A Lot of Giving at Somethin’s Gotta Give in Lakeville
By Sarah Ellen Rindsberg
Modernist yet playful. This is the vision on view at Somethin’s Gotta Give, the newest addition to the retail mix in Lakeville, Connecticut. The refined aesthetic with a local feel evolved from the combination of proprietor James Knight’s proclivities and own needs in furnishing his Connecticut home; a mix of new and vintage items for the home, as well as a collection of books and music, that is a singular representation of his design philosophy: “I have always admired Mid-century modern design, primarily for its simplicity. To quote from one of my design icons, Frank Lloyd Wright ‘...form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union…’” (This was Wright’s revision of “form follows function,” the original dictum of the great architect’s mentor, Louis Sullivan.)
It all started when, after 20 years as the director of visual merchandising for Gucci in North America and Japan, Knight decided to convert his part-time residency in Falls Village to full-time. His thoughts then turned to a search for a new profession. Knight was already representing furnituremaker Bryan Jernigan and used this as a jumping-off point. “I put the concept together from people I knew and stuff I like,” he says. Knight began with a website and started searching for a brick-and-mortar structure for those wishing to experience the heft and feel of an object. When he spotted the site in Lakeville, directly across the street from the post office, Knight took the plunge. “I tend to do things impulsively,” he adds.
Serendipity, as much as Knight’s great eye, plays a major role in the constantly evolving collection, much of which is made up of innovative work by local designers and artisans. For instance, one day Walter Irving of Cornwall Bridge stopped by. He struck up a conversation with Knight, exploring ways in which to resume his craft—original wood-framed mirrors. Several of the samples he carried in his car that day now adorn the shop’s walls ($1,400). Other finds are the result of a phone call from fellow Falls Village resident Frank Grusauskas. His products are fashioned from found wood. Knight falls under their spell and makes room for ebonized wood containers ($360-$400), a large burled bowl ($450), and the most amazing wooden horns, some carved out of mountain laurel ($200-$600.)
One of the most striking pieces on display is a coffee table ($2,600) by the aforementioned Bryan Jernigan. “He married a cousin of mine and it was in their living room,” Knight recalls. In Jernigan’s creations, the glass top appears to be suspended in air, but a glance beneath reveals artfully crafted wooden supports. With a nod to form over function, the base is graceful yet substantial, and arcs sculpted from wood provide an arresting image.
Artistic influences abound. Knight professes his admiration of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. He also enjoys visiting The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City and taking in the Seagram building, a van der Rohe design, in Manhattan.
The whole design philosophy of Somethin’s Gotta Give, and its sense of community, is evident in its sharp website. Click on the “helping hand” section and watch as a mere seedling morphs into a tree, signifying the nurturing effect of contributions. The words “We all need a helping hand” scroll across the screen. Links to local organizations including Owl’s Kitchen and Berkshire Animal Dreams are included. For those attracted to the freshwater biodiversity represented in David Young’s photos of the Cahaba River on sale at Somethin’s Gotta Give, an added incentive is the 10% of sales donated to the eponymous river society. There is also a link to Ollie’s Bar-B-Q Sauce, a business that donates 20% of its proceeds to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. (The prevalence of Birmingham, Alabama-based organizations reflects Knight’s affinity for the place where he was raised and the groups he began donating to while residing in the South.) The most recent addition is the Passenger Project, a site which changes the focus of its gifts on a monthly basis.
Two local business owners in particular—Tino Galluzzo of the White Gallery and Mary O’Brien of Chiawalla—have been extremely supportive, sending their patrons to the store. O’Brien, who is renowned for her cakes (Knight has a predilection for the banana chocolate), has added a rolling pin made by Michael Robbins to her collection.
One of the categories on the site is entitled “Lost and Found,” which contains books and music Knight wants people to know about or experience once again, from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen to Jeff Buckey Live at Sin-é. The title of the store itself is a nod to one of Knight’s mother’s favorite songs, “Something’s Gotta Give,” by Johnny Mercer. The decision to omit the final “g” from the first word refers to its pronunciation with a Southern accent. It’s all part of Knight’s whole attitude toward retail. “I’m gonna have fun with this. Music is a big part of my life. I put stuff up people should be reacquainted with or hear or see for the first time.”
Somethin’s Gotta Give
340 Main Street
(860) 824-8045 office
(917) 450-7072 cell