Boxwood Linen: Pressed in Hillsdale
Franca Fusco, designer and owner of Boxwood Linen, doesn’t believe in holding the finer things in life back. “When I hear people say ‘It’s too pretty to use,’ I just think ‘Oh dear. What life are you waiting for?’ Do it for yourself. I don’t understand that kind of thought.” Listening to Fusco speak about using fine European linens for everyday living could inspire one to bust out the Haviland China for pizza night. “I don’t cover my furniture with plastic, and I don’t put good things away for someone else.”
The same philosophy applies to her store. “I want people to feel happy when they come in here,” Fusco says about her Hillsdale space, where she sells locally made table linens and accessories. “I was very lucky to fall into this space and to be surrounded by such nice people,” a reference to her new spot tucked underneath the Hillsdale General Store adjacent to the lower level entrance to CrossRoads Food Shop, and neighbors with Passiflora and Village Scoop, all part of a newly hot section of Hillsdale on Route 23 (just west of the intersection with Route 22). Boxwood Linen was previously on the second floor of Hillsdale General Store and while Fusco enjoyed the traffic from the general store perch, having a store of her own was more important. “I’m also just really excited to be done. I had to get through Christmas and then I could concentrate on this space. It all came together in about a month.” Her showroom is well balanced: any smaller and it might be cramped; any larger and it would look too sparse.
Canadian-born Fusco studied design and worked in the fashion business for more than 14 years before making her move from Toronto to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where the first incarnation of Boxwood Linen began. She started off slow, growing the line from three items to several dozen. Fusco says, “I had about six great colors of linen at home. It started with a laundry bag, three different sized sachets, and a shoe bag and just took those around and that was it.”
Fusco quickly realized that linen was her passion. “Linen is my thing. I tried other fabrics, but boy, that didn’t last long. Linen is just so easy,” she says. “People get freaked out about the ironing. If you want it to look crisp, then iron it, it only takes a minute, or let it be natural.” Boxwood Linen has a color-rich selection of goods: Each piece is cut one by one so the grain is perfect every time, and hand-finished. Everything, from table linens, tea towels, guest towels and bath towels to shower curtains, pillows, and quilts is created by Fusco in her nearby studio. The use of the finest European linens is paramount, as is impeccable craftsmanship. “Whatever I do on the front, I do on the back so it’s a balanced weight towel [so it doesn’t slide off the towel rack]. I have some really wonderful really wide, wide fabrics which I can make huge table clothes and runners with ($90 & up). I have some great suppliers, if someone has a really wide table.”
When Fusco explains it, the seemingly higher cost sounds quite reasonable “I charge by the square inch. Some people charge by the yard, but that way you may be paying for something you don’t use.” Everything in her line is clean and unfussy. “I tend to simplify things. I try not to add too much. I’ll do the Calvin Klein thing — where you take one thing away.”
Linen is said to be one of the oldest textiles in the world, with a history that goes back many thousands of years. Fusco believes linen is the perfect fabric for every part of the home, from an elegant tablescape to scrubbing the walls, “Linen is good for everything. My Italian mom used cloth for every household chore; we didn’t have paper. Linen is the simplest cloth on the planet.” Fusco is a waste not want not kind of gal. “I keep my mistakes for cleaning rags. One hundred percent linen is the original sustainable cloth and is so easy to work with, being so absorbent. Everything is machine washable. I wouldn’t have it in here if it wasn’t and after you wash them, son of a gun they are the best thing ever!”
Fusco shows her fashion chops with her three styles of aprons and a few color options, lending a functional elegance to an everyday item; the Bib ($78), Bistro ($68), and the PG Halter ($78), all made of a soft, medium weight linen with a nice drape (all profits from the PG Halter go to The Phyllis Gordon Foundation). Ruth Reichl touted the virtues of Boxwood Linen’s aprons on her website for her holiday round-up, saying, “This classic bistro apron…makes you feel more competent in the kitchen.” Boxwood Linen also carries lemon cypress and rosemary topiaries ($15.50 & up), classic glass bottle Savon de Marseille Soaps ($26.50), French porcelain ($50 & up), and candles ($12 & up).
Fusco surveys her week-old space and smiles, “Right now it’s just me and a lovely Mennonite woman that helps me sew. The first seven years of my business I did all this myself. Now I have six wholesale clients, the online site and the store, and that’s right for me. So many people fail because they grew too quickly. I am really happy with a small business, I want it to stay small. I don’t want it to be huge, not everyone has to do that right?”
2642 State Route 23
Village Square Plaza
(parking lot level).
Hillsdale, NY, 12529
Friday – Sunday and Holiday Mondays, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.. Or by appointment