Design Menagerie: Shopping For “Soulful, Sustainable Stuff”
By Lisa Green
In a shop like Design Menagerie, it wouldn’t be surprising to find an owner who is on a first-name basis with her vendors. But for Birgit Marko, who moved her store from Wisconsin to downtown Lenox last November, the items she carries, and the people who make them, are a personal matter. And with her background in design, and distinct aesthetic sensibility, her customers are the ones who benefit.
“I buy what I love, not what I think I can sell,” Marko says. “There is a connection with every item, a story why it tugs at my heartstrings.” And although the merchandise — objects of utility and beauty, the tagline states — speaks for itself, let her tell you those stories. A visit to the store becomes so much more than a stop to pick up a gift or an item for your kitchen. It becomes a portal to artisans and products from an astonishing variety of geographic regions, trades and techniques.
The feather earrings displayed on clumps of bright green moss come from a customer in Wisconsin who’d never made them for anyone but herself — until Marko asked her for some to sell. How do those sleek cutting boards get their deep charcoal color? Marko can explain the process. The charming Moroccan leather poufs are stuffed the traditional way — she’ll show and explain why, so you get a mental picture of the old men in Morocco who sit on them, drinking tea for hours. The smoked olive oil imported from Spain? She got it as a gift years ago and promptly found a supplier — and she’ll tell you the best way to use it. “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t carry it,” she wonders. But that’s the kind of store Design Menagerie is.
Marko’s goal is to carry soulful, sustainable stuff, as she puts it. Look as hard as you can, but you won’t find the striking Basotho heritage blankets from South Africa anywhere close by. (Marko can give you their historic background, but you’ll just want to wrap yourself in one, as the Basotho people still do.) Those boots she’s wearing? They’re Danish, made of natural rubber from a sustainable harvest — waterproof and breathable — and built to last. She’s had hers for a couple of years, but they look brand new.
“We work cooperatively with our vendors, sometimes tweaking items to make them uniquely ours,” Marko says. There’s a real emphasis on handcraftsmanship, sustainability, natural and small-batch products, durability and, of course, that elusive quality of fine design, a sensibility Marko has in spades. Price points run from around $5 up to $2,000, and everything in the store is for sale, including the knockout display shelves made of reclaimed boatwood; some of the lath pieces still have bits of paint on them.
Originally from Vienna, Marko and her husband, Dan, lived until this year in a town south of LaCrosse, Wis. Following a career in creative direction (for which she had to commute), she opened Design Menagerie in 2012. Although it and the online business — still going strong — were successful, the couple was ready to head east once their two oldest daughters left for college. A visit with friends in Litchfield County led to a tour of the Berkshires.
“We came to Lenox in March. Even though it was mud season and there weren’t many people around, we still thought it was so cute,” she says. They closed the Wisconsin shop and sold their house. Dan preceded her and got a taste of a Berkshire summer; Birgit arrived in the fall. Their youngest, who’s 12, is happily ensconced in the public schools and Dan picked up his career as a health and wellness therapist at Canyon Ranch.
Marko hasn’t had much time to explore her new home base; opening a shop at the start of the holidays is either crazy or smart. But she’s received a warm welcome from other merchants, and she’s been delighted by the interesting conversations she’s having with her new customer base.
“Customers have often turned out to be vendors for us, so many of the products here are from artisans in the Midwest,” she says. “But I have a feeling that as I get to know the people here, more of my inventory will be from local and regional artisans.”
26 Housatonic Street, Lenox, MA
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Plain Goods In New Preston: Simple, Well-Crafted And Inviting
By Jacque Lynn Schiller
Just before the bend of New Preston’s picturesque shops, or slightly past, I suppose, depending from which direction you arrive, and up the hill, is what would be my ideal country retreat. A sun-filled space with white floors and graceful lines, neutral textiles and well-crafted, and sometimes well-aged, furniture, its richly layered but effortlessly relaxed rooms speak indulgent comfort.
But as much as I’d like to spend the day tucked under a soft blanket, reading a book in a corner, I’m not sure the owners would appreciate my lounging. The place is not for sale, nor is it available to rent. The contents, however, are a different story. Welcome to Plain Goods, the chic collaboration between interior designer Michael DePerno and partner Andrew Fry.
