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J. Seitz & Company

Chris Ungaro

Susan Silver Antiques

Hudson Antiques Dealers Assocation

Cupboards and Roses

Braza In Our Back Yard: Home to Fashion Emergency Solutions

By Lisa Green

I’m not positive about this, but it’s extremely probable that some of those celebrities you see on the red carpet are wearing a Braza Bra product, and that’s not an interesting fact just because the products are the kinds of things that prevent wardrobe malfunctions. It’s actually a point of pride, because the strapless panties, backless bras and various (ahem) enhancers underneath those designer gowns come out of an unassuming building in Lee, Mass. In other words, it’s what you don’t see that’s made this 31-year-old Berkshire-based company the success it is today. From its first product, the stick-on bra, Braza has grown into a line of 200 “solution oriented” products for women.

Ted Davis, the twinkle-eyed creator behind Braza Bra, didn’t start his career as an expert in lingerie. As a textile exporter, he had a customer in Brazil whose wife discovered a precursor of Braza’s stick-on bra. He brought the product to the U.S. and an industry was born. Shoulder pads, bra extenders and clothing shields followed, and so did the customers. Retailers first sold them in the lingerie department, but soon the line extension carved out its own niche.

“We created the lingerie accessory business,” says Davis. “People would have an idea for a product, we’d listen, and create a solution to an undergarment problem.” He points out that one of the company’s new products, the backless freedom bustier (“wear the strapless dress of your dreams!” declares the packaging), took a year to get right. While he uses fit models in New York, a lot of the testing was done by the employees.

The growing business called for a larger space than its original New York office, and so in 1993, Davis and his wife, Karen, moved Braza Bra to the Berkshires (they had a house in Becket). They built a 10,000-square-foot building in an industrial park in Lee and, when space grew tight there, they added on another 20,000 square feet. Now, Braza employs 40 people, who often suggest ideas for products, and who seem totally nonplussed that they are handling products that might make some people blush.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what some of the products were for, but the packaging is informative and the names are clever. The Silicone Magic Super Dolly offers “super duper” enhancement; the reusable Petal Tops (nipple covers) are “comfortable, convenient and economical;” Flash Tape, the original double-sided dressing tape in a dispenser is “perfect for all fashion emergencies.” There’s a reason the company’s tagline is “Problem Solved!”

“The package has a promise, and you’ve got to make sure it’s going to work,” Davis says. He says friends are envious of his job — yes, he looks at some of the finest breasts when working with the fit models — but it really is about the fit.

Karen, the spokesperson for the company (a.k.a. Braza Queen), who gives seminars for retail salespeople on how to help their customers use the products, backs up her husband’s quest to produce products that help solve a problem. “He lives, breathes, eats and sleeps how to make things better,” she says.

April Burch, co-owner of Bra and Girl, shows the bestselling Magic Clip, which creates a racerback for any bra.

And it’s not just about preventing those embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. Braza has expanded into footwear comfort solutions, hair wraps, hosiery and pumice stones (for removing pilling on sweaters). There’s a whole line of “swimwear essentials” that includes cleavage kits, water-resistant Flash Tape and Swim Petal Tops as well as products for nursing mothers and affordable breast forms for post-surgery (most insurance plans don’t cover additional prosthesis products).

From its warehouse off Route 102, the products go out to more than 4,000 retailers in 32 countries, including Ricky’s of NYC, Faces in Northampton and Victoria’s Secrets. In Great Barrington, the clear bra straps and converter clips are best sellers. “They’re kind of like our nuts and bolts,” says Dan Alden, co-owner of Bra and Girl.

“It’s been 31 years and you can still find people who have never heard of us,” Karen says.

Well, not that they’re admitting, anyway.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/31/16 at 02:41 PM • Permalink

RADC: A Warehouse Of Treasures At Hudson’s River Side


By Jamie Larson

Hudson’s position as a world-class destination for great art and antiques is well deserved. But as its stature has risen briskly over the past 20 years, an ever-increasing percentage of the city’s old eccentric vibe (which drew artists and dealers to the city in the first place) has been priced out.

Fortunately, it’s coming back in a big way. The Riverfront Antiques and Design Center, located in a massive former factory, houses two dozen shops that have managed to spiritually capture the manic, classy, grungy, glamorous, artistic fury of the early days of Hudson’s turn-of-the-century artistic revitalization, all under one roof. It is a wild place to shop.


