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At Kasuri, Avant-Garde Fashion Has Moved Upstate

By Jamie Larson

Compared to other luxury clothing stores, walking into Kasuri, in Hudson, New York, feels different. It’s as if you’re witnessing a living, breathing extension of the art form that is Fashion. Owner Layla Kalin stocks her salon exclusively from personal trips to the four yearly fashion weeks in Paris, with an eye for trend setting and offering items by some of the most famous designers in the world.

“I thought it would be low key at first, but I did want to bring luxury fashion upstate,” says Kalin, who moved to, and fell in love with the region with ex-husband and Etsy founder Rob Kalin. “There just wasn’t anyone doing this up here. In Hudson you could buy a $5,000 coffee table but there was nowhere to get a really nice jacket. I needed a place to get my style fix.”

Kalin, Emmett and Osofsky

One might think a clothing store that is, in certain respects, a modern art gallery that boasts some jaw-dropping price tags, might feel inaccessible to the layman. But through their earnest excitement for sharing the styles they love, Kalin and Kasuri director Jonathan Osofsky have cultivated a surprisingly warm and welcoming atmosphere, whether you’re someone looking to buy a show-stopping piece or a neighborhood kid with an eye for fashion who just wants to ask questions.

Kalin describes the apparel in store as “dark established avant-garde.” A lot of it is inspired as much by street wear as high fashion, while some of the more artistic experimental pieces, often pulled straight from the Paris runway, could be considered “anti-fashion.” There is a men’s or women’s section but Kalin says she’s drawn to androgynous garments that may have masculine or feminine characteristics but aren’t defined by them.

“I would personally wear anything in the store,” Kalin says. “I like to push the envelope but I also buy things that are likely to sell — and definitely things for the cult following.”

Kasuri showcases designers on and often ahead of the bleeding edge of fashion but also well-known designers at the top of the industry. It’s stuff you just can’t find anywhere nearby. Kalin had to build relationships with the brands to be allowed to buy from them. Some of the items on display may not seem in fashion today, but in a year, or maybe five, you’ll see their influence.

The collections are shaped in large part by signature brands from Japan and some from Europe. Japanese designers like Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto define the environment in Kasuri (the shop shares its name with a type of Japanese fabric).

“These Japanese designers are all a part of the same avant-garde royalty who are super influential in fashion right now,” says Osofsky. “We only carry designers with a strong vision. They’re not as trend driven. It’s innovative but wearable. We also do have some things that have been walked down a runway that are more structural and inspirational.”

Everyone has an intrinsically personal relationship with clothing; it hides the parts of ourselves we don’t want others to see and makes us beautiful in our own eyes. So when a piece of clothing is inaccessible — because of price or because it looks so outside our understanding of what we thought we knew clothes could be — it can invoke a visceral, negative emotional response. For those not versed in the language of style, challenging that response at Kasuri can be a meaningful experience. Consider: do you stop appreciating the artistry or acknowledging the legitimacy of a painting at Stair Galleries after noting its price tag?

“It’s fascinating to see into the process,” Osofsky says. “There’s a lot going on. It’s about investigating what clothing is. In some ways it’s about more than clothes. For some of these designers it’s about the deconstruction of fashion.”

That said, not everything at Kasuri is out of reach for the average shopper. Sure, there are some big ticket items, like a $16,000 Rick Owens bomber jacket, but there are many things within the few hundred dollar range that are worth the splurge when you consider the quality of its construction (and how great you’ll feel wearing it). For instance, there is an elegantly funky collection of jewelry by Vivienne Westwood on display with many pieces for under $300.

Osofsky says he wants the store to feel inspirational as much as aspirational, quoting Westwood, “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”

If you can’t make it to the physical store, Kasuri is preparing to launch its own online marketplace in the near future. Until then, items can be purchased online at the shop’s page on Farfetch.

Kasuri
1 Warren St., Hudson, NY
(518) 249-4786
Open Wednesday–Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, noon – 4 p.m.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 04/10/17 at 11:31 AM • Permalink

Bring Home A Piece of The Famous Twin Oaks

By Lisa Green

Once upon a time, in Sharon, Conn., the Twin Oaks Preserve was home to a pair of iconic white oak trees that stood in the field for over 250 years. Wisely, in 1998, with the help of the residents and the Salisbury Land Trust, the town decided to purchase the 70-acre property before development took over. Thus was born the Sharon Land Trust. Sadly, the twin oaks fell within a year of each other, but all was not lost: local artists took up the cause and created artwork from the wood of the majestic trees.

Frank Grusauskas was one of the woodwork artisans who snared some of that historic wood. No one else seemed to want the flat piles, but he immediately envisioned creating platters, shallow bowls and spoons. His work has been for sale at Somethin’s Gotta Give in Chatham, New York for several years, but proprietor James Knight will put the spotlight on some of the pieces and offer special sale prices on Saturday, April 8.

