The Story of TSALT’s Community Window

I have been asked several times about how our community window at TSALT came to be and why I wanted to create it. The simple answer is because it was needed. The longer version is… When COVID hit, it became apparent very quickly that people were severely struggling not just monetarily and physically but emotionally and psychologically. I felt helpless to contribute to my new and much-loved community of men and women here in Old Town and D.C. As the person in charge of Window Design and Visuals at TSALT boutique in Old Town, I began to wonder if there was an opportunity. I did some brainstorming, everyone agreed that things were not going back to normal, so I set out to repurpose our front windows to foster literal “window shopping.”



I knew people were walking by the shop every day for exercise but they all looked so scared and pained. That is when I moved on to the idea of “retail therapy” and a light bulb turned on. The architect in me flew into project mode and I started designing. I spoke to both the owner and the store manager to run my new idea by them and they loved it. I wanted to encourage the community around us that there would be joy again. I wanted them to know they were not alone, that we were walking with them through this incredibly unique time whether they could see us or not. I wanted our community to give grace, love, compassion, and friendship to each other, without receiving it first. I longed to see hope, strength, joy, and peace develop in our everyday lives. Life is beauty in the little things, and those things needed to come back.



So, what better way to foster this than to literally write these exact words and thoughts for people to take in as they walked by. The Images of women and flowers surrounding the two windows are a visual reminder that this community is made up of women from every corner of the globe. As an individual, you are not alone. As a community, we are not alone. As a planet we are facing this pandemic head on and we will survive because of our humanity and our diversity.

The window is physically painted with acrylic posca pens from the inside. It took me about 15 hours on a ladder to draw, the hardest part by far was the lettering and my backwards signature. Some of the images were created by imagination drawn straight onto to the window, Others were found on Pinterest and Google Images as an inspiration, then altered. I created a layout of both windows before the final drawing to help with scale and with any difficult transition areas. This unique art installation started as part of a job requirement and transformed into a labor of joy and love I could not be prouder of. I installed it on Mother’s Day with my mother and three-year-old daughter by my side, laughing all day long. #BestMothersDayEver.



The other reaction and questions people have when they see the window is they want to know a little about me. So, we can call this the “I” paragraph. I am a 36-year-old, born and raised California girl. I have lived all over the world, a beach girl at heart who loves the outdoors, traveling, and design. I dance in my kitchen and sing in my car. I used to surf every day, have hiked Big Sur in high heels, and my favorite ski run is “Birds of Prey” at Beaver Creek Ski Resort, CO. I have modeled for the likes of Ralph Lauren and Billabong to Sony and Intex Corp and even had speaking roles on Hawaii 5-0. I have sailed across oceans on a 90’+ sailboat and can make banana bread in rough seas without getting seasick.



I was raised to work hard and then keep working harder… this skill has served me well over the years. Professionally, I am a trained landscape architect with projects across the globe and can build just about anything with my own two hands. I moved to Old Town from Singapore after a difficult divorce to raise my daughter so she could be close to my parents who live in town. It was after moving back I decided not to continue practicing architecture and the traditional work path most people pursue. I wanted more time to spend with my daughter, raising her on my own terms, instead of sitting in an office. This want pushed me to pursue several dreams I have long held. These include starting an environmentally responsible, size inclusive resort wear clothing line, selling my original hand drawn artwork, and working with small boutiques designing window installations, reworking instore layouts, and visual merchandising. I absolutely love it. Working with all these diverse strong passionate women builds all of us up and gets me so excited about our new normal and the amazing community we have around us.

Whether it’s creating a new window design, promoting a new clothing line on an Instagram video, or just grabbing a chat by the water to catch up, I hope to see you around town and cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings us here in Old Town and D.C.!


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TSALT is a boutique that has developed a dual concept of producing private label styles along with complimentary brands that embody the same vision ~ women who are looking for chic and sophisticated clothing that will travel well and compliment their busy lives.

106 North Saint Asaph Street
Alexandria VA 22314


1 Comment

  1. You are such a light Shelby! And your energy and smile are contagious too. Such a positive article and inspiring way to start the day. So here’s to remaining curious, creative and optimistic! Hope to run into you soon.

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