When you’re done with the Warren Street crawl, turn left down along the river, bump over the railroad tracks, pass the Basilica and enter the bog-adjacent parking lot of a large nondescript warehouse. There you’ll find this mass of hidden treasure that is RADC (pronounced Rad-Cee). Enter through door 21 of the former L&B Furniture factory and it’s kind of like entering one of those bizarre places where some of your weirder dreams take place. 

“It’s a new market for makers,” says Glen Adams, owner of Tongue In Chique and a RADC member. “It’s created a really positive energy. Once you get inside it’s a whole new world.”

Tongue In Chique

The largest operations in the warehouse, right up front, are Cottage Treasures Antique Warehouse, a well-established brand with New Jersey origins, and The Other Company. Neither is a member of RADC, but they did get the ball rolling. Cottage Treasures’ Paul Dorman was using the front of the warehouse for storage before making an agreement with the building’s management to open up an outlet for his huge collection of interesting stuff last year. After that, the floor space behind Cottage Treasures began being rented out by lots — at very reasonable rates — and vendors began flocking in.

In no time at all an eclectic neighborhood of tightly packed booths had sprung up. While each vendor rents a spot individually, they joined up as RADC to support each other through advertising and events (see their float in the upcoming Out Hudson Parade). There’s antiques and art, of course, but there’s also vintage clothing, in-house upholsterers, craftspeople, an event planner and a brewery (with a tasting room nearby, across from the train station.)

“People here are truly artists,” says Leith Pardee in front of her shop, Shelina’s. “People are bringing something different. There’s a feeling of a Parisian flea market.”

At home in RADC are extensions of Warren Street staples like the Lili and Loo Annex and Red Chair Antiques Annex, proving that RADC is a complement to uptown shops. There are quirky and well-curated standalones like Shelina’s, Mad Era, and the fabulous Tongue In Chique. As you walk around, the invariably interesting people who run the shops emerge from behind a statue or a stack of trunks to have a sweet little conversation with you. This really helps enhance the wonderland feel of the 200,000-square-foot warehouse, illuminated like Christmas by a thousand old lamps and chandeliers.

Manuel Madera in his shop, Mad Era.

“People are finding out about us and they just keep coming,” says Manuel Madera of Mad Era Antiques & Reproduction. “There’s so much here, you can find something amazing, from a low price range to whatever you could want.”

There is perhaps no more potent a pill to stimulate creative growth than cheep rent. It’s why people moved to Hudson 20 years ago to start something new. There’s an unmistakable sense of community at RADC that lightens the mood of the cavernous space. 

Larry Forman is the president of the Hudson Antique Dealers Association (HADA). He and Mark Wasserbach shared a location for their businesses, Mark’s Antiques and Larry’s Back Room, for 20 years before their rent was doubled. Now they’ve got a sizable chunk of the warehouse. Having the HADA president in RADC shows the venue’s connectivity to the city.

“There’s a lot going on down here,” Forman says, not just of the warehouse but Hudson’s of growing riverfront district. “We’re a part of Hudson’s new downtown.”

Sarah Berney of Sarah Berney Art.

Chris Ungaro from Beacon, New York, manages a medical office and makes furniture and woodwork as a hobby, but he never considered having a store to sell his pieces until he visited RADC and saw how affordable it could be. Now he’s put up walls and created Dichotomy Home to showcase his talent. 

“It’s like a bazaar,” Ungaro says of RADC. “It’s the variety of people that make it special.”

RADC has a distinctly different feel, in quality and atmosphere, from a standard antiques mall. For now we can pretend it’s our secret — until everyone finds out about it.

RADC and Cottage Treasures
99 S. 3rd Street, Door 21, Hudson, NY
Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Check store websites for individual stall hours.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 05/24/16 at 11:07 AM • Permalink

BerkChique! Is Back

By Marilyn Bethany

Berkshires fashion icon Vicki Bonnington will begin planning next year’s BerkChique!, a charity clothing sale she co-chairs with Rebecca Weinman, as soon as this year’s (May 6 - 8 at the former Crane Stationery factory in Dalton, Mass.) wraps.

