Dépêchez-vous To The Basic French Estate Sale
Napoleon III chaise longe, recently reupholstered by an artisanal upholsterer with hemp, linen and horsehair (it will last another 100 years, Neiley says), $1,200.
By Lisa Green
Francophiles — and those who just plain love an estate sale — will want to thank Carol Neiley for her own passion for France and her householding there. The owner of Basic French, a Gallic-provenanced shop in Red Hook, is selling off the vintage goods from her French country estate and apartment in Lyons at the Basic French Estate Sale today through Saturday. Our advice: jump in the car right now and get there before it’s all gone.
Neiley, who worked as a graphic designer in New York, moved to Red Hook in 1992, and opened the first Basic French storefront on East Market Street, selling what she loved most about French living: the simple products — linens, soaps, stationery, sponges, toothpaste (“la vie quotidenne”). The store was a novel concept and became a shopping destination.
While she and her two daughters had been traveling back and forth to France since 1998, in 2007 she decided to make the French connection permanent. Neiley and her daughters moved to Lyon. She had an apartment in the city, and also owned a country estate.
“What started as a year in France ended up being five years,” she explains. Fluent in French, she worked with ex-patriots from all over the world who had moved to Lyon for business. It was usually the men who preceded their families and needed help finding a place to live and (and getting it furnished) before the family arrived. Neiley, with her language and design skills, would find them an apartment, then outfit and decorate their new residences “soup to nuts.” At the same time, she was scouting markets and antiques stores to furnish her own two homes.
In 2012, she and her daughters moved back to NYC, but after a year, missing the region, returned to Red Hook. She reopened Basic French, now at 15 West Market Street, and also works full time as a home stylist and supervisor of design and construction in the Hudson Valley.
“I love Red Hook,” she says. It’s such an unpretentious place, with a successful mix of a diverse demographic. It’s never become a tourist trap — it’s truly an authentic country town.”
A sampling of the items at the estate sale: transferware plates, $20 each; metal road race numbers, $8 each; colorful valises, $5; vintage linens and linen sheets, $20-$70.
So now Neiley’s passion for all things French (and her thorough foraging of antiques markets in Lyon and the French countryside) will bring more of that je ne sais quoi to Red Hook — and perhaps, your home. And there’s a lot of it to be had.
“Coming back from France, I brought a container of [items from] my country house in France — vintage linens, artwork, china, furniture — most of which has been in storage all this time,” she says. “There are things that no one has ever seen, one-of-a-kind things from my personal collection.” At prices that have never been seen in the U.S., she adds.
Come early enough, and you’ll find big furniture pieces, paintings, glassware, sterling silver, mirrors, and lots and lots of linens. (“I’ve realized I’m a linens hoarder,” she admits.) The items from Basic French will be newer things, but all just as authentically imbued with French esprit.
La vie quotidienne never sounded so good.
Basic French Estate Sale
Thursday, July 30, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday, July 31, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 1, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
7423 South Broadway (Rt. 9), Red Hook, NY
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Shopping And Strolling: A Midsummer Pastime
Theater, music, dance and a panoply of festivals are all in full swing, but for those of us whose shopping bug never takes a vacation, retail therapy is alive and well in the Rural Intelligence region. So, for you, we have gathered up a cartful of sales and celebrations happening in the next few weeks.
July 2-5, Chatham
Boxwood Linen Relaunch With more than twice the square footage of its previous space in Hillsdale, Boxwood Linen celebrates its new location to showcase its exquisite hand-cut, hand-finished linens for the table, kitchen and bath. There will be special promotions, giveaways and refreshments all weekend long. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
22 Main Street
July 2-5, Lee
Lee Premium Outlets Our own local national outlet shining on a hill will hold an old-fashioned sidewalk sale. The complex is surprisingly large, boasting 60 stores. If you’re in need of some more summer staples, this should be your destination. Shopping hours will be extended: Thursday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
17 Premium Outlets Boulevard
July 3, Great Barrington
Michael Wainwright Outlet Store How lucky are we to have the sculptor and tableware designer based right in our midst? Wainwright’s gold and platinum-decorated porcelain is sold throughout North America, but we have his outlet store in Great Barrington, which the designer opens up to the community with All Fired Up Again: the second-annual summer sale and celebration, a free family event. Everything in the store will be 20-50 percent off. There will be free pieces to decorate and have fired in the on-site kiln, pizza from Old Inn on the Green, lemonade, SOCO Creamery ice cream and entertainment from 12-3 p.m. Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
964 South Main Street
July 3, Great Barrington
Peter Fasano If the textile designer’s work is good enough for Oprah and the President of the United States, it’s certainly good enough for us. There will be bolts and bolts and bolts of the hand-printed, hand silk-screened (and now discontinued) fabrics at the Fabric Studio Sale, priced to sell. See what we wrote about Peter Fasano a few years back. 10 a.m - 5 p.m.
