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Flourish Market: Old, New, Restored Decor, Delightfully Priced

By Lisa Green

“You shouldn’t have to mortgage your house to buy fun things,” says Jennifer Knopf, who opened Flourish Market in West Stockbridge, Mass. in December of 2015. The store, which offers a mixture of vintage, antique and new furniture and décor, is one of those shops where you don’t know where to look first. It takes a few moments to calm the flitting of your eyes from walls to shelves to floor until you can properly concentrate on the treasure in front of you. But you wouldn’t want to rush it, anyway.

It’s a curious mix, but that’s part of the fun. You can’t be exactly sure what’s vintage, what’s been reworked, repainted or rewired by Knopf and her team, or what’s a reproduction. Tea towels with spritely designs (new) lay on an old farmhouse table (repainted); a child’s diminutive sewing machine (old, and works) sits in front of a bas relief frame (your guess is as good as mine). Upcycled bookmarks from clip-on earrings (old and new). Figurines, paintings, lamps — who knows? If you’re looking for bona fide antiques, the kind that’ll cost you, you won’t find them here.

“I keep prices low, because if I can’t sell the merchandise, I can’t buy more,” Knopf says. “I like to mix a little old, a little new, things that remind me of growing up in Texas, stuff that’s rustic, not slick.”

Knopf has hung onto her Texas roots despite a move to Los Angeles, where she wasn’t making much use of her art major. Working at Jaeger Sportswear had its perks, however — her manager introduced Knopf to her now-husband. In 2000, he was courted by Berkshire Life Insurance (now Guardian); the video included in the employment package sold them on the Berkshires. They now live in Stockbridge.

“I’m a Martha Stewart wannabe,” Knopf admits (and indeed, she does bear a slight resemblance to the Maven of All Things). “And I thought, well, the Berkshires are close to Connecticut, so…”

A stay-at-home mom when her kids were small, she was involved in event planning for the PTA, which led to a job running fundraising events for the Lenox Library.

“But I realized that event planning really is sitting in front of the computer most of the time. The show is just two hours and then it’s done. I wanted to create an environment that’s not wrapped up in two hours.”

Now, she puts on a show for her customers, one that changes all the time. Influenced by stores such as Anthropologie and Z Gallerie (“places that you won’t find in the Berkshires”), she combs estate sales for merchandise, attends trade shows every now and then, and takes items that customers bring in. Whether it’s a rug, a faux succulent (an extremely popular item) or a necklace from found items, it’s all very cheerful, and who can’t use that?

The store sits in a low-slung building along Route 41 that’s been everything from a stovepipe shop and a glassblowing studio, to an ice cream parlor and bakery, but feels as though it was created just for Flourish, with its sunny picture windows and wide-board floors. Not far off I-90, it’s an easy spot for shoppers from Springfield and Albany, as well as locals.

“West Stockbridge is really coming alive,” Knopf says, mentioning Six Depot Roastery and the town’s newest attraction, Turn Park, as beacons to visitors. Flourish is a part of that rejuvenation — a sweet embellishment on an already engaging town.

Flourish Market
2 Albany Rd., West Stockbridge, MA
Wednesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, Noon – 4 p.m.
Closed Monday & Tuesday
(413) 232-8501

Labor Day Sale: 1st Annual Flourish Flea Market Tent Sale
Sat., Sept. 2, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 3, Noon – 4 p.m.
Everything 25-50 percent off.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/28/17 at 01:20 PM • Permalink

Get What You Want At The Keith and Patti Richards Auction

By Jamie Larson

Ever wonder what a Rolling Stone does gather? The answer, it turns out, is a whole lot of fine, high-style, Victorian antiques. Legendary Stones guitarist Keith Richards and wife Patti Hansen are auctioning off a huge collection of elegant antiques at Hudson’s own Stair Galleries on Saturday, June 24, and all the pieces are now on display for perusal.

“As all of us grew up listening to The Rolling Stones,” said the Stair in Stair Galleries, Colin Stair. “We are thrilled to have Keith and Patti Richards’ personal property here in the gallery. The entire music community in Hudson is abuzz.”