Fry and DePerno.
Plain Goods is a shop that specializes in the things the two love, “simplicity, quality craftsmanship, natural fibers and things that are designed to endure.” Located along the Aspetuck River in what once was once a private home, the snug (not too big, not too small) building dates back to the 1800s and couldn’t be more charming. “The space itself needed some TLC and we brought it to life with the thoughtful renovations that we’ve done,” says DePerno.
The sweet cottage is the latest embodiment of Mr. DePerno’s intuitive style guidance. He began his career at the New York institution ABC Carpet & Home before opening his own ventures, Hope & Wilder in Soho and REN in Los Angeles.
“When I decided to move back east from the west coast, I discovered Washington, where I purchased a home,” says DePerno. “When Andrew and I met we decided that we wanted to create a shop that expressed our point of view. New Preston is a wonderful location and setting. There are shops that are diverse and creative. This area has become a destination for shoppers and we’re very happy to be part of it.”
Opening just before the start of the holiday season, the thoughtfully considered items on offer make short and pleasurable work of your gift list. “Currently we are working with Makie. We love her sense of color and style with imported fabrics from Italy and Japan which are fashioned into children and women’s clothing. Beautifully made and simple,” DePerno says. “We’re also working with Sam Hamilton of MARCH in San Francisco. We’re the only east coast shop carrying her line of pantry items and kitchenwares. There are several lines that we have exclusives on and private labels with. Small leather goods and clothing will also be a big charge.” The owners’ gift suggestions: cashmere-lined leather slippers from Italy, organic cotton waffle towels, spices from MARCH pantry, or a one-of-a-kind antique treasure.
Signage was designed by Megan Wilson of Ancient Industries.
I was particularly drawn to the children’s section, with adorable mitts and Liberty bibs, stuffed animals and tiny sweaters. Shelves filled with antique collectibles or “smalls” also piqued my interest.
In keeping with the seasons, expect to see “lots of cashmere and woolens in the colder months, and handmade leather sandals and linens in the warmer months” in addition to befitting events. On December 19, for example, Plain Goods will host a signing of a beautiful Rizzoli title, Life|Style Elegant Simplicity at Home. Its author, lifestyle authority Tricia Foley, should feel right at home in this natty environment.
You will as well. Just don’t nap in the soft and snuggly Makie.
One New Preston Hill Road
New Preston, CT
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Holiday Hit List: All The Gifts That Are Fit To Give
“Artisanal” is a word thrown around quite a bit these days, but in our region it truly means something. It means taking the time to create quality products from the finest ingredients, and being intimately involved in every step of the process. Whether you shop online or on foot, we hope you’ll consider supporting our region’s amazing small stores, holiday markets, distilleries and other purveyors who still take the time to make things by hand.
Artisanal Food and Drink
Nestled in the hills of northwest Connecticut, the Litchfield Distillery is the state’s newest micro-distillery. Their Batchers’ series includes three hand-crafted, premium spirits: Bourbon Whiskey, Double Barreled Bourbon Whiskey, and Gin, all made using regionally harvested grains. Stay tuned for new products coming soon.
Russell Maple Farm
Choose from 10 different gift boxes ($20-$40) or three different gift baskets ($30-$65) that include a selection of pancake mixes, honey, maple candy and the farm’s maple syrup, which is tapped from Rhinebeck, N.Y. trees. The syrup contains no sodium or cholesterol, is produced without chemicals and contains no additives or preservatives.
RockerBox Spice Co.
A “rockerbox” is a sifting tool gold-rushers used to separate gold nuggets from dirt and the company chose this name because, like a gold nugget, quality seasonings are hard to come by. The Hyde Park, N.Y.‘s spices are 100% pure—which means they include no fillers, preservatives, flavorings or additives, unlike most seasonings you would find in the majority of grocery stores. They’re made only from organic U.S.-grown garlic and onions and are available in customizable gift sets that include your choices of garlic or onion “dusts” or flakes, a “fiesta,” “Italiano” or “everything bagel” mix, and rubs in “sweet corn” or “BBQ.”