964 South Main Street (Route 7)
July 3, Pittsfield
Dory and Ginger Grand Opening
The brand-new Hotel on North has already spawned more business on North Street. Dory and Ginger, owned by the hotel’s owner Laurie Tierney and partner Cara Carroll, is right next door. Its logo says “Live and Give,” an appropriate one for the home décor and gifts store with an eclectic and accessible assortment of objects including jewelry, glassware, gourmet treats, stationery items and unexpected fun stuff. There will be refreshments from local purveyors and a drawing for a gift certificate. 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
299 North Street
July 4, New Preston
Summer Stroll No middling street fair, this. The village turns into a garden party tableau as you shop and enjoy live music and specialty treats plus cocktails — white sangria, fresh local lemonade, and pink champagne. Raffles will feature $100 gift certificates from New Preston stores with all proceeds going to the Steep Rock Association, which protects three local nature preserves. 2-5 p.m.
July 10, Lakeville
Prime Finds (Affordable Treasures for the Home) The high-end, used home goods store is having a grand opening and preview party to showcase its new location. Featured will be “Designer’s Choice” with items specially selected by Matthew Patrick Smyth. Sales benefit the programs at Prime Time House, Inc., a nonprofit that helps individuals with serious mental illness regain independence. There will be refreshments available while you shop. $20 per person at the door. 5-7 p.m.
838 Main Street
July 10 -11, Great Barrington
McTeigue & McClelland The “Masters of the Art” is a special showing of rare antique and colored diamonds, an extraordinary collection that will be on display for two days only. Prepare to be enchanted. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
454 Main Street
July 11, Washington, CT
The Washington Green Summer Fair A 50-year tradition, the Summer Fair includes a gigantic tag sale, Yankee bakery, ladies accessories booth, plant pavilion, horse-drawn wagon rides, used book emporium and live auction. Fair proceeds will be used for the maintenance of the historic Washington Green and Meetinghouse, circa 1801. Hours are 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Washington Town Green
July 11-12, LaGrangeville
Monastery Vinegar Festival When was the last time you visited a monastery? At Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery you can sample and purchase the only organic-artisanal vinegars produced in the Hudson Valley following an ancient monastic method, along with other food products from the Monastery farm, gardens and kitchen, including tapenade, pesto, chutney, apple sauce and butter, relishes, dried herbs and tonics. Other available items include plants, books, food, crafts and artwork from local monasteries, farmers and artisans. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
246 Barmore Road
Through August, Hudson
Linda Wayne Collection The costume designer and former owner of Lily’s in Great Barrington brings her elegant scarves and jewelry to a pop-up shop at Home. There’s also a small selection of stunning, classic shirts. 1-5 p.m.
535 Warren Street
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Margo Morrison New York Brings Trunk Show To The Clark
By Lisa Green
Margo Morrison was formally trained as a pianist, not a jewelry designer. But she’s never left music, really — she’s just exchanged one tactile sensation for another, transferring the patterns, improvisational influences and harmony of music into her line of semi-precious stones and freshwater pearl jewelry.
The Sandisfield weekender will be bringing a special trunk show of more than 200 pieces to The Clark’s museum store this weekend. And if you’re not familiar with Margo Morrison jewelry, this would be a lovely way to get to know it (and meet the designer, who will be there on Saturday) — before or after a visit to the Van Gogh exhibition that’s just opened.
“Music is a huge part of life, and the way I design my jewelry is like notes on a staff,” Morrison says. “Some of my designs have random patterns and look improvisational. When we’re designing the pieces, we say we like to make them sing.”
