Oliphant: In Living Color
Cara Hotchkiss, jewelry designer and owner of the Litchfield store Oliphant, has always had a relentless penchant for color. “It’s like a candy store. I love color, I’m not afraid of it.” With those bold, bright, blazing hues, Hotchkiss – London-born, San Francisco bred, Litchfield-based but always globe trotting – is building an empire, one vibrant collection at a time. Since launching the Oliphant storefront this past Memorial Day, Hotchkiss, a Wall Street trader turned designer, has had her sights set on larger targets, like a furniture line. She would like to see the store, which began as a costume jewelry atelier in 2008, become nothing less than a lifestyle brand in and of itself. “I want to grow in a good way. I’ve always wanted to do everything,” she says.
Oliphant’s wide range of inventory has Litchfield humming. The store’s artfully-arranged, 1,500-square-foot space has an eye-popping mix of goods, making it hard to pin down in one or two words: a décor resource with interior design services, a contemporary collection of traditional home furnishings, an eclectic mix of elegant accessories, and resort inspired-wear clothing. Think of it as Calypso St. Barth’s meets Jonathan Adler. Among Oliphant’s treasures: geometric-patterned throw pillows ($98); hand-painted trays ($35); contemporary lighting ranging from brightly colored ceramic lamps ($195) to a hand-made wire chandelier ($1,600); and scented Fifth & Madison soy-based candles ($6). The centerpiece, however, is the richly hued jewelry from Cara’s own Oliphant collection that includes turquoise stud earrings ($37 a pair) and a freshwater nugget- pearl necklace with 24kt vermeil clovers ($450). Oliphant is also the exclusive dealer of Lee Industries, an anchor product of her store. Getting the North Carolina-based furniture manufacturer to Litchfield was a coup. “It wasn’t an easy task, but their impeccable craftsmanship was worth the effort. And for our clients the 6-8 week turnaround for custom made in the USA furniture is amazing.” (Hotchkiss also prides herself on making sure that fifty percent of her carefully curated items are American made.)
“The reception has been amazing. We are getting such great feedback, most people have come to the store because someone else recommended it,” she says. Even the wall color itself, which Hotchkiss custom blended, has been a hit. “Isn’t it the best shade? It’s grey, it’s taupe, it’s neutral. And people color-match it all the time.” The “Oliphant Grey,” as it’s been coined, is one of the most requested color matches at the local Litchfield Paint store, so popular that they keep the custom-color mix on file.
The jewelry, furniture, design services, world travelling for design inspiration inevitably makes one have those how does she do it? thoughts. “I just don’t sleep,” Hotchkiss laughs. “I have so many lists and lists of lists. I can’t turn my mind off.” Hotchkiss has always been into crafts, but she had two brothers, and claims to have been “a tomboy growing up.” She loves sports bars and beer as much a fine linen throw pillow, claims not to favor a style or era, but uses the words “modern traditional” to describe her taste. “I look at lines and quality and of course color as a start.” Her love of travel and design is in her bones: Hotchkiss’s father, David Baylis, was in the travel industry and it’s her earliest inspiration. “I’d collect beads and stones from bazaars and markets,” she says, and began decorating at an early age. “I’ve always curated my environment and my family’s.”
Hotchkiss plans future additions to the Oliphant brand, launching a high-end jewelry line in November and a new, handmade midprice-range rug collection has just arrived. She’s also looking forward to a textile line in the spring, and a furniture line seems the next logical step. To Hotchkiss Oliphant is not a just a home furnishing store or a clothing store or even just a jewelry store: It’s a new beginning. —Dale Stewart
29 West Street, Litchfield, CT 06759