Tortured Orchard Sauces
This homegrown North Egremont, Mass. business has concocted seasoning sauces that can be used as marinades, dressings, bases, glazes or straight out of the jar with anything from veggies and sandwiches to fish dishes, cheese platters or even ice cream. Single jars range from $8.50-$9.25 and a Tortured Orchard Sampler is $40.
Barrington Coffee Roasters & Berkshire Mountain Distillers Coffee Bitters
These bitters ($13) are hand crafted in small batches at the Berkshire’s first legal distillery since prohibition. Another local company — Barrington Coffee Roasting Company — supplies the Sumatran coffee for the recipe. The bitters also come in a Bittersweet Boost gift box ($50) that includes two 12 oz. bags of freshly roasted coffee and two coffee ganache bars from Chocolate Springs Café. Check out Barrington Coffee’s website for cocktail and mocktail recipes including a Sanni Cola Old Fashioned and a Gold Bourbon Martini.
This new service, launched in mid-May by two Berkshire residents, is your one-stop-shop for gift baskets featuring the best the area has to offer. It brings together over 15 local vendors of roasted coffee, jams, honey, maple syrup, biscotti, cookies, chocolates and teas. Prices range from $30 to $150.
Clothing and Accessories
Anni Maliki Jewelry
Berkshires residents are already hip to the amazing, nature-inspired jewelry of Anni Maliki, whose oeuvre includes fine metal earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets and cufflinks. Not that you need another reason to shop her designs, but Maliki has recently partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to donate $1 from every sale to help the nonprofit plant trees.
Formerly Griffin GB, this shop has a spiffy new location just down the street from its past incarnation, but still carries all the items you love. A well-curated selection of clothing for men, women and children is intermingled with gift books, plush blankets and pillows, ceramicware, one-of-a-kind art, a great selection of Malin + Goetz products, Six Depot coffee and even kids’ skateboards.
Workshop on the Green
This Litchfield, Conn. women’s clothing and home goods boutique sells a wide variety of sophisticated women’s apparel and accessories which include Arche shoes, Caswell–Massey soaps and body lotion, Christopher Blue, Nic+Zoe, Bao Bao and Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, Kensie, Geiger of Austria, Kinross Cashmere, 3 Dots, Zelda, Amy Khan Russell, along with a unique collection of hand-crafted jewelry from around the world.
This four-season herbal CSA based in Germantown, N.Y. creates its own tinctures and extracts, bitters, tonics and syrups, infused oils and salves, lip balms, herbal salts and teas that work to soothe the body both inside and out. Order single-ingredient tinctures (peppermint, elderberry, dandelion, etc.) for $17 each or compound formulas (made to help with headaches, allergies, better sleep and other ailments) for $19-$25. Gift sets are also available.
It’s gift-giving times three when you buy yourself a tote bag, pencil case, clutch, wallet or makeup case from Silka’s main Etsy shop, snag some organic baby accessories (bibs, burp cloths, blankets, change mats) for the new addition in your life from her shop Kribbe, and then pop on over to Harvest Fabrics, where you can buy modern organic textiles for your own projects.
Philmont’s Asia Luna offers hand-poured soy candles that come in travel tins ($8) and include a new Yuletide holiday scent, body butters, moisturizing bar soaps ($6.25) and misting sprays for home or body ($10) in a plethora of scents, and even an all-natural insect repellent. Smell them yourself this December as the makers pop-up at markets throughout the region, including Ghent’s Yuletide Fair, Pittsfield’s Shindy, and Aija’s Holiday Event in Norfolk. Check facebook for a complete list.
Victoria Dinardo Millinery
After studying millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, running a shop in Soho, creating hats for designers including Donna Karan and Emanuel Ungaro, and having her work featured in Vogue, Elle and Bazaar, Victoria is now designing custom hats at her studio and showroom in Chatham, N.Y. Stop by the shop to try on warm and fashionable winter hats or a sophisticated and sparkly headband to complete your New Year’s Eve attire.
For The Home
Owners Darin Ronning and Travis Messinger started their Connecticut business in 2004 and now offer more than 100 colors of tile to choose from, helping clients create a truly personalized bathroom, backsplash, fireplace or floor. All of their products are handcrafted in the studio — from cutting and drying to glazing and firing — and that includes their gem-colored vases, lace-pressed platters in assorted sizes, and decorative tiles. Prices vary.