As Bonnington, whose cast-offs last year accounted for fully half of the BerkChique! take, explains it, “I’m a really great shopper.” No kidding. To cite just one example of her prowess, some months ago, while scrolling through eBay, she noticed a listing for “a rack of Jean Paul Gaultier” garments offered by a boutique that was going out of business. After a quick calculation in her head, she confidently ran the bidding up to a winning $1200. 

“Each piece of Gaultier retails for at least $1,000,” she reasoned. “So, if there are two pieces on that rack that work for me, I’m ahead, and, of course, I donate the rest.”     

Gaultier notwithstanding, nothing in Bonnington’s section of the sale is “dime a dozen stuff.” Fashions are presented on racks labeled $20, $40, $60, $80, $100, $150 and $200. There’s also one headed “Priceless.” This last contains garments whose price is to-be-determined through “discussion” with (consider this your Warning Label) Bonnington, a retired litigator for G.E. 

Regardless of the price, one must think of it as money well spent. Conceived by Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of the Red Lion Inn, as a means of monetizing the upscale detritus from her friends’ closets, BerkChique!’s donations now include both men’s and women’s garments, some from contributors with ties to the fashion industry. Beneficiaries include 1Berkshire, IS183 Art School, WAM Theatre and CATA, among other regional non-profits.

Recalls co-chair Rebecca Weinman, “Last year, after we wrapped on Sunday, I went out in Pittsfield and saw at least three women wearing BerkChique! buys. It’s great to make so many people happy while raising funds for important organizations.”

Berkchique! 2016
May 6 – 8
The Stationery Factory, 60 Flansburg Ave., Dalton, MA
First Dibs Party & Sale
Friday, May 6, 5:30 – 8 p.m.
Admission $25/1; $40/2
Saturday, May 7 & Sunday, May 8
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Admission free

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/26/16 at 02:00 PM • Permalink

David Pirrotta Brands Pops Up At Privet Lives in New Preston

By Amy Krzanik

Some brands are so exclusive that you can only find them in Los Angeles, New York City and… New Preston, Connecticut. No, that’s not a typo. Thanks to Privet House owners Suzanne Cassano and Richard Lambertson’s Privet Lives pop-up shop, launched in July of 2014, New Englanders now have a chance to shop luxury brands found (almost) nowhere else.

Former collaborations include Shinola, Filson and Madeline Weinrib, and this past weekend Privet Lives launched its newest partnership, a sleek white showroom featuring David Pirrotta Brands. All 12 haircare, skincare, make up and beard-grooming brands under beauty guru Pirrotta’s umbrella will be available: Gloss Moderne, David Mallett, Verso, Grown Alchemist, Shiva Rose and more.

Cassano was familiar with Pirrotta’s lines, which are sold at Barneys in New York and Violet Grey in Los Angeles, as the grooming expert’s advice is often sought out by (and his products featured in) national magazines like Vogue, Details and GQ.

The whole idea behind Privet Lives, says Cassano, was to create a concept space for brands, designers and artisans she and Lambertson admired who weren’t well distributed in the area. The shop is completely transformed for each collaboration in order to better represent the unique vision of each creator.

And how does Cassano persuade the people she’s chosen to set up shop in New Preston? “I’m not above stalking people if I like their stuff,” she says. “When I first met with Pirrotta Brands, I was already thinking “‘apothecary pop-up.’”

Pirrotta, a Glastonbury, Conn. native who spent a lot of time in Litchfield County growing up, jumped at the chance to feature his products at Privet, which he calls one of his favorite homes stores in the country. “I’ve looked up to Suzanne and Richard for years, and for them to ask us to be part of it was such a compliment. They’re located in a small town, but everyone watches what they’re doing. People drive from all over New England to shop and spend the day in New Preston.”

Cassano, for her part, is still surprised when people say yes to these joint ventures. But mostly, she says, she’s thrilled. “We’re pretty lucky to have all of David’s products right now.” And so are we, but make plans soon, because your luck runs out on June 18. 

Privet Lives (adjacent to Privet House)
13 East Shore Rd., New Preston, CT
(860) 868-1800
Wednesday – Monday, 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/26/16 at 10:02 AM • Permalink

Organic By John Patrick Trunk Show Is A Natural At J. Seitz

By Jacque Lynn Schiller

Sustainability and transparency are buzzwords often thrown about these days. But for Hudson Valley resident and the namesake behind Organic by John Patrick, fair labor and green awareness shouldn’t be radical ideas but the norm. In fact, he introduced the world’s first certified organic cotton oxford shirt and his business continues be the model of a truly eco-friendly fashion label.