He likes the fact that Grusauskas took odd shapes from the trees. “We’ve got his small bowls, plates, and things that are more organic and sculptural,” he says. “You can use them, or put them out as decorative pieces.”

The artist will be on hand to talk about the pieces. He can also expound on the fated Twin Oaks themselves. “They were six feet in diameter, with 250-foot limbs,” he says. “The best wood is generally in the center, but both of the trees were hollow, so I went for the burls and chunks.”

Somethin’s Gotta Give, which moved last year from Lakeville, Connecticut to Chatham, has evolved into a store celebrating and representing local artists. Stop by, have a glass of Prosecco and immerse yourself in the warmth and magic of the Twin Oaks. 

Photo by Jenny Hansell

Somethin’s Gotta Give
Sale on select Frank Grusauskas pieces from the Twin Oaks
Saturday, April 8
Artist reception from 2-4 p.m.
5 Main Str., Chatham, NY
(917) 450-7072

From our archive: A Lot of Giving at Somethin’s Gotta Give in Lakeville

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/03/17 at 02:51 PM • Permalink

Louisa Ellis: Shopping From Head To Toe

By Nichole Dupont

Two days before my 40th birthday I walk into Louisa Ellis (its new home is a larger space at 294 Main Street in Great Barrington) thinking I was going to have a brief sit-down interview with the store’s owner/innovator/maven Melissa Bigarel. I’m wearing an orange sweater. This is an important detail. But about five minutes into our interview, as I inquired about women and their beauty hangups, Bigarel, who is dressed in a flouncy blouse and tapered jeans, stops me.

“Do you want to just try it?” she asks.

“You mean… everything?” I eyed the softly lit shelves of the Beauty Bar, full of pastel packaged products — Klorane chamomile conditioner, Mario Badescu collagen moisturizer, Avene sunscreen — and the glamorous corridor of mirrors and red leather chairs meant solely for makeup artistry. “Why the hell not. I’m going to be 40 in two days.”

Bigarel perks up and looks over at Brielle, the store’s makeup genius.

“We’re going to do an anti-40 look,” she says decisively.

And suddenly, I am whisked over to one of those fancy red chairs.

The experience that is Louisa Ellis begins with a light floral fragrance that hangs magically in the space, lingering on the clothing, which runs the spectrum from Sundry loungewear (the softest I have ever laid hands on) to Diane Von Furstenberg dresses. Bigarel is not afraid of color, and that becomes apparent with the racks of jewel-toned blouses by Three Eighty Two and Milly, raw-edged blazers (Amour Vert), and bling-y Atelier necklaces.

Not long ago, the store expanded into its new space, this time with new product. Bigarel partnered with Jane Iredale (president and founder of Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, and unofficial mayor of Great Barrington) to create an elegant retail experience that provides not only apparel, but also everything in the Iredale line. And someone to put it all together for you. Bigarel and her associates offer head-to-toe stylizing.

“This is a place where women can shop holistically,” she says. “Our goal is to provide pieces that help women feel feminine, lively and confident — to help women look and feel their best. The inclusion of the Jane Iredale Makeup Studio has further helped us deliver that experience.”

I was definitely starting to look my best as Brielle put the finishing touch on my “wingtip” eyeliner, then let me take a full look at my “new” face, which was surprisingly recognizable, but brighter.

“We’ll wait on the lipstick until after you pick out what you’re going to wear,” Bigarel says.

She has already selected a few things for me to try on, but I am somewhat pressed for time. She points to a deep burgundy pink dress and says, “Try that one on first.” And then hands me a pair of delicate, nude heels.

Bigarel is a true master of her craft. And that comes from years of working with clients with different tastes and varying levels of comfort in their own skin. My utilitarian doubts about the feminine dress melt away. Suddenly my wide shoulders are an asset. When I ask her how she’s able to make her clients feel so at ease with thinking outside the box, she says, “We just talk to them. We listen to what they are telling (and not telling) us.”

“Louisa Ellis is more than a store, we are a community of women that love, and love to share, style. When you spend time in our store, you are not just buying a new top or picking up a new lipstick, you are spending time with women that are as invested in your personal style as you are. We want your time with us to be educational, tailored to you and enjoyable.”

Bigarel’s own style is seemingly effortless, relaxed and confident. Her hair is not coiffed, nor is she caked with makeup. She has a few go-to essentials to achieve her style, but nothing too fancy.

“I am not a fan of the ‘Top Ten Things Every Woman Must Own’ type lists, but I do believe every woman should have a series of tops in her best color (mine is navy); complete looks in her favorite silhouette; and a couple of pieces that are constants that she can wear every day,” she says. “Jewelry that has personal meaning is a great way to do this. My essentials are a navy silk Daniela Corte tie-front blouse because it works with everything — jeans, nude shoes and a watch my husband gave me. My makeup bag always includes Jane Iredale PurePressed Base — I’ve been using it for 17 years — eye cream (I’m partial to Avene’s Physiolift Eye Cream) and a lip pencil.”