Alison Palmer Ceramic Animals
You may have seen mention of appearances by Steve Katz this summer, when the Blood, Sweat & Tears founding member was touring to support his recently published biography. The rock star Connecticut resident is not the only talented one in his family; his wife, Alison Palmer, is a noted ceramic artist who creates animal-inspired giftware in her studio at the couple’s South Kent home. Keep up to date with the artist’s shows, sales and more at her facebook site, and stake your claim on one of her pieces because they are going fast.
Alicia Adams Alpaca
There are two great places to find Alicia Adams Alpaca’s unbelievably soft blankets, throws and clothes this season: at her brand-new flagship store in Millbrook (the town where her family’s alpaca farm is located) and at Privet Lives in New Preston until the end of the month. Formerly found only at Barneys New York and the like, you can now purchase locally the Classic Throw that has been declared a fireplace essential by InStyle magazine and comes in a wide array of colors (70 to be exact).
Painted and Gilded Wood Bowls by Shaari Horowitz & Alistair Jones
Although these serving bowls are both functional as well as decorative, their enchanting old-world beauty may entice you to display them instead of using them for salad. In their Connecticut workshop, Horowitz and Jones hand-paint, gild and glaze these hand-hewn and turned wood bowls. Because each piece carries an original design, each makes a truly one-of-a-kind gift.
This Hudson shop offers one-of-a-kind furniture and lighting by its namesake, as well as jewelry by Gabriella Kiss (Lehrecke’s wife) that is somehow both incredibly delicate and cutting edge at the same time. There’s also jewelry and tabletop objects by Ted Muehling, candlesticks and hardware by ER Butler, mirrored objects by Maureen Fullam, jewelry by Lee M. Hale and felt bags by Julia Hilbrandt. The store exudes an air of calm, and my guess is because everyone who makes a purchase there runs home to admire it.
Amanda Jones, Dog Years: Faithful Friends, Then & Now Based in the Northern Berkshires (she has a studio on the MASS MoCA campus), photographer Amanda Jones has recently published her fifth book of dog portraits. Dog Years showcases each subject as a puppy and again as an older dog, accompanied by reflections from their human companions. Signed copies are available on Jones’ website, along with stationery ($12), pendants ($40) and canvas prints (starting at $95) featuring an assortment of breeds.
Alex Kershaw, Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris The bestselling author’s latest book, Avenue of Spies, proves that truth is stranger, and more thrilling, than fiction. The work focuses on American physician Sumner Jackson, who, during WWII, lived in France on a street surrounded by some of the most evil figures of the day. Drawn into the resistance movement, Jackson smuggled fallen Allied fighter pilots safely out of France, right under the nose of a Nazi “mad sadist,” spy hunters, secret police and the Gestapo headquarters.
Gina Hyams, The Tanglewood Picnic You know it, you love it, but you do you know the history of picnicking on the Tanglewood lawn? Full of photos from the 1940s through the present and a dozen classic recipes, The Tanglewood Picnic is a must for any lover of the historic Lenox venue.
Joseph Luzzi, In A Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love A professor of Italian at Bard College, Luzzi is the author of five books including 2014’s My Two Italies. His most recent is perhaps his most personal, and tells the story of how he lost his pregnant wife in a car accident and became a first-time father on the same day. NY Times bestselling author Gary Shteyngart calls it “powerful and indispensable.” Read RI’s Rural We with the author.
Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life In 2009, Reichl, editor of the now defunct Gourmet magazine, found herself — where else — in the kitchen as she struggled to process the shuttering of the magazine she had been running for the last decade. The award-winning food writer made lemonade from those lemons, and her fans were rewarded with Reichl’s first cookbook in over 40 years. Get your copy this Saturday, December 5 at The Chatham Bookstore, where Reichl will be signing copies beginning at 5 p.m.
Janice Kaplan, The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life Using herself as a guinea pig, author and part-time Kent resident Janice Kaplan spent a year attempting to live more gratefully. Her results were published in this bestselling memoir backed by research that includes simple procedures anyone can use to gain a better perspective on life. Read RI’s Rural We with the author.