“It is the job of the manufacturer and designer to produce the highest quality product and deliver it to the customer,” the designer says. “They shouldn’t be in the dark. My clients, our friends, trust us because we tell them exactly what it is.”

Patrick’s clients and friends include the beloved J. Seitz shop in New Preston, Conn., where the designer will bring a special grouping of his latest collection at a trunk show on April 30.

After designing hats in the 80s (his first customer was Barney’s) then making ready-to-wear pieces for specialty stores in the 90s, Patrick moved to South America and lived in Peru, working with anthropologist, James Vreeland, who discovered color-grown cotton. Perhaps uncovered is the better word, as the farming phenomena resulting in naturally dyed fibers has been practiced in the Andes for hundreds of years.

“Through James, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about native organic cotton and its certification,” says Patrick. “Not a lot of textiles were being made in organic cotton at that time, but I basically convinced a very large industrial mill in Peru to produce the textiles.”

The Organic by John Patrick slip, camisole and some organic cotton t-shirts were ecstatically welcomed by (“kindly brought into” as he puts it) the fashion industry, resulting in many magazine profiles and recognition from the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America. In other words, this clothing concept with a conscience was swiftly acknowledged as something special. 

Now with customers all over the world, Organic by John Patrick has grown into a highly respected, global business without compromising ethics. And while available in discriminating shops and online, on Saturday, April 30, a highly curated selection of incredibly soft, earthy-hued pieces will be available at J. Seitz. Not only can you meet the fascinating man himself — seriously, he can wax rhapsodic on a range of subjects from the cultivation of cotton in the US to the heritage of spinning and weaving in Southern Mexico — but also pick up a few of his favorite things that sometimes don’t make it to retailers. And this: customers will receive a 10-percent discount on Organic purchased during the show. It’s a rare event.

“We do not do trunk shows. Ever. But I love the Seitzes and they have a wonderful mom and pop business,” the designer says. “Joanna [Seitz] asked me to do it. I said absolutely.”

And Joanna holds a similar enthusiasm for Patrick’s work. “John is a wonderfully eccentric and creative spirit,” she shares. “His authentic and beautiful American-made clothing embodies his personal beliefs about sustainability and the environment. He lives his life based on these principles. We’ve been carrying the line for many years and our clients can’t get enough of his soft organic tees and sweaters. Who wants to put chemicals next to their skin when they can chose something organic and chic instead.”

Can’t argue with you there, J. Seitz. Nor with Patrick’s plan while in the area. “When I come over there I’m also going to stop at Guy Wolff (Pottery, in Bantam, Conn.) and pick myself up some pots.”

Like his line, his thumb is green as well.

John Patrick Trunk Show at J. Seitz
Saturday, April 30, 2-5 p.m.
9 East Show Road, New Preston, CT
(860) 868-0119

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/18/16 at 07:36 PM • Permalink

Susanna Salk’s ‘Little Things’ Come To Life In New Preston

By Lisa Green

As far as we’re concerned, New Preston, Conn. is already a destination. The cluster of high-end antiques and specialty stores and markets are unparalleled in their quality and picturesque setting, even among our region’s justifiably famed claim to “charm.” How many village shopping districts do you know that back onto their own waterfall?

But just in case you needed a reason to explore New Preston, here’s one. On Saturday, April 23, the village will take part in a “Designathon,” which will demonstrate the design philosophy of Susanna Salk. Taking a page out of her newest book, It’s the Little Things: Creating Big Moments in Your Home Through the Stylish Small Stuff (published by Rizzoli), Salk will create vignettes in seven of the stores that will exemplify the idea of designing small spaces in interesting and textured ways.

Salk, a bestselling writer, stylist and stager, lives in New Preston, and is excited to work with the stores where she is, she says, a regular shopper.

“New Preston is a special town with unique shops in a row,” she says. “I love and support these shops very much. Even if I lived in Paris, I would appreciate their distinctness.”

And that’s saying something, coming from Salk, whose first book, Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Style was followed by Weekend Retreats, Be Your Own Decorator and Decorate Fearlessly, among others. She also hosts a monthly “At Home With” video series on the Quintessence design blog, and has a business as a designer and stager.

