By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 12, 2006 at 5:38 AM

As an artist who has lived in Milwaukee for 20 years, and spent 15 in the Historic Third Ward, Nancy Rappaport has seen firsthand the creative transformation the city has made over time. And with the newfound focus on urban living, she knew the time was right to open Urban Accents, the aptly named contemporary home accessories store at 159 N. Broadway.

"Milwaukee is a great city that's really coming into its own," she says. "It fosters a lot of creative energy and I'm happy to be apart of that growth. With many people looking to live in modern Downtown settings, the timing is perfect for a store like this to work here."

Urban Accents is set to open in July -- she hopes to tie the opening into the July 28 Gallery Night -- after Artasia relocates to its new space a few blocks north, next to the newly opened Design Within Reach.

Specializing in artistically crafted pieces that add the element of style to the home equation, Urban Accents features small to mid-sized contemporary furnishings and handcrafted accessories. Eventually, she hopes to expand to incorporate bigger furniture.

"The store's theme is centered around what my idea of urban is today. I think there is a real urban, contemporary, fun sense in Milwaukee -- it's a very creative city," she says. "Living here you really start to see this new emergence of art and creativity that I feel started with the new development Downtown."

Citing people she's known who've sold their homes in the suburbs, sold their old furniture and moved into the city, Rappaport says her store will be helping to fill the void of options for new or existing city dwellers who view interior design as very important.

"Up until this point, it's been rather difficult to find modern and contemporary furniture stores in the area."

Although she's setting aside a small portion of her store to dedicate to an art gallery for local artists, she says that most of her inventory sources from the creative hands of artists all over the country. Often making the fruitful journey to the Buyers Market of American Craft in Philadelphia -- a collaborative showing of unique work from artists around the country -- Rappaport returns with one-of-a-kind lamps, vases, bowls, mirrors, tables that she describes as fun, functional art pieces that act as inspiration for interior design. Particularly interesting are the series of chairs that artist Boris Bally created from recycled traffic signage.

"I believe that our surroundings affect our creative contributions to society. They affect the way we feel, so I seek to inspire through my pieces. The bowls that I sell, for example, aren't just bowls -- they have an energy about them that make you feel good."

When the store opens in late summer the Web site will be

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”