It’s such a lovely image, the idea of visual music — shimmery, sparkly and rhythmical — dancing around you. The designs are constructed with cord that’s barely visual, allowing the stones and pearls to look as if they’re floating —you’re wearing it, it’s not wearing you, Morrison puts it.
After running a cultural arts magazine in Miami, Morrison moved to New York and, no longer playing piano, needed a creative outlet. About 15 years ago, a single lariat in a shop window inspired her to begin making jewelry, first for herself. She designed and created each piece until Bloomingdales took on her line. Earrings start at around $90, and necklaces range from $250 to about $2,500.
Now, Margo Morrison New York is carried by Neiman Marcus, ABC Carpet & Home, fine jewelry stores and retailers in London, Luxembourg, Brussels, Johannesburg, Tokyo and the Caribbean. Her work has adorned some of the biggest names in the celebrity world. She has four artisans on staff and is continually creating new designs to bring to four or five industry shows per year.
She credits her retreat in Sandisfield as an influence on her work. “I come out here and I’m inspired,” Morrison says. “I’m looking at the pond in the middle of nowhere, but I’m 22 minutes from town. It feels like such a creative place.” When she’s in the country, she’s reluctant to leave the sylvan scene outside her house, but she likes to walk the paths near the Norman Rockwell Museum, always accompanied by her beloved Italian greyhound, Ella.
Although Morrison doesn’t typically attend many trunk shows, the fact that it’s in the Berkshires makes it a special occasion, and she’s excited about the Clark event. The museum’s Japanese-influenced architecture is a fitting backdrop for her jewelry, which has a similar aesthetic (and indeed, her collection has a large following in Japan).
“It’s the most gorgeous gift shop you’ve ever seen,” she says.
Margo Morrison New York Trunk Show
Saturday and Sunday, June 20-21, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Clark, Williamstown, MA
No admission fee to visit the museum store.
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Wardrobe-Swapping Sale Is The New Sinterklaas Tradition
By Lisa Green
“Love It or Swap It” sounds like the name of one of those reality shows on TLC. On Bravo, it might be called “The Women of Rhinebeck Who Created a Clothing Swap to Benefit Sinterklaas.”
Fortunately for shoppers looking for a good deal on better clothing and accessories, the swap won’t be on TV but will be live and in the Rural Intelligence region. The “Love It or Swap It” concept is ingenious and eco-friendly: you simply bring in the clothes you no longer want, pay your donation and go home with an equal number of items. All the money raised goes to Sinterklaas, the Dutch-based, Rhinebeck-embellished holiday festival that villagers rally around every holiday season. The sale will be held on Sunday, May 31 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Primrose Hill School.
The upscale swap event started five years ago when a group of women met at a “Green Eileen” event sponsored by designer Eileen Fisher; it’s a recycled clothing program that generates income-supporting programs to improve the lives of women and girls. The Rhinebeck ladies borrowed the fundraising elements of that concept when they created the “Love It or Swap It!” Fundraiser Clothing Swap. Lindy Wright, with a background in fashion and sales (25 years as a merchant and human resources director Saks Fifth Avenue in Atlanta, 20 years in her own antiques business) opened her home to the first swappers, and for the three years of swaps that followed.
“We moved furniture and bought a bunch of racks,” Wright recalls. “It started out kind of small, but got bigger and bigger. People were lined up outside my house, and would just hang around and be social. After four years, it’s outgrown my house. My husband is thrilled.”
This year, the sale has been moved to the Primrose Hill School across from the Dutchess County fairgrounds. Along with everyone’s sartorial contributions (which often include Eileen Fisher, Prada, Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs, among other designers), a separate vendor, SINTERStore, will be selling items donated by local shops. Think Coach handbags, jewelry, Ferragamo shoes and gift certificates.
Now that they’re not limited to a living room and guest bedroom, organizers Wright, Joanne Gelb, Jill Lundquist and Diana Devlin have expanded the activities of the day. Shoppers can avail themselves of 15-minute chair massages by a licensed massage therapist, tarot card readings from an intuitive soul coach and haircuts by a stylist from NYC. A modest charge for these services benefits Sinterklaas. There will be a room to try on clothing a la the old Loehmann’s dressing rooms, where nothing says community better than others opining “yea” or “nay.”
