Shelton designer brings touch of décor to Howe Ave.

SHELTON — Charlene Matto has spent years turning people’s home interiors from blah to beautiful. 

Now the Shelton resident is putting her love of design on display in a downtown storefront. Last month, Matto moved her House of Char, which she first opened two years ago in space in the Conti building, to first-floor space at 475 Howe Ave. 

“When this opportunity came up, I made the move,” Matto said. “I wanted a storefront for exposure, to get the foot traffic I was not getting at the Conti building.” 

House of Char is where Matto meets with clients seeking her design skills. Matto said her primary focus is kitchen redesign. She calls the kitchen the “heart of the home.” 

But the space is also home to various home décor items, from furniture to clothing, candles to hand towels, lamps to artwork. 

“I really wanted to introduce these kinds of home décor items and other unique gifts because I felt that there was nothing like this downtown,” she said. “I wanted to open up something where people could buy a piece of furniture or a housewarming gift.” 

Matto began her interior design career alongside her husband, real estate agent Paul Ferreira. The pair would purchase homes from Bridgeport to Stratford to Trumbull, fix them and flip them. She soon established her own client base and started an interior design business out of her home. 

She said it was COVID — when her children were home from school and her husband was working from home — that prompted her to move her operation out of the house. 

Her business grew by word of mouth, she said, and as her interior design business boomed during the pandemic, she found space in the Conti building. 

She says her style is simple. She walks into the kitchen and envisions it as “luxurious but not at a luxury cost."

She also likes to knock down walls and make rooms bigger, and then bring in decorative pieces. The final part is the most rewarding, she said.

“I love seeing the finished product,” Matto said. “It amazes me that I can help take something disastrous and make it beautiful. It brings me joy to see my clients happy.” 

Matto also has become an official retailer of Fabuwood Cabinetry, to add some variety for clients that decide against custom cabinets. 

She had envisioned using her previous space for meeting clients, but that changed as she added home décor options to her business plan. 

“This was part of a three-year plan," she said. "(But) everything just started happening sooner than expected.” 

Less than two years after opening House of Char she found what she called her perfect space in a newly renovated building that had suffered fire and water damage in a Sept. 28, 2020 fire that had displaced three families, plus first floor businesses Liberty Tax and Shelton Wine and Spirits. 

“Having a storefront in downtown Shelton was what I wanted,” Matto said. “Downtown Shelton has that old-school feel. It is wonderful seeing people walking, young couples walking dogs, and kids in strollers. It’s nice to see that.” 

It is a far cry from years ago, according to Matto, who recalls a downtown that gradually became a ghost town.  

“There is so much potential down here now,” Matto. "It is beautiful to see all these amazing restaurants and businesses opening. It's becoming a bustling downtown. I think it will just get better, and I want to be part of it.