Bohemian Birdy: Luxe For The Home In Chatham
Tim Ebneth, Birdy store manager, and Christine Mottau, owner.
By Nichole Dupont
Christine Mottau has it all; a place in the city, a place in the country, a glamourous freelance career working with the likes of Ralph Lauren, an online business…talent. But, according to the veteran painter and stylist, who divides her time between NYC, Spencertown and wherever her assignments take her (“I travel all over the place”), she was missing, until recently, the one thing every artist needs: A canvas.
“I got sick of the online store by itself. There was no interaction with the product and with people,” she says. “There was something lacking. There was no ‘set’ so to speak. No space for the product to be.”
That much-needed space became available just a few short months ago on Chatham’s main drag — one that has enjoyed a string of retail and eatery openings throughout the last five years — a “storybook town” in Mottau’s eyes. She, with help from friend and fellow artist and set designer Tim Ebneth, flung wide the doors of the Birdy Home Collection, a curated cacophony of accessories — modern, vintage, somewhere in-between — for nearly every interior taste and price point.
“I call it jewelry for the home,” she laughs. “And everybody should be able to buy jewelry for their home.”
Her euphemism for the carefully-selected merchandise is dead on point. Jewel-toned vases ($75 and up) — orange, lime green, red — and abstract paintings (most by Mottau herself, $200 and up) are vibrant against a backdrop of white walls and shelving and a heavy-handed collection of creamy ceramic pieces that range from an outrageously ornate French tureen to delicate, hand-blown opaline pieces ($80) with some crystal thrown in for glittering good measure.
“I like all stuff from all different periods. Modern shapes with interesting detailed finishes,” Mottau says about the selection at Birdy. “As long as there is a high level of finish quality. I can put everything together and tell a visual story.”
Every nook of Birdy is an opportunity to display the wares that Mottau has collected from her travels orchestrating still-life shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, Calvin Klein Home, the NYT Magazine, Bergdorf Goodman and countless others. Wares range from a carved African horn bowl ($80) to smoked cocktail glasses ($150/set of eight). Deliberate vignettes pack the store, showcasing the stylist’s love for not only clean lines and authentic texture, but also her unabashed admiration of the natural world. A cup and saucer set intricately etched in a leaf pattern; a pillar candle made to look like a birch tree, interior rings and all; cast iron bird statuary: all of these pay lifelike homage to Mother Nature’s incomparable design sense.
“I love fake nature. Or faux nature,” she says. “It’s the line. I grew up in Greenwich Village with bohemian parents, you know, of course. But also spent a lot of time in southern New Hampshire, the Monadnock region, where my family is from.”
The self-proclaimed Northeasterner feels right at home in Chatham and was surprised and delighted at the warm reception she received when the store opened in November of last year. She and her husband, Michael Block, were immediately enmeshed in the town’s quirky world of generations-old farm culture meets bearded hipster coffee poets, where retailers have become the neutralizing middle ground for consumers, passersby and eager artists.
“It was a crash course in the arts community,” Mottau recalls about those months leading up to the Birdy space. “My husband’s a writer and I’m a painter and we were amazed at how many people living here are artists. Everything really just fell into place. Having a business here is a community ‘thing’ without a doubt. It’s not just about buying and selling.”
Mottau is already scheming artist shows and silent auctions and other big events as soon as the mercury decides to hold steady in the spring. She is looking forward to seeing the place in the summertime, and of course, to curating the window displays that, for the time being, are filled with two giant, repurposed wooden peace signs.
“It’s easy to have good design at Bergdorf, but my philosophy about the store is ‘what’s good is good,’’’ Mottau says. “Good design is good design. Period.”
Birdy Home Collection
5 Main Street, Chatham, NY
Open Wed. - Sat., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.