Leftover clothing is distributed to various thrift stores.
“Love It or Swap It” Women’s Clothing Swap to benefit Sinterklaas
Sunday, May 31 from noon to 4 p.m.; $20 donation.
Primrose Hill School, 6571 Springbrook Ave., Route 9, Rhinebeck, NY
Read our story about Sinterklaas.
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J. Seitz Celebrates 30 Years (And, Oh Yes, It’s Tent Sale Time)
By Lisa Green
Just this week, Home Accents Today, a retail trade publication, announced its annual 50 Retail Stars list, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, J. Seitz & Company of New Preston was on that list. Again.
The family-run mini mega store has thrived for decades, not only because of its continually fresh “cabinet of curiosities” approach to merchandise, but because it’s run by a family threesome (Joanna and Bill Seitz, and daughter Amanda), who get along like gangbusters. Now celebrating their 30th year in business, the Seitz’s first filled their store with southwestern textiles and patterns, which all of our homes had at least a touch of in 1986. Over the years, they’ve evolved into resourcing fashion and home goods that are more in the comfortable, Connecticut country vibe, that rustic elegance that pretty much personifies Rural Intelligence style.
“I guess we have the formula, and we have great clients that support us, so we are very lucky,” Joanna said when we visited with her and Amanda a few years ago.
Lucky, maybe. Smart, fashion savvy, and customer oriented, certainly. It’s a winning formula for the eclectic shop overlooking a waterfall. The family enterprise has always kept the inventory fresh, new and interesting, as their customers who travel to the emporium regularly from all over New York and New England will attest.
Fortunately for them, there’s no slowing down in the family’s attempts to find items that appeal to a sophisticated country sensibility. These days, Joanna says, that means a certain authenticity in materials and design, a connection with the makers.
“We look for artists who make things versus things from large manufacturers,” she says. “We’re able to support these independent people and our customers really appreciate their work.”
She cites a new designer who once worked with high-end diamond jewelry, but whose consternation about the diamond industry’s questionable practices moved her to work with recycled metals. The home lines at the store include furniture with natural materials gleaned from barns or cement floors and repurposed into elegant, modern forms.
Despite admitting that there are now days where the business tires her out more than it used to, Joanna says she’s not ready to retire yet.
What about that dream she mentioned a few years ago — the one where they’ll retire to New Mexico, ride off into the sunset, and Amanda will run the store?
“Oh, that’s still our dream,” Joanna says. “Amanda is about to have her first baby. Maybe the next generation will follow in our footsteps.”
J. Seitz & Co.
9 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT
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With The Opening Of Tulip, Spring Comes Early To Rhinebeck
By Andrea Pyros
It only seems as if warm weather will never arrive and we’ll still be skiing down the slopes and drinking Irish Coffees come June. But in fact, spring has sprung, at least in one small Rhinebeck spot. It’s at Tulip, a new shop that opened in the middle of the village, selling flowers by the stem, bouquets, gifts, chocolates and framed art. Co-owned by business partners Kim Cantine and Jeffrey Milstein, Tulip opened on Valentine’s Day and fills a hole in Rhinebeck’s business district, finally offering locals a place to pick up fresh flowers for hostess gifts or to perk up their own kitchen tables.
The floral expert of the duo is Cantine, and she envisions Tulip as a simple cash-and-carry shop modeled on a French flower store. Once weather permits, people will be able to walk by and pick from the bouquets displayed on Tulip’s front porch. Inside there will be more flowers, with Cantine helping customers interested in special arrangements.
“We’ll have unusual flowers that you won’t find anywhere else,” says Milstein. Prices will range from a few dollars for an individual stem, $14 for an inexpensive arrangement and then more for rarer buds.
“If people want one beautiful flower or they’re on a budget, or if they want something more elegant, there’s going to be something for everyone,” he adds. The partners are sourcing their flowers from area distributors and hope to offer more locally grown flowers as the season approaches, but year round, Cantine promises, “No cheap filler flowers!”