I get back into my civilian garb — jeans, platform boots — but hesitate with the orange sweater. Its relevancy, especially sporting the bright berry-stained lips, is dwindling. Bigarel senses my hesitancy and suggests something in navy, which she says should be the base color for my wardrobe. Then she hands me a soft, boxy T-shirt in that shade. I put it on. She shows me how to do a little tuck in the front to give me “some shape” and it works. It works wonderfully.

“I’m wearing this out,” I say, dropping the sweater into its casket — a pink bag from the store.

Louisa Ellis
294 Main St., Great Barrington, MA
(413) 717-1897

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Posted by Nichole on 03/13/17 at 09:38 AM • Permalink

The RuraList: The Search For Mud Boots

Global warming or not, mud season seems to be hitting the ground early this year. If you haven’t yet outfitted yourself with the proper footwear for traipsing through the squelchy muck that signals spring in the Northeast, we’ve sought out four retailers across the region where you can make a beeline for quality boots that will hold up their end of the bargain through whatever the weather gods throw our way.

Berkshire County
The Family Footwear Center in Lenox, Mass. is aptly named: it carries a large selection of Bogs for men, women and kids. You can choose the classic black, or go for the newest ones with camo and plaid prints. They range from about $50 for the kids’ styles (which have handles so they’re easy for the little ones to pull on) to $120, but they’re currently on sale so now’s the time to pick up a pair.

Family Footwear Center
444 Pittsfield /Lenox Rd., Lenox, MA
(413) 442-6330

Columbia County
Tractor Supply Company stocks boots from the trademarked Muck Boot Company. This mid boot is suitable as an everyday shoe (“rain or shine,” it says), and cute enough for it, too, but there are of course the tall “wetland” boots. Women’s boots range from $74.99-$154.99). There are many more styles for men (but sorry, guys, the men’s boots only come in black) priced from $99-$184. Some are available only online.

Tractor Supply Company
350 Fairview Ave., Hudson, NY
(518) 828-5710

Dutchess County
Horse Leap in Amenia, New York is an English tack shop that sells high-end equestrian merchandise – everything from saddles and Barbour jackets to plates and glasses with fox-hunting scenes. But, says owner Barbara Wadsworth, although much of it is consignment, the store also carries brand-new boots from Noble Outfitters, which offers a line called MUDS in short, mid and high styles for men and women, ranging from around $80-$119. “Every product they make is great,” Wadsworth says.

Horse Leap
3314 Rt. 343, Amenia, NY
(845) 789-1177

Litchfield County
The ladies’ shop of R. Derwin Clothiers recommends the Ilse Jacobsen rubber boots, which look so smart that even if you never set foot in a puddle, you might want these in your wardrobe. They’ve got heat-insulating lightweight soles that keep you warm in cold weather, but you can wear then all year-round, says Linda Calabrese, the shop’s manager. There are short, mid, tall and slip-ons, and besides the basic black, the spring line is bringing forth a palette that includes peach whip and flamingo, arriving any day. Prices range from $175-$199. The men’s store carries Dubarry of Ireland waterproof leather “country” boots and Gumleaf neoprene boots.

R. Derwin Clothiers
The Ladies’ Store: 48 West St., (860) 567-4095
The Men’s Store: 38 West St., (860) 567-0100
Litchfield, CT

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/27/17 at 08:29 PM • Permalink

Susan Schneider Perfects The Art Of The Lampshade (And More)

Photo: Shandell’s

By Lisa Green

“I’m changing the world one lampshade at a time” declares Susan Schneider. The proprietor of Shandell’s Lampshades (and other goods, which we’ll get into in a moment), has recently relocated from Millerton to an antique house on Main Street in Sheffield, Mass.

“You can’t have a plain shade. It’s like having a plain hat,” says Schneider. That’s a fitting metaphor for Schneider, who approaches lampshades like a milliner might, consulting with clients about shape, proportion and trims. She’s got a supply of vintage wallpaper and shibori-dyed fabrics on hand (more accurately, spilling out of cupboards and drawers) for her clients to create their one-of-a-kind shade. Because she says, and it’s true, most lampshades are pretty uninspiring. But not when Schneider’s got her hands on them — and she does make each one by hand.

Over the years, Schneider’s artistic impulses have expanded, and visitors to her exuberant new shop and studio will find a delightful assortment of decorative and gifty things. Along with the lampshades, Schneider makes night-lights, tissue boxes, decoupaged glass trays, and lamp finials that look like — and are displayed as — pieces of the finest jewelry (she calls them lamp candy). She also has become passionate about hand painting and marbling paper, and shibori, a technique of indigo dyeing using the art of tying and folding fabrics to create one-of-a-kind patterns. (She plans to offer classes on the shibori process later in the year, when weather permits the dyeing to be done outside.)