Rinker Buck, Oregon Trail: A New American Journey Cornwall resident Rinker Buck’s most recent book is one part history, one part memoir and one part travelogue. The New York Times bestseller follows Buck and his brother Nick as they travel the Trail from Missouri to Oregon by covered wagon, pulled only by a team of cantankerous mules. Read RI’s Rural We with the author.
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To Market, To Market: Holiday Shopping In the RI Region
November 28 is Small Business Saturday, which, despite its American Express origin, has sort of become the antidote to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But really, buying locally from businesses on the smaller side is an all-year-round practice in the Rural Intelligence region. And in the leadup to the holidays, it’s just a lot more fun, especially when you’re shopping at a fair or festival; it’s all about community.
To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled a guide to some of the many holiday “mall-turnative” opportunities (moniker courtesy of MacKimmie Co.) in the region. Don’t forget to bring your own bags.
November 27-29 and December 5-6, Pittsfield: Hancock Shaker Village
You are sadly mistaken if you think the only thing to buy here are the famous Shaker oval boxes — although they are all uniquely handmade and pretty fab. The end-of-season sale in the village store offers deep discounts on most merchandise including the boxes, foodstuffs, basket-making kits, and other Shaker-inspired wooden items.
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
843 West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield, MA
December 5, Monterey: The Monterey Library
The library’s Knox Gallery will host an artists/makers sale by some of Monterey’s most popular creatives. Meet the artists and peruse earrings by Maureen and Michael Banner, baskets by Wendy Jensen, pottery by Ellen Grenadier, fabric and decorative pillows by MaryPaul Yates, and art by Joe Baker and Julie Shapiro.
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
425 Main Road, Monterey, MA
December 5-6, Pittsfield: The Handmade Holiday Festival
Alchemy Initiative presents its 7th annual curated holiday market. As it’s changed its location from year to year, it seems also to have gotten larger, and now features nearly 50 contemporary artisans and food producers offering things you’ve never seen before and items you didn’t know you needed.
Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Paterson Field House at Berkshire Community College
1350 West Street, Pittsfield, MA
December 5-6, Stockbridge: Berkshire Botanical Garden Holiday Marketplace
Here you’ll find one-of-a-kind Christmas decorations, gifts by local craftspeople and artisanal food vendors. This year, there will be a gift basket station so you can create your own personalized holiday presentations using wares from regional vendors. And you don’t have to pay the Garden’s admission fee just to enjoy the Marketplace.
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
5 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge, MA
December 11-13, Pittsfield: Shire City Sanctuary Holiday Shindy
The 10th annual Holiday Shindy is a juried sale featuring more than 50 of the region’s most notable makers of fine and original crafts and artisanal food products, and will include screen-printers, textile artists, soap makers, jewelers, potters, woodworkers and others. It’s held in the Shire City Sanctuary, a former church. (Be honest: can you resist an event called a Shindy?)
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
40 Melville Street, Pittsfield, MA
Now-January 2, Hudson: Cashmere Popup Shop
We write about this every year, because one can’t own too much cashmere, and because you can’t beat the prices at this sale of top-of-the-line, deeply discounted cashmere scarves, throws, wraps, women’s and men’s sweaters, and scores of gloves and knit caps.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Fridays and Saturdays open until 7 p.m.
535 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
November 27-28, Claverack: Traditions Linens Factory Outlet Thanksgiving Traditions Sale
We wrote about the Traditions Linens Labor Day sale, and heard that the place was packed. So expect the same as you save on linen napkins, cotton sheet sets, stonewashed coverlets, terry towels and much more. The company’s Facebook page says these are the lowest prices of the year. We’re so there.
9 a.m.-4 p.m.
29 Route 9H, Claverack, NY
Photo: Hannah Ray Taylor
November 27-29, Hudson: Basilica Farm + Flea
In only its third year, this market is fast becoming the Big Kahuna of Black Friday alternative shopping. In collaboration this year with the Hudson River Exchange, the event offers quality products from a diverse group of about 125 regional makers, farmers, chefs and vintage collectors in a building that’s pretty vintage and fabulous itself. New this year: expanded tastings and educational workshops, as well as an exciting expansion on the “Flea” component of the market – a special concept space featuring even more collectors and collaborators.
