Second Chances at Second Home
Suzannah Van Schaick laughs when she thinks of the questions that popped up when she first opened Lenox’s Second Home back in May. People seemed to think it was a club of sorts only for second homeowners. “How do I prove I’m one?” one caller asked. Van Schaick’s answered by suggesting they bring in their deed.
Needless to say, the store is for primary home owners as well — even renters, heaven forbid — anyone looking to cleverly appoint their country crib. Van Schaick turns flea market and yard sale steals into colorful re-creations, from brightly painted vintage wire magazine racks ($20) to a beautifully revived, lightly waxed buffet ($248). “Life’s too manicured. I love to mix it up. Everything needs a second chance,” Van Schaick says of her upcycled finds. “I go by gut. Some things don’t need to be painted, they just need a hard-cleaning and a little love.”
Second Home can morph into a new space every week depending on the inventory, which means that if you see something you love —and you will — snap it up, because it may not be there next week. But make no mistake, it’s far from a mishmash: Van Schaick and her husband Pieter spent years working their way up the Pottery Barn/Smith and Hawken ladder, and “it taught me a lot about grouping, about low to high, high to low vignettes,” she says. The location itself mimics a second home, set back from the street and nestled down a peastone driveway. Van Schaick is proud of being different than the rest of the block. “There wasn’t anything like it around. We don’t sell antiques. We breathe new life into treasures.” She doesn’t worry too much about monikers like vintage or antique. “Antiquing is its own art. I’m really about price and value. If it has good bones, we can work with it.”
Van Schaick will remember a customer who bought a glass set and set aside a match if she finds one during a day off outing. She’s the kind of nice that you can’t turn on when the door opens, and makes fast friends with her customers while explaining the ins and outs of her shop, and the process that the piece they’re looking at has gone through to get in their hands.
“Upcycling is a form of green shopping that’s become popular in the past few decades; it refers to taking something out of date or in need of repair and making it better. It’s the reuse of an item that will still be used in the same way, albeit new and improved. Upcycling can be achieved through paint, even heavy cleaning or new upholstery,” says Van Schaick. “It’s all about keeping it cheap and chic.”
Van Schaick has unflappable moxie; she decided to open a storefront last year, after an MS diagnosis. Fierce and funny in a Martha Stewart meets Janeane Garofalo kind of way, she doesn’t want to be the poster child for her illness; she just wants a fulfilling job. Second Home’s fate was sealed after the purchase of an inn fell through, and she had a basement full of furniture and knick-knacks to fill it with. “My husband thought I was crazy,” she remembers, but six months later things are going well enough that he quit his day job to come on board with his high school sweetheart wife. “The location is great. Our kids come here after school or play nearby.”
Second Home gathered attention shortly after opening this past May with their hard to keep in stock Tanglewood tables ($37), a “party table” with enough space for four wine glasses and various accoutrements. “An idea that’s forty years old,” Van Schaick says. “I wanted to improve upon the lawn experience.” Some of the tables, all fashioned by a local carpenter friend, have cutouts for glasses, some are crafted from reclaimed barn doors, and others from church pews. If she has it her way, next season Tanglewood’s rolling lawns will be dotted with them. — Dale Stewart
53 Church Street
Open Monday, Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.