Since opening in 2008, Lola Rue & Company at 531 N. College has established itself as a go-to boutique for shabby chic furnishing, gifts, jewelry, and women’s clothing. Comparisons to the international retailer Anthropologie are not infrequent. But owner Lisa Orme politely dismisses that suggestion.

“I never compare,” she says. “All of our merchandise is hand done; much of it is one of a kind. It’s not a cookie-cutter shop. I love creative design, and I love the youthful energy that comes with being in a college town. We offer a high-end look for not a lot of cash.”

Orme says that a large number of her customers are creative female students. “I’ve noticed a resurgence of girls and young women who want to create something, make something pretty. They want their dorm rooms to be pretty; they want to feather their nests.”

Some of the “feathering” takes the form of finding an interesting candleholder or vintage table linen at Orme’s shop. Other times it involves a do-it-herself project. Lola Rue’s back room is used for hands-on workshops in everything from making antique-looking boxes to advent calendars.

Lola Rue is also now the exclusive local purveyor of Annie Sloan’s decorative Chalk Paint—a favorite of decorators and interior designers. “I tried to get it for about two years, but the store had to be approved by the UK-based company,” Orme explains. “It is only sold by small independent retailers with a boutique setting. We are the only supplier in southern Indiana. People drive here from Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio to buy this paint.”

Customers at Lola Rue are liable to find Orme or one of her staff with paintbrush-in-hand, transforming an old table or a wastebasket into a distinctive accent piece with the decorative Chalk Paint. The store goes through about 60 quarts a week in a constant effort to keep up with customer demand for new pieces and to keep the store’s look fresh, says Orme.

“The paint has a mineral base and is nontoxic and low-VOC [volatile organic compounds],” says Orme. “It requires no sanding or priming and sticks to almost everything. It creates a lovely old-world patina, but is very user friendly.”

(top) Store owner Lisa Orme (left) and assistant Maggie Roberts. Photo by Matthew Gordon Levandoski