The pair has known each other since Cantine did work for Paper House Productions, Milstein’s stationery products company. Both were Woodstock residents for many years and stayed in touch. Three years ago, Cantine relocated to Rhinebeck (where she also works as a real estate agent), and she quickly realized that the village was lacking a flower store. She shared her idea of opening one with Milstein, who liked the idea, too. When a space opened up on Montgomery Street, both agreed it was perfect for Tulip.
“I always thought this was a really great space,” Milstein explains, “with the Greek revival front and the little porch which is perfect for putting out flowers. Even years ago, I had my eye on it.”
In addition to flowers, there’s a small, well-crafted selection of gifts — colorful vases, hand-blown glasses, mugs with Arne Jacobsen’s famous typeface, and delicious organic, fair-trade sweets from the Saugerties-based Lucky Chocolates.
Cantine and Milstein are working to add more artists to the store’s walls as well. Currently they have small botanical drawings from Accord’s Wendy Hollender and large, gorgeous prints from Milstein’s own professional photographic work. “I have a huge collection of florals I’ve taken over many years and now I finally have a place to show them,” he says. “I’ve also traveled extensively photographing National Trust Gardens such as you’d see on Downton Abbey, so we’re going to put those up, too.”
With Kim’s small business experience, time spent working at a flower shop and her past as the owner of a boutique in Woodstock, she and Milstein both were clear about their vision for the store and how to quickly get the space into shape. They’re also in agreement about their vision for what they want to offer customers.
“People feel like they’re in a different kind of place here. We’re not stuffing it with everything you can find. Items have to meet our beautiful standards,” Cantine says.
6406 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck NY
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. weekdays, later (by discretion of the owners) on weekends.
Call ahead for spring and summer hours.
Closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
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North Country Vintage Rents Out Style For Special Occasions
By Jamie Larson
When it comes to popular wedding aesthetics over the past few years, the barn has replaced the ballroom and regal uniformity has been usurped by rural individuality. A new shop in Hudson, North Country Vintage, is embracing the trend that so emulates the look of our region with a rentable collection of beautiful vintage items (many also for sale) that will stage a wedding or any event in the trappings of country charm.
Owners of NCV, Joanna and Matt Murphy, spent months finding and buying the mismatched table settings, eclectic props and vintage furnishings they needed to dress their own 2007 Hudson Valley wedding. The fun but undoubtedly time-consuming experience gave the couple a novel and elegantly simple business idea: Start a shop in Hudson where people can rent all the stylish, antique ephemera that help to personalize events.
“We held on to all the things we purchased for our wedding and it grew from there. Collecting, antiquing is what Matt and I like to do together,” says Joanna, who also works as the co-chair of special education for the Hyde Park School District. “Our aesthetic keeps evolving, so we are versatile. When it started it was very ‘rustic farmhouse.’ Now there is also a bohemian quality, with the mismatched china and antique couches.”
Behind an unassuming storefront at 723 Columbia Street in Hudson, NVC’s store and showroom displays vignettes of table settings, bar setups and lounges that exude a relaxed and effortless class. The displays are just a small part of a huge collection stored in the barn behind the couple’s Clinton Corners farmhouse.
There’s something satisfying about the mismatched nature of the service and dinnerware on display. Only with this current trend could an ornate china plate or a quirky old cut-glass chalice, long ago lost to its set, get a moment of appreciation. And the endless variety of detail only helps to personalize and enhance a special event.
“It’s timeless, classic and really fits regional venues,” says Matt, who recently resigned from a successful career in finance and an exhausting six-hour daily round trip commute to spend more time with the couple’s young daughter and run NVC during the week. “We think it’s a really good idea and we are optimistic. It’s been really exciting for me to learn every aspect of the business, and now I get to put my daughter on the bus in the morning and see her at night.”
Given the increased popularity of rustic, vintage, industrial-chic weddings, there is certainly some of Matt’s residual business savvy on display at NCV, as well. In addition, Joanna does invitations and Matt’s sister, Carolynn Murphy, displays her handmade buttons from her Cute As Buttons line. The NVC owners aim to grow relationships with local wedding services companies, craftspeople, makers and artists to further diversify their in-store collection and the personal touches they can bring to weddings and other events.
“When we were planning the business, we also began to realize that there were all these new venues popping up,” Joanna says. “There are now these really great raw spaces that need decor.”