Friday 2-5 p.m., with a Black Friday Soirée from 5-9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
110 Front Street, Hudson
Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 5- 6, Spencertown Spencertown Academy Arts Center Handmade Holiday Pop-up Shop
It’s back this year by popular demand, which tells you something about this curated sale featuring cards, ceramics, jewelry, quilts, cutting boards, knitwear, felted puppets, fired glass, baskets, paper crafts and edible delicacies made by Columbia, Ulster and Berkshire county residents.
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
790 Route 203, Spencertown, NY
November 28, Pine Plains: Le Shopping @ Stissing House
Eat, then shop, or the other way around; it’s all good at the Stissing House, where local artists and artisans will be presenting new creations.
11 a.m.-7 p.m.
7801 South Main Street, Pine Plains, NY
Nov. 27-28, Kent: Kent Holiday Champagne Stroll
The Kent Chamber of Commerce bills the event as “the benchmark for all holiday strolls,” and considering the Champagne that will be flowing, the billing might be accurate. Thirty shops will be serving 30 Champagnes and bubblies along with special promotions and sales. Strollers begin by visiting The Swift House to purchase a champagne flute and receive a map of the evening’s events.
Check in at The Swift House, 12 Maple Street, Kent, CT
November 27-29, New Milford: Local Artists Craft Show
If you’ve been reading RI lately, you know New Milford is a creative hotspot, and here’s further proof. Returning artists include Don Turner (photography), Linda Banks (Banks Glass Studio), Celeste Belemare (fibers), Reese Piper (Ridge Runner Soaps), Bern Richards (gourd & feather art), Rob Wotzak (blacksmith) and Cynthia Battista (jewelry). New this year is potter Jan Lesnikoski (Moss Farm Studio). A portion of the proceeds are donated to The Animal Welfare Society of New Milford.
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
New Milford Railroad Station.
11 Railroad Street, New Milford, CT
Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 4-6: The Christmas Shoppe at the historic Merwinsville Hotel
The historic 1843 hotel located in the Kent, Sherman and New Milford area has a fascinating history as one of the last of the trackside station hotels east of the Mississippi. Now a nonprofit organization in the middle of a substantial renovation, it’s hosting its second year of holiday weekend activities. Baked goods, chili, Christmas trees, wreaths, and local artisans’ work will be available amidst the decorations and displays.
10 a.m.-7 p.m.
1 Brown’s Forge Road, Gaylordsville, CT
Dec. 5-6, Salisbury/Lakeville: Holiday Artisans Market (Part 1) at the White Hart Inn
Produced by the Artisans Group, a collective of artists from the tri-state area, this is the 11th annual event. Shoppers can choose from jewelry, pottery, organic skin care, wood and leather goods, fiber arts, gourmet food and more.
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
White Hart Inn
15 Undermountain Road, Salisbury, CT
Dec. 12, Falls Village: Holiday Artisans Market (Part 2) at the Center on Main
The tri-state artisans bring their arts and craftworks to NW Connecticut, this time to Falls Village. See listing directly above for items offered at the market.
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Center on Main, Falls Village, CT
There are more shopping opportunities in our Shopping Intelligence listings.
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HGS Home Chef: A Center For Foodies In Hillsdale
By Jamie Larson
He’s both a metropolitan interior designer and a rural shopkeeper, but Matthew White also is a master at balancing seemingly disparate styles. The owner of the Hillsdale General Store has embarked on yet another endeavor, converting an 1870s Victorian in the heart of Hillsdale, New York into a grand yet approachable kitchenware store. Not only can White coexist in two worlds, he can bring them together.
In a pink house with white gingerbread trim, HGS Home Chef sits across the street from its more demurely elegant mother-shop, the Hillsdale General Store (HGS). Where White’s now four-year-old HGS is an exercise in rural refinement, the appearance of Home Chef sings with a high-style confidence more akin to the work of White’s design firm White Web, or his personal palazzo in Hillsdale, where he lives with husband Thomas Schumacher, president of the Disney Theatrical Group.
To White’s great credit, the brightness isn’t over the top or even historically inaccurate to the style of Victorian paintjobs of the 19th century. Bold colors follow you into the house as well but never cudgel you. While you shop, White’s use of vibrant green walls only helps to highlight the amazingly restored building, which had previously been broken up into apartments and had serious structural issues. The experience of browsing the store’s thoughtfully curated wares is greatly enhanced by the work White put in to saving a structure important to the town and relevant to the architectural history of the region.