Salk’s style vignettes will be composed with merchandise from each of the shops: Pergola, Dawn Hill Antiques, J. Seitz, Privet House, DK Schulman Design, New Preston Kitchen Goods and Plain Goods. She will find items in each of them that, put together, will demonstrate that successful decorating is in the details.

“All of the stores are very different,” she says. “I’m hoping if people have never been to the town before, they will revel in how unique each store is.”

The vignette event was organized on behalf of the village by David Whitman, owner of Pergola. “Susanna lives just down the road and fills her house with things from our shops,” he says. “When I heard she was going to be doing a book signing, it seemed like a great thing for the village to get involved in.”

Salk will be signing books at J. Seitz from 3-5 p.m. but the book will be available throughout the village, and every purchaser will be entered into a drawing for a design consult with Salk. That alone might be enough to get you into the car and headed to New Preston.

“This is especially meaningful for me since I live here,” Salk says. “It’s a fun way to help the town.”

Susanna Salk’s New Preston Designathon
Saturday, April 23, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Book signing at J. Seitz, 3-5 p.m.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/11/16 at 04:13 PM • Permalink

Classical Tents & Party Goods Hosts A Warehouse Sale

If you’ve been to a tented event in the Rural Intelligence region, you’ve probably been to one set up by Classical Tents and Party Goods. And if you’ve oohed and aahed over the table settings, the chairs, the dance floor or the lighting, you now have a chance to purchase some of that room-transforming magic for yourself. On Wednesday, April 13, Classical Tents is having its every-other-year warehouse sale at its 20,000-square-foot Pittsfield, Mass. facility.

Items for sale include chairs, linens, about 250 place settings (many mismatched, for those who like that look), glassware, 66-inch wooden spools that make great tables, a nearly-new generator, and even a stunning black-and-white dance floor.

“We have a lot of linens that are in great condition but may be out of style or we’re out of room,” says Katherine Lockridge, Classical Tents’ owner. Same for the china and flatware. And even though there’s no retail price to discount, Lockridge can assure customers that everything is priced very affordably. “We want it to go!” she says. In fact, some of the larger items will be priced at “make an offer.”

Generally, the sale brings in a mix of caterers and the rest of us who’d like to refresh our own cache of place settings and entertaining accoutrements. Lockridge mentions that some people rely on the sale to make curtains out of the linens. Clever — and cost saving.

“We’ll also be giving tours of our showroom,” Lockridge says. “It’s a chance to show people what we do.”

But the best things, like chairs and linens, go early in the day, so it’d be prudent to get there early. Cash sales only.

Classical Tent and Party Goods Spring Warehouse Sale
Wed., April 13 from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
43 Downing Industrial Park, Pittsfield

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/01/16 at 01:12 PM • Permalink

The Superior Interiors Coming Out Of Litchfield County

Ashley Woodson Bailey. Photo by Rustic White.

By Jacque Lynn Schiller

Litchfield County is known for its pastoral scenery and a trio of design companies located in the hills are creating specialty goods as magnificent as their surroundings. From incredibly detailed wallpaper to colorful tiles, stunning porcelain dinnerware and OOAK furniture, the impressive lines from all of these artisans are drawing attention (and customers) from well outside our region. Fortunately, we need only travel a few miles to meet:

Twenty2 Wallpaper

Established in Brooklyn in 2001 by husband and wife team Robertson and Kyra Hartnett, twenty2 offers a line of signature wallpaper patterns, eco-friendly grasscloth, and custom wallpaper digital printing services. Through their design work specializing in branding retail and residential interiors, they became passionate about the home decor market and wanted to create a line of products using their unique, modern graphic sensibility. They forecasted, Kyra says, that “the minimalism of the 90’s would be replaced by a return to a more lush, layered look and, as part of this trend, that wallpaper would re-emerge as a way to personalize interiors.” This vision turned out to be true.

Kyra and Robertson Hartnett.

The duo collaborates with emerging and established artists and designers to help bring their patterns and artwork to life as wallpaper collections or custom murals. One of their most rewarding projects was helping floral photographer Ashley Woodson Bailey translate her original photographs into repeat patterns for her first wallpaper collection.