From the barn out back to industrial venues like the Basilica in Hudson, HVC’s ever-growing collection is a one-stop shop for unique stage setting. With that in mind the Murphys are also planning to work with realtors on home staging and filmmakers to help create the hip ambiance specific to our beautiful countryside.
“We want these events to be exactly what people want,” Joanna says. “We are committed to being ever evolving. Women share their Pinterest boards with us and we strive to emulate that. We are even happy to go treasure hunting for people.”
North Country Vintage
723 Columbia Street, Hudson, NY
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Steeped In History: Lynda’s Antique Clothing Loft
By Amy Krzanik
Over the past 20 years, the town of Adams, Massachusetts has become something of a pit-stop, a place to refuel on your way to and from North Adams and Pittsfield, but not a destination in itself. Since the closure of the town’s major employer, Waverly Fabrics, in 1991, many businesses have tried and failed to create or keep a foothold along the town’s main thoroughfare, the picturesque Park Street. One of only a handful of success stories has been Lynda’s Antique Clothing Loft. “Every nearby business that was here when I opened the store seven years ago has since closed,” says the store’s owner, the petite and elegant Lynda Meyer.
So, what’s her secret? It could be her vast knowledge of vintage fashions; her shop is stocked with hand-picked clothing and accessories dating from the 1900s to the 1960s. Or it could be her obvious love of what she does, which shows in the store’s two carefully curated window tableaus, which Meyer updates often. (You may have ogled them on your way through town, as they are a welcome departure from the main street’s mostly empty storefronts.)
Meyer grew up in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. On her way to “discovering herself,” she lived in California, studied at the New School of Dance and performed with interpretive jazz bands, worked as an artists’ model in London, taught dance at a Navaho reservation in Chinle, Arizona, and lived in India for a year with an English boyfriend, paying only $6 a month for a one-room house on the beach. “Dance was part of my dialogue with myself, but it generated almost no income,” she says, smiling. She eventually moved back to NYC to look for work.
The self-taught fashion historian (Meyer was a sociology major in college but dropped out), ended up working for a friend who owned a vintage clothing shop in the city. On her hour-long train commute, she would immerse herself in old fashion catalogs, and found that remembering all the details came easily to her.
When the friend moved to Pittsfield and opened Greystone Gardens, the former vintage clothing boutique on North Street, Meyer followed. At that time, NYC was a more dangerous place than it is now, and Meyer was eager to flee after a neighbor was murdered during a home invasion. She eventually bought a home in Adams, drawn to the town’s rolling hills, reasonable housing prices and low crime rate.
After Greystone Gardens closed its doors, Meyer began doing freelance appraisals, and Carl Sprague hired her to design the costume exhibit “The Fruit of the Tree,” which ran at The Mount in Lenox for a year. At this time, Meyer also ran a vintage clothing store out of her house; she would invite people over to drink tea and browse, but friends would end up in her closet trying to purchase items she didn’t intend to sell. Realizing she needed a larger, and preferably completely separate, location to showcase her wares, she opened the Clothing Loft.
The store is a lot like her house, Meyer says. The pink walls and lace curtained entrance give the shop a charming, feminine feel, like a vintage life-sized dollhouse. The clothes help, too. Flattering and well-made dresses from the 1940s-1960s, in an array of colors and patterns, run from $65-$250. Vintage 1950s silk scarves ($10-$70), jewelry from the 1920s-1940s ($65-$120), and hats for women and men made in the years 1900-1960 ($35-$150) are hung on pegs, folded neatly in baskets and lovingly displayed in cases throughout the shop. The most expensive items are the evening dresses, which are perfect for fancy cocktail parties, weddings or proms. They run from $450-$600 and they are exquisite, made with intricate and extensive beadwork, fine satins and velvets, and quality period buttons. Not to be left out, men can find tuxedos and ties, along with winter coats for both sexes ($65-$100).
Besides running the shop, Meyer is still called upon to appraise historical society collections. This could mean anything from cataloging items and setting up displays, to the nitty-gritty of spraying disinfectant to remove bacteria and encouraging the purchase of acid-free paper and boxes in which to store items. “Rust will really spread and ruin something,” she notes.
