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Germain: Great Barrington’s New House of Style

Rural Intelligence Style Section Image

Albert, Letteron & Baier photographed by Martin Albert

You wouldn’t be surprised to find a loft-like store with a rural-zen aesthetic on Warren Street in Hudson, but in Great Barrington it feels like a world of wonder. “A woman came in this weekend and said, I feel like I’m in Brooklyn,” says Elena Letteron, who opened Germain a few weeks ago with Julia Baier and Anne Johnston Albert.  (And in case you somehow missed the status update, “Brooklyn” now signifies edgy, alternative style in every imaginable discipline, so Letteron took the remark as a compliment.)

Rural Intelligence StyleGermain is a multidisciplinary retail experience. It has antiques, upholstered furniture, glassware, fashion and art. It started with Elena Letteron wanting to expand beyond Metropolitain, her antiques shop on Route 7 (across from Ward’s Nursery) that specializes in the sort of French flea market finds that look appropriate in an American farmhouse. “When the building behind us became available,  I was worried about what type of tenant might move in,” she says. But Letteron did not want to take on a big rent by herself, so she asked Julia Baier, who knits wearable and functional art, if she would like to share studio-and-retail space in the barn-like building.  When Anne Johnston Albert, a fashion designer who once had her own boutique in New York’s East Village, heard that the two stylish women would be sharing space, she approached Letteron about joining them.  “I kind of butted my way in,” Albert says.

Rural Intelligence StyleLetteron, who’s an interior designer as well as an antiques dealer, has painted the cement floors and some of the walls a green-gray that looks like the bark of trees; it’s the perfect backdrop for mid-century and industrial-style furniture as well as one-of-a-kind pottery by Frances Palmer and cryptic painted signs—Zero Rejects, Redundant Sea, Of the Beholder ($895 each)—by Housatonic artist Carol Gingles. It’s also an ideal environment for Albert’s blouses, dresses and blue jeans that carry the “Martin” label which she chose in homage to her husband, Martin Albert, a cinematographer and graphic designer (who took the photographs here.)  Though she was best known in New York for her slim jeans (“I like a good fit,” she says), her most popular jeans in the Berkshires are the wide-leg indigo at $195. “You can wear them everyday or wear them to a dinner party,” she says. A flirty wrap dress is $195 and a cotton blouse is $70. “I was hoping I could have everything made in the Berkshires but for now it’s being made in New York City,” says Albert, who keeps a sewing machine in her studio that overlooks the old Barrington Fairgrounds.

Rural Intelligence StyleJulia Baier’s knitting studio also overlooks the fairgrounds and she has some art pieces hanging on the wall. Outside in the main store, there are cable-knit pillows made of local organic wool and backed with antique linen ($225.) “A lot of things that are ‘hand-made’ are knit on machines and then assembled by hand, but I knit these myself and I think you can really feel and see the difference,” she says. The pillows are displayed on top of the organic W J Southard mattresses that Germain is selling. “It’s the most comfortable mattress ever!” she says. The synergy at Germain suggests a sorority house of style, where women (and men) can find clothing and home furnishings for contemporary country life. “We inspire each other and give each other ideas,” says Letteron. “We want to share that.”

Rural Intelligence Style
635 Main Street, Great Barrington; 413.644.8688
Friday & Saturday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
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Posted by Dan Shaw on 10/27/09 at 07:46 AM • Permalink