I was also surprised to find that twenty2 also offers 3D wallpaper [photo, below]. In fact, they are the only studio making such a product. “Our 3D wallpaper was a collaboration with Pratt Institute,” says Kyra. “The concept was created by architect/professor Sarah Strauss and relies on Anaglyph 3D technology, which is the old-school blue and red lens glasses, unlike the movie technology. The wallpapers are meant to be lovely without the glasses, but the glasses allow the viewer to perceive an incredible added dimension.”

They will soon be featuring a fun new wallpaper collaboration with Patch Design Studio, interpreting her original block prints as a collection of wallpaper. “Wallpaper that people want to live with, wake up to, that helps articulate their unique personality, that they can layer and make their own” is offered through the company’s website. Custom work is welcome.

Dana Brandwein and Daniel Oates. Photo by William and Susan Brinson.

dbO Home

If you happened to visit New Preston lately and noticed the “perfectly imperfect handcrafted tableware” on display at Privet Lives, you were admiring the work of husband and wife creative partners Dana Brandwein and Daniel Oates of dbO Home. Their residency at the popup has been extended until March 5, but don’t despair — their wares are always available online and sold locally at Privet House, Finch in Hudson and Classic Country in East Chatham as well as to other tastemaker stores such as ABC Home & Carpet and Bergdorf Goodman.

The two come from very different, very interesting backgrounds but now make incredible product lines together. Dana was a record label executive for nearly two decades, working with artists including AC/DC, Metallica and Bjork and Daniel handcrafted sculptures that are now housed in collections and museums around the world including The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Walker Art Center. After leaving Elektra, Dana began selling some of her small batch ceramics before launching dbO Home in 2007. She and Daniel began collaborating on porcelain and wood lighting, and then he fully joined the company with his one-of-a-kind wood furniture.

Matriarch Collection table lamps, Kashmir Tableware (photo by William and Susan Brinson) and Claro walnut chaise (photo by John Gruen).

dbO Home have also worked with many celebrated chefs, such as Dan Barber and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, to develop handcrafted elements for their restaurants. The studio also joined forces with extraordinary textile designer (and Litchfield County resident) John Robshaw on a line of wonderfully patterned porcelain dinnerware. “It’s a great deal of fun to put two different but complimentary aesthetics together to create something unique,” Brandwein says.

This past holiday season, the studio worked with Malfatti Glassware on a limited edition cloche, and they design more affordable, beautiful objects exclusively manufactured and sold by West Elm, most currently a line of table lamps. “We want to create the everyday luxuries that make a home comfortable and unique,” says Brandwein. Accomplished.

Bantam Tileworks

Don’t let the name fool you. Much more than tiles, striking as they may be, is being handmade in the sunny studio and showroom of ceramic artists Darin Ronning and Travis Messinger. At any given time, there may be distinctive vases or mugs, platters, even checkerboards firing away in the massive kilns. The range of texture and palettes on display is incredible.

“Our main focus is on color,” says Messinger. “We glaze our tiles and our dishes with multiple layers which gives them a much deeper and warmer color.” Previously having run the ceramics and tableware shop Pepper Jones in NYC, the two decided to focus on creating their own line once they moved to Litchfield County.

While the main product line is handmade ceramic tiles, they also make an eye-catching line of tableware, including bowls, platters, plates and coasters. The shop also is known for animal tiles designed and hand-carved by local artist Karen Hiebert. I was amused to spot a couple of cow and sheep pieces during a recent visit to Talbott and Arding Cheese and Provisions in Hudson. Their work gets around.

“Our most recent collaboration is with the artist Ester Partegas on a public fountain for the Percent for Art program in New York City,” Messinger says. “It was based on four different Native American textile patterns. We recreated Ester’s design in four mosaic tile panels made up of over 20,000 1/4 inch tiles.”

Travis Messinger and Darin Ronning.

Besides working on tiles for a new restaurant opening in New York with an open kitchen, the two are also making pieces for several bathrooms, fireplaces and backsplashes. It’s a lot of work but “a customer comes in with a vision and we get to make it happen,” says Messinger. “Knowing that it’s something unique that’s going to be in their home, probably for a long time, it’s a great feeling when we see the end result.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/01/16 at 10:33 AM • Permalink

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.”

Design Menagerie
26 Housatonic Street, Lenox, MA
(413) 551-7528




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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/18/16 at 01:55 PM • Permalink

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.

Plain Goods
One New Preston Hill Road
New Preston, CT
(860) 868-0280


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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/15/15 at 11:53 AM • Permalink