Designers in D.C. work with home in mind — whether home is in the city or a faraway place that adds extra texture and color to their products. Each maker featured in our October Issue is unique, but a common theme persists: a focus on cultural appreciation, sustainability and naturalness. We tell their stories and dive into details of each business below, from cocktail syrups to minimalist earrings to vintage repurposed maps.
Mallory Shelter, founder of Shelter, creates and designs custom jewelry for any occasion. The shop, located in Union Market, also carries clothes, wedding pieces and natural objects sourced from artists around the country.
District Fray: What’s the story behind Shelter?
Mallory Shelter: I opened Shelter in 2018 after realizing that D.C. lacked a true independent jewelry boutique. There were so many designers on my radar and nowhere to find them locally. I also wanted to offer custom design and engagement ring buying services that felt low pressure and explanatory. I heard from a lot of customers it felt very overwhelming to find a true one-of-a-kind piece and I knew there was a void in the market here. Today, we carry nearly 30 independent brands, focusing primarily on jewelry but also featuring accessories and small giftable items.
What is your design process like?
It really depends on the type of piece. If I’m working on a custom design, I like to chat with the client first to really understand what they’re looking for and what their lifestyle is like. The customer may want something vintage-inspired but pick a very geometric or modern piece — so we strike a balance between desires and what we’re working around. If it’s an in-house piece, we typically design around the stones; they’re such a beautiful, magical and prominent part of a ring, so they usually give small design cues based on their color, shape and size.
How do you decide which designers to carry in your shop?
It’s a delicate dance to bring in new designers. We need to make sure it’s appealing to our shoppers, both from a price and style perspective. And it can’t be too similar to other pieces we carry in the shop. We have to pass on a lot of brands that have stunning designs but simply don’t work in the space at any given time, which is one of the hardest parts of the job.
Anything else you want readers to understand about Shelter?
Many people think we only do custom design for engagement and wedding pieces, but we also do heirloom resets and pieces to memorialize special occasions (and so much more).
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.