To refresh her inventory, Meyer scours flea markets, as well as local estate sales. “When I get into a house, my eye is like a Geiger counter,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years now, and I can pinpoint a piece of clothing within a two-year period, out of 200 years of fashion.” The small rural Berkshire towns offer a great selection of pieces. “People live here for many years and don’t throw anything away. I have access to material other people would be happy to have.”
As for whom she’s selling to, it’s a mixture of locals, friends and tourists traveling through town from South County to MASS MoCA, the costume departments of the Williamstown Theatre Festival and NYC theaters, and online customers who find her through her Etsy store.
Not one to hoard her knowledge, Meyer gives historical fashion lectures throughout the region. Former venues include The Clark, Norman Rockwell Museum, the Litchfield and Falls Village Historical Societies and Smith College. “I never get tired of it,” she says, “it’s like archeology. When something is very old, it has its own aura.”
Lynda’ Antique Clothing Loft
39 Park Street, Adams, MA
Open Tuesdays—Saturdays, 12-5 p.m.
February 1-28: Sweetheart Sale: whites and linens (handmade Victorian petticoats, sleepwear, blouses & other items) 20-50% off.
April 25, Stockbridge: Mid 19th C. Wearables lecture at Norman Rockwell Museum. 5:30 p.m.
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Housatonic Trading Co. Mixes Eras, Prices And Caffeine
By Lisa Green
How would you feel if visitors to your art studio noticed your personal antiques collection hanging around and wanted to buy pieces right out from under you?
I might be a little annoyed, but Litchfield residents Robert Graham [left] and Robert Deyber, God bless them, are not only more magnanimous than I am, but entrepreneurial as well. Their private collection became the genesis of the Housatonic Trading Company, a 3,600-square-foot former carriage factory built in 1876 in Bantam, CT just down the road from Litchfield, that now is filled with antique, vintage and modern items.
Their original stash, which they’d been collecting for years, had to be moved out of their circa 1776 home during renovations. That’s how it ended up in Deyber’s painting studio (which Graham managed), later transitioning to their first retail operation, The White Room Art & Antiques. They soon outgrew the space, and two years ago moved operations to the stately brick building on Bantam Road.
The inventory ranges from consigned goods to antiquities, jewelry, furniture, art and sculpture. Gifty items, like candles, bath and body products and home fragrances, get special positioning on the center table at the front of the store. Eclectic is an adjective that seems overused these days, but it really fits here; you might be looking at a primitive painting sitting on an industrial end table. Or a sideboard with a distressed finish might be topped by a limited edition print. Kitschy tin signs bump up next to leather chairs. Chandeliers and banners hang from the ceiling. Price points range from a couple of dollars to five figures. It’s hard to know what’s vintage or modern or a true antique. And that’s what makes shopping there so fun.
“We have a large local following,” says Graham, who manages Housatonic Trading Company’s retail showroom. “It’s steady in the winter; people know they’ll find new things every time they come.” The website reflects the changing inventory, and supports a brisk mail order business with customers from throughout the world. The enterprise is busy enough to support five full-time employees.
“When I did my reports for 2014, I discovered we’d sold 22,000 items. In one year! I couldn’t believe it,” Graham says, going on to describe the treasures he’d just picked up from a few local estates. He brought more than 1,000 items back to the store, including an 18th-century loom that will be dismantled and repurposed into a piece of furniture. (At eight feet or so wide, it doesn’t exactly fall into the functional and utilitarian furniture category that people go for, he says.)
Of course, it helps that the store has its own in-house café. Located at the back of the store, Café 202 fills a void; two local cafes recently closed, leaving residents a sorry lack of caffeine stations.
“I’m a coffee aficionado and there suddenly was no good place to get a cup of coffee,” Graham says, “so we decided to open up our own.” Café 202 serves an exclusive dark blend from Saccuzzo Coffee in Newington, CT and offers bakery items from Ovens of France in Woodbury. Also on the menu are teas, frappes and fresh fruit smoothies. It’s a calm, comforting space, and instead of being schooled on where the coffee beans come from, you get to sit amidst the merchandise. There’s the requisite wi-fi, and sometimes live music.