“I don’t throw anything away,” says the self-described “mad collector,” and that’s quite clear. The shop is divided into separate ateliers, with armoires, cabinets and workbenches overflowing with objects waiting to be turned into lamps, like the stunning vintage wood and brass wallpaper rollers. Other surfaces hold curious items that have made the transition. My favorites were the 19th-century carriage wheel hubs [below]. It takes a while to figure out what some of the bases originally were, but Schneider is happy to give you a little history lesson.

So how did a nice Jewish girl from Teaneck, New Jersey end up as a lamp lady in the Berkshires? Schneider has been visiting the area all her life, but prior to actually settling here a few months ago, she had lived in the Hudson Valley and Millerton, NY. Back in the ‘90s, she was an antiques dealer who got into lighting and could never find shades she liked, so she decided to make them herself. This was before the internet, and she couldn’t find any books or instruction manuals for how to make a lampshade.

“I’ve always been fascinated with how things are made. So I took some lampshades apart to see how they were constructed, and I taught myself how to make them,” she says. “I’m totally self taught.” The same goes for the marbled paper, matchboxes trimmed in copper tape and the shibori cloth she’s created out of a variety of natural fabrics. She makes each piece in her studio in back, where she’s kept company by her two rescue dogs, Matilda the Jack Russell and and Abby the Newf.

Schneider with hand-painted papers; decorative matchboxes; finials.

You usually need to be working with a decorator to find someone to design and make custom lampshades, which is why Schneider is such a treasure. Last year, Victoria magazine highlighted her as one of “seven exceptional women who have transformed their passions into profitable ventures,” and her work has been featured in House Beautiful, Country Living and the New York Times, among other publications.

Customers often come to her with their own heirlooms and other objects they’d like to have wired, and there’s almost nothing, Schneider says, that can’t be turned into a lamp (except, maybe, for that sculpture someone once brought in).

Just don’t go in there looking for a plain white lampshade.

Shandell’s
15 Main Street, Sheffield, MA
(413) 248-1063
Open Thursday – Saturday, 12–5 p.m., by chance and by appointment.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/13/17 at 10:56 AM • Permalink

Not Your Average Alpaca: Alicia Adams Softens the Edges

Photo: Claire Rosen.

By Nichole Dupont

We all remember them, the rough-as-bark, dun-colored sweaters so bulky so that they could make even Kate Moss look puffy. But we so wanted to like them because there was some revolutionary air about wearing a fat, itchy alpaca sweater.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way any more. Alicia Adams has transformed the wiry fiber of the puffy animal into a vibrant, soft collection of capes, sweaters and even baby clothes. Adams is the official design arm of Alicia Adams Alpaca, Inc., a unique Millbrook, NY-based farm and textile business that specializes in the production and design of products made using fiber from Suri alpacas.

“It all grew very organically; this whole thing,” Adams says. “It’s a learning by doing kind of thing. My husband Daniel returned from a trip to Australia — we were living in Munich at the time — and said we were going to breed alpacas. He was so excited. At that time, I honestly could barely knit. So it was a crazy idea.”

That was 11 years and three children ago. The family of six, who started with 15 alpacas, now owns and operates the main farm of 40 or so alpacas. The other 160+ are raised at sister farms in California and Ohio. The farm in Millbrook is also home to a plethora of chickens and non-alpaca critters, and more often than not Adams’ children are in charge of the smaller tasks of egg gathering, naming the alpacas and making sure their “baby” sister (now two and a half) is doted on. And during trade show season, her eldest daughter, who is 14, is often at Adams’ side, lugging sweaters and talking up potential retailers. 

“This is a 365-day, 24 hours a day job,” Adams says, laughing a little. “I am busy all the time. This is an adventure and we just do it. We don’t complain. I don’t really think about my to-do list. I’m happy that our children know we work and see us working.”

Photo: Tom Moore.

Daniel Adams is at the helm when it comes to the “wooly” end of the business, including raising and breeding the Suris (which are a rare and coveted breed) and gathering and processing the fiber that is then used for the apparel, with the help of his children, of course. Alicia and a small team of designers, people she refers to as her “other family,” then decide what to do with the luxuriant crop. The results are almost miraculous. Drapey capes, vibrant scarves and gloves, soft sweaters and cuddly baby items are the foundation of the collection, which also includes home goods (throws and blankets) as well as Adams’ favorite classic, the two-tone hot water bottle.

