased in magazines like Southern Living, is Ocala’s worst-kept secret. She rarely advertised and dismisses the idea of promotion, yet she stays busy due to the reputation she has garnered for her elegant interiors. She insists, however, that our discussion focus on the future.
“Life is about moving forward,” she says.
I was able to catch up with Frances, and I do mean catch up, as she was in the midst of what she called, her “arsenic hour,” decorating clients’ homes for the recent holiday season, liquidating inventory from The Cricket Box, and redecorating and consolidating the offices of the design service that she’ll continue to maintain.
Amid a scatter of paint chips, carpet squares, and wallpaper samples, Frances graciously offered a cup of hot tea and homemade muffins as we chatted about her thoughts as she closes a chapter of Ocala history and opens a new one in her own professional life.
How do you feel about clos-ing the retail side of The Cricket Box?
“I’m only closing the retail in-ventory part of the business. Our design department will remain the same. I’m looking forward to this new journey; the unknown is always a bit scary, but this is a fun, exciting scary. The retail venture takes so much energy,
but I’ll miss The Cricket Box.
“My customers are my friends; most come in through the back door. But, Carmen Greiner and Paula King opened a new venture called Ocala Traditions in our retail location. They carry some of the same lines that we carried, and have expanded into bridal registry. The design office will stay where it has been for years, two steps down from the retail store. It’ll just be a little neater.”
Your first love is design. What do you see as the most important aspect of design?
“There is no perfect house, but my job is to make the house the best it can be. My clients have their own visions; I work within their styles to perfect their visions. A designer is a sounding board; the best designer bounces ideas back to the client. Most people know what they don’t like, so my job is to help my clients find what they love.”
How do you relax?
“I don’t know if I’ve relaxed yet! I envy people with time because I never feel I have enough. Once the retail aspect of the business is gone, I hope to have more time to focus on my grandchildren, Caleb who is 5, Aubrey who is 4, and Maggie who is 1.”
To whom do you credit your great success?
“First, I credit God, then my family. My mother loaned me the money to open The Cricket Box. She was my accountant for years, and most of my customers knew and loved her. Every month, she came over from Jacksonville to reconcile my financial accounts. I inherited my love of houses from my father who was a builder in Florida. I have tables he made for me that I treasure.
“Second, when I look back over the 27 years I’ve enjoyed at The Cricket Box, I credit my success in no small part to the wonderful group of women working with me in the retail venture. When I think about closing The Cricket Box, I think of a bit of wisdom from my friend Sally Williams: ‘I never planned on getting here this fast.’”
4 TIPS FROM FRANCES
1. If you are starting a project, don’t pre-buy because the item might be a good deal. On the other hand, if you find something that you absolutely love, buy it and make room for it.
2. Don’t ask all your friends for deco-rating advice. Ask one person whose judgment you trust.
3. Whatever your style, make it timeless. Don’t fall for the trends, the hottest color or the must-have accessory. Whatever your taste, you don’t want to be able to tell when you “did” the room.
4. An old decorating truism that I still use — every well-designed room has a touch of black. It might be a frame, or a pillow, or a lampshade, but it’s there. This idea really works — the black adds sophistication and grounds the room.
Frances Caruthers, Interior Designer,
The Cricket Box 629-7632