Photo courtesy Housatonic Trading Company
On a recent snowy Saturday, Graham was surprised by the amount of traffic coming through the door. But the refreshed inventory, wi-fi, a good strong cup of coffee and an affable shopkeeper (and, not unimportant, plenty of parking) is a combination that makes the Housatonic Trading Company an ideal place to while away a wintry day.
Housatonic Trading Company & Café 202
920 Bantam Road, Bantam, CT
Open daily (except Wednesday), 9 a.m.—5 p.m.
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Bohemian Birdy: Luxe For The Home In Chatham
Tim Ebneth, Birdy store manager, and Christine Mottau, owner.
By Nichole Dupont
Christine Mottau has it all; a place in the city, a place in the country, a glamourous freelance career working with the likes of Ralph Lauren, an online business…talent. But, according to the veteran painter and stylist, who divides her time between NYC, Spencertown and wherever her assignments take her (“I travel all over the place”), she was missing, until recently, the one thing every artist needs: A canvas.
“I got sick of the online store by itself. There was no interaction with the product and with people,” she says. “There was something lacking. There was no ‘set’ so to speak. No space for the product to be.”
That much-needed space became available just a few short months ago on Chatham’s main drag — one that has enjoyed a string of retail and eatery openings throughout the last five years — a “storybook town” in Mottau’s eyes. She, with help from friend and fellow artist and set designer Tim Ebneth, flung wide the doors of the Birdy Home Collection, a curated cacophony of accessories — modern, vintage, somewhere in-between — for nearly every interior taste and price point.
“I call it jewelry for the home,” she laughs. “And everybody should be able to buy jewelry for their home.”
Her euphemism for the carefully-selected merchandise is dead on point. Jewel-toned vases ($75 and up) — orange, lime green, red — and abstract paintings (most by Mottau herself, $200 and up) are vibrant against a backdrop of white walls and shelving and a heavy-handed collection of creamy ceramic pieces that range from an outrageously ornate French tureen to delicate, hand-blown opaline pieces ($80) with some crystal thrown in for glittering good measure.
“I like all stuff from all different periods. Modern shapes with interesting detailed finishes,” Mottau says about the selection at Birdy. “As long as there is a high level of finish quality. I can put everything together and tell a visual story.”
Every nook of Birdy is an opportunity to display the wares that Mottau has collected from her travels orchestrating still-life shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, Calvin Klein Home, the NYT Magazine, Bergdorf Goodman and countless others. Wares range from a carved African horn bowl ($80) to smoked cocktail glasses ($150/set of eight). Deliberate vignettes pack the store, showcasing the stylist’s love for not only clean lines and authentic texture, but also her unabashed admiration of the natural world. A cup and saucer set intricately etched in a leaf pattern; a pillar candle made to look like a birch tree, interior rings and all; cast iron bird statuary: all of these pay lifelike homage to Mother Nature’s incomparable design sense.
“I love fake nature. Or faux nature,” she says. “It’s the line. I grew up in Greenwich Village with bohemian parents, you know, of course. But also spent a lot of time in southern New Hampshire, the Monadnock region, where my family is from.”
The self-proclaimed Northeasterner feels right at home in Chatham and was surprised and delighted at the warm reception she received when the store opened in November of last year. She and her husband, Michael Block, were immediately enmeshed in the town’s quirky world of generations-old farm culture meets bearded hipster coffee poets, where retailers have become the neutralizing middle ground for consumers, passersby and eager artists.
“It was a crash course in the arts community,” Mottau recalls about those months leading up to the Birdy space. “My husband’s a writer and I’m a painter and we were amazed at how many people living here are artists. Everything really just fell into place. Having a business here is a community ‘thing’ without a doubt. It’s not just about buying and selling.”
Mottau is already scheming artist shows and silent auctions and other big events as soon as the mercury decides to hold steady in the spring. She is looking forward to seeing the place in the summertime, and of course, to curating the window displays that, for the time being, are filled with two giant, repurposed wooden peace signs.
“It’s easy to have good design at Bergdorf, but my philosophy about the store is ‘what’s good is good,’’’ Mottau says. “Good design is good design. Period.”
Birdy Home Collection
5 Main Street, Chatham, NY
Open Wed. - Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.