“I am German and Mexican and I grew up in Mexico City. I am very Latin in my heart and I love color,” Adams says. “We develop our own color schemes here, we don’t follow color charts or anything like that. One of the most exciting things about this job is getting the prototypes and samples!”

Perhaps more surprising than the array of pinks and blues and creams (offered in a multitude of textures) is how the products feel. Remember that scratchy sweater? Not. Even. Close.

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me if it’s cashmere or mohair because of how it feels,” Adams says. “Alpaca is really earthy and substantial. It’s not a mass-produced product — alpacas have only one baby a year – it doesn’t pill, it keeps its form. Quality is very, very important to me. This is something that you’ll have for a long time.”

Photo: Tom Moore.

Adams is heading into the thick of the trade show season. (“I feel like I live at the Javits Center.”) More than 200 stores across the country — mostly small boutiques but also the likes of Barney’s — carry Alicia Adams Alpaca, as well as many international locations in Paris, Switzerland, London, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. But Adams doesn’t sweat it when clients are clamoring for next season’s mock-ups. She’s just as grounded as the fiber itself.

“I design for now, not for next season. There are no pre-orders,” she says. “I come up with the things that I feel are necessary and essential, and see what goes well. I don’t follow any fashion timeline. This stuff is timeless.”

Alicia Adams Alpaca
3262 Franklin Avenue, Millbrook, NY
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. –5 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m .– 4 p.m.

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Posted by Nichole on 01/23/17 at 11:28 AM • Permalink

Sawkille Co. Defines Rural American Design

By Andrea Pyros

Sawkille Co., a small furniture company in Rhinebeck, has been reflecting the heritage and mindset of the Hudson Valley for more than 15 years. But, though it’s hard to fathom now, appreciation for their type of goods didn’t happen right away. “Around 2010 there seemed to be a burst of activity,” explains Tara De Lisio, who runs the business with her husband, Jonah Meyer. “There was a bigger movement and appreciation for handmade goods, value in the process, and the story behind a business that became as valuable to the consumer as the product.”

Their story — told in quietly beautiful images on their blog — is one of artistry, commitment and community. Sawkille considers itself part of the “rural American design” movement. The company’s solid wood pieces are inspired by country furniture and are simple, classic, hand made, and built to improve with age and frequent use. It’s not surprising that their signature wooden stool is based on the decidedly unfussy milking stool, nor is it surprising that people are taking notice and responding to Sawkille’s gorgeous style. The company has been written up in Elle Decor, their chair was chosen by Jenna Lyons as one of her “favorite things,” and the company was selected as an honoree for the launch of the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, highlighting entrepreneurs in the United States.

Like many other craftspeople in the Hudson Valley, Meyer and De Lisio wear many hats. The partners — both in life and in work — are business owners and artists, and are committed to being active participants of the Upstate business community.

The pair first met after De Lisio moved back to our area. She’d grown up in Woodstock, but left for schooling and to live in the Southwest and California. Meyer, who designs Sawkille’s furniture, was raised in Pennsylvania, and he moved to the Catskills after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1993. Their collaboration began with Serv ce Station (without the ‘i’), a rural outpost in the Catskills that sold Meyer’s work as well as those by other artists, including De Lisio’s mother.

“It was a balancing of our skill sets that made it possible to work together and our desire to create work for ourselves that supported a life we wanted to live. We each had something to offer and it made the situation a bit more whole,” De Lisio says. In 2010, the couple decided to home in on their furniture business. They rebranded their enterprise as Sawkille Co., and worked to translate Meyer’s sensibilities into more than just a few pieces at a time. They also moved their showroom and workshop into an inviting farmhouse-modern space in Rhinebeck, 5,000 square feet of old industrial space owned by Prandoni Design and Fabrication a.k.a. the “brilliant team” of brothers Stewart and Matt Verrilli who create Sawkille’s metalwork.

“When we opened in Rhinebeck, we weren’t sure if the town was the right match,” De Lisio says, “but it has proven to be a super spot to be in business. We connect with individual homeowners as well as professionals from the design industry. It was a terrific surprise to find out who was walking the streets of this little hamlet! The business atmosphere was immediately supportive and community oriented. We’ve always felt grateful for that positivity.”

Businesses such as Paper Trail, bluecashew and Cabin Fever Outfitters were very forthcoming in sending those visiting their shops down West Market Street to Sawkille. They often heard shoppers say “we walked over here because ____ told us to come see your work.” 

Their intention wasn’t just to find a way to express themselves creatively and independently, but to participate in the local economy. De Lisio says, “As a native of the area, beyond seeking adventure and wanting to see more of the world as a college graduate, one of the reasons I didn’t return to this area was that I didn’t feel there was diversity in employment options. So it has become a very meaningful part of what we do to create a work environment that would be enticing, and would allow people to put down roots and invest in being in this area.”

Photos courtesy of Sawkille Co.