“I chose the color because I thought it expressed the character of the house,” White says, sitting in the stately upstairs dinning room. “Also, being a kitchen store, it kind of looks like a petit four. It all has to relate to food and appetite. I wanted to make it the most beautiful kitchen store you’ve ever walked into.”
Along with a selection of high-quality tools, appliances, dishware, linens and cookbooks, Home Chef also has two sleekly styled, fully functional, modern country, model kitchens. Anyone would love to cook here and Home Chef allows you to do just that. At this point it should come as no surprise that the cooking classes and cookbook events at Home Chef are exceptional, featuring some serious names of the food world. Upcoming events include food royalty Martha Rose Shulman, Madhur Jaffrey and Alana Chernila.
“I wanted the kitchens to feel like your dream kitchen,” White says, noting that most cooking classes are in sterile, overly lit, pseudo-industrial kitchens. “Taking a class here is like a vacation. It’s a complete experience. You learn but you do it in a space that’s beautiful.”
The schedule of classes is impressive and more are added regularly. It’s obvious from the way he discusses the business and the house he’s saved that White feels a strong desire to share the experience with his guests and his town.
Even with all it has going for it, you may be thinking HGS Home Chef is a risky endeavor. Opening his general store in the rural hamlet seems to make logical sense to an outsider, especially since White owns the building, which also houses the delicious Cross Roads restaurant, an architect’s office and art gallery. But committing to a high-end specialty store, off the side of a busy road? For White, Hillsdale is the perfect place — he’s just off the Taconic Parkway, accessible to patrons from the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires.
“I have a motto I follow for all my Hillsdale endeavors,” White says, “‘World class but low key.’ That is how many business owners in Hillsdale do things. We are not Hudson with its distinctly urban bent, and we are not Great Barrington with its elegance and history. I love both of those places (a lot), but in Hillsdale we are a very different animal. Truly and unquestionably rural, very connected to the land and yet with an expansive view. That’s Hillsdale and that is what I am expressing with both of my businesses here.”
HGS Home Chef
2635 Route 23, Hillsdale NY
Open Wednesday—Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Tuesdays.
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In Keeping With Traditions Linens, The Labor Day Outlet Sale
If you love luxury linens, you already know Traditions, though you may not realize it. The drool-inducing bedding in the Neiman-Marcus, Orvis and Horchow Collection catalogs? Traditions. The irresistible matelassé coverlets and iconic Black Lab Throws on the shelves at Classic County in East Chatham and at all the Hammertown stores? They’re Traditions, too. Traditions is also the stuff of local interior designers, who rely on it to dress the beds in the fabulous houses they adorn, the kind of beds that, despite how awe-inspiring they look, make you want to crawl right into them.
Founded in 1972 by Pamela Kline, a Claverack, NY antiques dealer, Traditions remains headquartered in the town where it all began. Kline traveled extensively, specializing in Amish quilts and textiles. Responding to customers’ demands, she started producing them and selling them in a little national catalog called “Traditions.”
Soon stores were clamoring to buy the products, and Kline began reaching for inspiration well beyond the bundling board. Eventually, the demand from retailers was so great the company dropped the retail aspect of the business.
Since then, Traditions has been a wholesaler that manufactures and imports luxury quilts, towels, sheets, blanket, pillows, rugs, table linens, duvets, sleepwear and baby gear. In 2011, daughter-in-law Shari Kline bought the business from her MIL and has introduced some more updated styles — what she calls “coutrypolitan”— which you’ll find in the Labor Day sale, Sept. 4-5, at their outlet store in Claverack.
Included are many one-offs — samples made to be photographed for catalogs. Though the discounts are at least 50 percent and up to 75 percent off retail, some discounts are even steeper than that. And if you don’t find the duvet of your dreams at this sale (unlikely as that is) you can always wait and repeat at the Thanksgiving and Memorial Day sales.
Traditions Linens Outlet Sale
29 Route 9H (just north of the Route 23 traffic light), Claverack, NY
Friday and Saturday, Sept. 4-5, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
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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.