After 18 years of a successful partnership, the couple’s roles still switch and responsibilities continue to change. But, “at the core, Jonah is the artist and I push the vision and tease out possibilities, tossing them at Jonah and letting him turn them into something that I feel is magical, through his creative process,” says De Lisio. “Our goals are to support each other to have the best life each can have; in most recent times that has meant Jonah would be intensely hands-on with the work of Sawkille and I would delve into how to bring our family along — without losing the integrity and soul of what we both feel essential to a life we can feel grounded in and joyful about.”

Sawkille Co.
31 West Market St., Rhinebeck, NY
(845) 876-2228
Showroom open: Thursday – Monday

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/16/17 at 01:02 PM • Permalink

Wrap It Up: RI’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide

By Amy Krzanik

Where we live, you don’t have to travel very far to find unique gifts for everyone on your list. Whether it’s a thank you for your holiday party’s host or hostess, or a package sent to a friend or family member far away, choose from our list of artisanal, homegrown goodies and don’t forget to include a card that reads “from the RI region with love.”

TO EAT & DRINK:

Oliver Kita Fine Chocolates Named one of the Top 10 Chocolatiers of 2015 by Dessert Professional Magazine, Rhinebeck’s 20-year-old eponymous chocolate shop has used flowers, herbs, citrus, exotic fruits, berries, nuts and spices to create its line of organic and fair trade fine chocolates. Perfect for gifting, its 16-piece studio collection ($40) was created to fulfill requests for a collection of its most popular flavors, but you can also make your own favorites from its selection of bon bons, buttercrunch toffee, hot chocolate, chocolate-dipped mallomars, and chocolate Mah Jongg tiles, buddhas and polar bears.

H.R. Zeppelin Chocolates Stockbridge’s own organic and fair trade chocolatier will tempt your palate with inspired taste combinations you didn’t know you craved, such as lavender-blueberry milk chocolate, raspberry white chocolate, and cardamom-lemon or sweet basil-lime dark chocolate. They also offer double chocolate truffles made with Berkshire Mountain Distillers corn whiskey and a four-piece box of peanut butter goodness (peanut butter nougat, caramel and peanuts) dipped in milk or dark chocolate and tied with a bow. You can find some of these goodies at Bizalion’s and One Mercantile in Great Barrington, and at Six Depot in West Stockbridge. All of them will be available at the Berkshire Grown Holiday Market in Great Barrington on Saturday, Dec. 17.

Taconic Distillery This Stanfordville, NY distillery and tasting room was only officially completed in August of this year, but its Dutchess Private Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey already has earned accolades from Hudson Valley Magazine and Maxim. Its handcraft spirits are made in small batches using natural spring water from its 113-acre Rolling Hills Farm. Along with the Private Reserve, current offerings include three other whiskeys and a rum, as well as two versions of maple syrup (two 12.7 oz. bottles for $40).

Hopkins Vineyard In 1979, Bill and Judith Hopkins transformed their New Preston, Conn. dairy farm into a vineyard and have been known for award-winning whites, reds and sparkling wines ever since. Hopkins Vineyard isn’t a vineyard only in name — the location grows 11 varieties of grapes on land overlooking Lake Waramaug. Not only that, but its tasting room offers live late-night music, wine bottle painting parties and more.

363 Days of Tea Local author and artist Ruby Silvious has collaborated with Hudson, NY tea shop Verdigris to offer limited edition tea tins based on her new coffee table art book, 363 Days of Tea: A Visual Journal on Used Teabags. Her book ($26.95) can be purchased at the shop and, gifted together with a tea-filled tin, the two serve as a daily reminder that inspirational art can truly be found everywhere.

Hillhome Products In 2009, David L. Davis began making jars of marmalade for his own use and to give to friends. The response was so positive that he began selling at farmers’ markets around his Norfolk, Conn. home. Now you can purchase all of the marmalades, preserves, jams, chutneys, relishes, hot sauces, caramel and fudge sauces, pickles and dressings that David produces, “puts up” and markets by himself. He also offers private labeling, so you can make your holiday gift that much more personal. But as he warns on his website, be careful because “all products tend to be addictive!”

bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy Surprise your party host this season with a decadent gift from Rhinebeck’s bluecashew, now offering white ($100 – $1,300) or burgundy ($27.50+) Italian truffles and a selection of wild or farmed caviar (call for prices). In addition, your hors d’oeuvres table will be the talk of the town when you serve up La Madia White Truffle Acacia Honey ($15), which the store suggests you drizzle over chunks of Parmesan cheese.

TO OWN:

Bottega Organica This Hudson shop is the brainchild of Dr. Andrea Alimonti, a world-renowned geneticist, whose products are based on patented scientific research into the most effective anti-aging plants. All ingredients come from farms in Italy and upstate NY, are made without preservatives or artificial fragrances, colors or synthetics, and each is handmade in small batches. The line includes creams ($85-$165), balms for lips, face and body ($36-$125) and hydrating hair and skin mists ($38-$68).

Hawkins NY Based in Hudson, but known by chic people everywhere, Hawkins NY is famous for its furniture and its collaborations with other designers. The store offers highly curated wares including bedding, rugs, throws and tableware, but we’ve got our eye on their thick Amoeba wooden cutting boards ($68), and Shapes Rugs which are a collaboration between Hawkins and Austin-based designer Alyson Fox ($75-$1,000 depending on size). 

Source Adage Founded by creative directors Christopher Draghi and Robert Dobay, the Hudson, NY based fragrance brand and flagship store are dramatically dark (the shop, black; the product line, black) but the scents are inspired by nature. All fragrances, which are named after great American landscapes, are available as candles ($95), reed diffusers ($115) and room sprays ($60). Most recently, the brand launched two parfums for humans ($160) so you can smell good wherever you go, and a collaboration with local gallery The Gilded Owl — the limited edition candle, “Leonor”, smells of cedar wood, musk and dark incense with dusty rose and wild lavender and is inspired by artist Leonor Fini ($95). 

Amrita Lash Pottery Not only does Williamstown resident Amrita Lash make beautiful music with her band Long Journey, she creates beautiful pottery, too. Her vibrant work, which is food, microwave and dishwasher safe, includes plates, bowls, mugs, salt cellars, tumblers, yarn bowls, spoons and other items. They can be found on her Etsy page or you can catch her at the annual holiday shindy at Shire City Sanctuary this weekend or at the Pottery Sale in Williamstown on Thursday, Dec. 15.

TreacleandWolf A perfect gift for the friend or family member who loves to entertain, Great Barrington’s TreacleandWolf aprons are handmade with retro-inspired prints and designed with deep pockets to make sure you have enough room for a “plethora of paper umbrellas and a surfeit of swizzle sticks.” Half aprons are $24, and full are $36.

Floating Girl Artist, children’s book author and educator Valorie Fisher lives in Cornwall, Conn. with her husband, children, two cats, many mice and even more trees. Her collaged art cards ($4 each or 6 for $18), on sale at her Etsy shop “Floating Girl,” are a witty way to send a smile across the miles.

TO READ:

Fresh Fish by Jennifer Trainer Thompson Hancock Shaker Village’s new CEO is also a published author, and her latest is a “fearless guide to grilling, shucking, searing, poaching, and roasting seafood.” Put out by North Adams, Massachusetts-based Storey Publishing, the book offers simple step-by-step instructions on how to buy and cook everything from whole fish to shrimp, mussels, calamari and more.

Pacific by Simon Winchester The bestselling author and Berkshire County resident tackles the history of an entire ocean in his latest book. From Silicon Valley to China, and from Magellan’s 16th-century discoveries to the future of the world, this memoir of the Pacific covers it all.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt Hunt’s latest novel (her third), described as a “contemporary gothic,” has garnered acclaim from Vanity Fair, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Set in Upstate, NY, this is a “subversive ghost story that is carefully plotted and elegantly constructed.”

Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia by Anne Garrels For more than three decades, Garrels reported from some of the most dangerous places on earth as a correspondent for ABC and NPR. Called “a quiet masterwork” by Bookforum, the Litchfield County resident’s newest is based on her years reporting from Central Russia and helps explain Putin’s appeal to his country’s people.

Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein For those not familiar with Scandinavian home cooking (I’m guessing that’s a lot of people), this James Beard-nominated cookbook offers more than 100 recipes that showcase the region’s sweet and savory dishes. Along with how to make smoked arctic char, savory puffed pancakes and cardamom braids, the book contains Goldstein’s illuminating essays on the countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Check out last year’s Holiday Hit List for even more great gift ideas.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 12/05/16 at 06:54 PM • Permalink

Matt McGhee: 40 Years of Christmas Treasures

By Jamie Larson

In 1976 Matt McGhee opened his first shop in Greenwich Village selling oriental decorative pieces. That Christmas, however, it was his traditional tree ornaments that captured the imagination of holiday shoppers. Now, 40 years later and relocated to Hudson New York, McGhee’s shop (it too called Matt McGhee) is filled with handsome examples of his original designs as well as traditional antique ornaments and decorations of pewter and glass.

The 40th is the ruby anniversary and for the occasion McGhee has painted a new edition of his classic Saint Nick ornament with what else but ruby colored highlights. Made in Germany to McGhee’s specifications, his creations are classical and whimsical. While they might be as high style as decorations get, they still shine with a sense of fun.

“In the early ‘80s I began traveling to Germany and dealing directly with producers,” McGhee says. “Over the years I have taken more of a hand in the design of the ornaments I carry, ranging from specifying the colors that traditional forms are painted, to — in some cases — sculpting models from which molds are made and the ornaments blown, and then painted in Germany or by me.”

McGhee and partner Ronald Kopniki said the appeal of Christmas ornaments is a kind of healthy nostalgia. Because you see them for only a little while each year, the feeling and the memories they impart intensifies.

“It’s a thing that binds the generations,” says Kopniki. “The memories attached to the decorations go beyond the actual objects.”

The shop itself makes for an elegant and festive visit. In one of Warren Street’s beautiful old buildings the space is resplendent with ornate historic moldings and built-in cabinets that set the perfect stage for art glass or the intricately painted little dioramas and Nativities. The miniature pewter “flats” that make up the little winter and woodland scenes are a really pleasant surprise. They are sweet looking from far away and a wonder from up close, hand painted in intricate, nearly microscopic detail.

“Flats are a key component of my business,” McGhee says. “These hand-cast, hand-painted forms and figures are related not only to Christmas, but to other themes and seasons. There are trees, bare or in leaf, elaborate 18th-century garden scenes, winter skating scenes and circus scenes, for example, as well as Christmas trees, Santa in his sleigh or carrying a sack of gifts, and Nativity scenes.”

McGhee’s ornaments seem somehow pre-charged with pleasant holiday memories. There’s a collective sense of the holiday warmth molded and painted into them, by his own hand or his elves over in Germany.

“The ornaments can be very old fashioned or traditional but then also very colorful. You’re allowed to be colorful,” Kopniki says. “And when it comes to some of the art glass, we are also talking about beautiful things you can display all year.”

Winter Walk is coming up this Saturday in Hudson. Warren Street will be closed to cars and the street filled with shoppers, window watchers and holiday performances. There is perhaps no better time to go look around Matt McGhee for your next favorite ornament.

Matt McGhee
445 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
(518)-822-1700
Holiday Season Hours:
Daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 11/29/16 at 10:35 AM • Permalink

Mail Call: Annie Selke Company Introduces Its First Catalog

By Lisa Green

Catalogs are near and dear to Annie Selke’s heart. As a girl, the founder of and creative force behind the textile-driven Annie Selke Company, headquartered in Pittsfield, could be found poring through the myriad home and shelter catalogs her parents received. And because so many catalogs carry products from all of the company’s divisions — Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert, Fresh American and Luxe — she was used to working on them from the service end.

So now that the company has announced it will soon be sending out its own direct-to consumer-catalog, the big question is — especially from those of who can’t get enough of the insanely beautiful bedding, rugs, sleepwear and furniture coming out of this company — why did it take so long?

Catalogs and print materials have been standard practice in communicating with their more than 2,000 retailers, of course. But apart from The Outlet @ Pine Cone Hill, itself located within the headquarter’s meandering complex of buildings and warehouses, customers have purchased Annie Selke products only through retailers or the website. 

From her bright, brick-walled office, surrounded by fabric swatches and rugs, Selke, who lives in Lenox, explains why she waited 20 years to create her own consumer catalog.

“In 2012, we went direct-to-consumer online,” she says. “We needed to have an online presence. I called it ‘passive retail.’ We were just turning on the lights, and people came.”

Two years ago, the company started advertising to consumers, using print as well as web ads as drivers to annieselke.com (a delightful site, by the way, that includes not just shopping opps but “Fresh American Style,” a blog filled with decorating tips, how-to’s, Selke’s travels and even recipes). A consultant advised that it was time to dip their toe in the catalog world. (A little retro, maybe, but that never hurt L.L. Bean or Horchow.)

“We just decided to do it in May” (as in but five months ago), Selke says. “It’s been crazy doing it so fast and we’re still figuring things out as we go, but at least we have a process in place. We hope to put out six more next year, including holiday and furniture versions.” The new catalog division has necessitated hiring more people, and isn’t that music to our ears here in our rural community?

So on September 19, around 300,000 lucky homes will receive the inaugural Annie Selke catalog. Berkshire residents will be pleased to find the introduction of the Berkshire Collection. These pillows, furniture and window panels with patterns and colors inspired by our area will have familiar names like Greylock, Glendale and Barrington.

“I cannot wait for the referendum,” Selke says.

We’re betting the numbers will be good, but regardless, that “Bringing Happy Home” tagline the company uses? It’s pretty much a given.

To be added to the catalog mailing list, email catalog@annieselke.com.

Meet Annie Selke on Friday, Sept. 16
The Outlet @ Pine Cone Hill hosts a meet-and-greet event with the founder and CEO, Annie Selke, from 2:30-4 p.m.. At the event, which is open to the public, Selke will share her latest design inspirations and answer questions from guests. RSVP at RSVP@annieselke.com or (413) 629-2314.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/07/16 at 03:50 PM • Permalink