Best of all, you can feel especially vindicated about how much you drop at this auction because the proceeds will be donated to SPHERE and Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, Conn. Hansen’s 24-year-old nephew has autism and both organizations help adults with developmental disabilities actualize their dreams.

Hansen’s eye is responsible for the classic aesthetic of the items at auction, which adorned the pair’s Manhattan apartment for many years. With well over 500 items of surprisingly traditional historical European furniture, art, ceramics, dinnerware and more on display, the auction is about much more than the Richards’ name… although it certainly doesn’t hurt when it’s time to brag about where your beautiful new chairs came from. Many of the items’ estimated prices, and therefore starting bids, are set in a manageable price range, making them more attainable than one might expect. We’re highlighting a few of our favorites here, but the whole catalog is available online.

Supremely British but with an undeniably wry, rock-and-roll edge, this tea set — actual Japanese porcelain — was hand painted by artist Melody Rose. It’s hard not to see the appeal here and we wouldn’t be surprised if this piece in particular goes for much more than its estimated price, not just because of its punk elegance but its provenance as being previously owned by the fourth greatest guitarist of all time (according to Rolling Stone). This is a perfect example of how the magical power of touch adds value to an item. It’s great on its own, but knowing this was Richards’ tea set adds another ethereal layer of enamel to the set, which includes a teapot, a pair of cups and saucers, a dessert plate, a creamer, two butter plates, an ashtray, and a pair of cordials.
Estimate: $600-$800

Richards’ favorite piece in the auction is this sofa, which sat prominently in their Manhattan living room. Hansen designed the space to feel like a box of treasures and one certainly gets that feel from the items in this collection. While not many of the items scream rock and roll, there is a theatrical feel to the offerings. And there’s certainly something enjoyable about picturing Richards, with his debauched public persona, lounging on this lush sofa.
Estimate: $2,000-$3,000

There are many exquisite paintings in the collection but none are more arresting than this depiction of a nun before the guillotine, acquired from the Nashville Museum of Art. It may not be to everyone’s taste, or the most valuable piece at auction (it’s unsigned), but it vividly depicts the 1794 guillotine deaths of the Martyrs of Compiegne, the 16 Carmelite nuns who were sentenced to death during the Reign of Terror. During the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution, the nuns refused to obey the mandate that suppressed their monastery. They were arrested, imprisoned and brought to Paris where they were condemned as traitors and sentenced to death. On July 17, 1794, all 16 nuns were guillotined. The novice, Sister Constance, was the first to die, followed by the lay sisters and ending with the prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine.
Estimate: $1,500-$2,500

This piece, which dates back to the 19th century, has more going on than one might think at first glance. This still-functional Literary Machine was an early mechanical recliner invented by John Carter of London (not to be confused with “of Mars” c.1911). This recliner was meant to be used in consort with a book and candle stand so that when the seat was fully reclined and the stand was swiveled in front, you could comfortably read hands free. While a number of the handsome stands are still available online, you would be hard pressed to find another chair like this, especially in this condition and working order.
Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

Richards acquired this robe in trade for one of his own leather jackets. The Quianlong Emperor reigned from 1711 to 1799 and this elegant ceremonial robe is an example of the highest luxury of that time. Interestingly, it’s hard to say what’s worth more, this beautiful one-of-a-kind historic artifact or a leather jacket worn by Keith Richards. In 2008, a leather jacket gifted to Richards by Mick Jagger was sold at auction and, while we couldn’t find the sale price, the pre-auction estimate was $6,000-$8,000. So who knows which is more valuable — but it’s hard to imagine Richards didn’t walk around that fabulous apartment, at least once, draped in some Quianlong noble’s ceremonial robe.
Estimate: $5,000-$10,000

The full auction catalog is well worth flipping through and further enhanced by a visit in person. Whether you’re there for the style or there for the provenance, this auction is a can’t-miss.

Auction of the Keith and Patti Richards Collection
Saturday, June 24 at 3 p.m (approx.). Doors open at 9 a.m.
Stair Galleries
549 Warren St., Hudson, NY
(518) 751-1000
Open for preview: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Also currently open for weekend previews until auction.
Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sundays, noon-5 p.m.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/10/17 at 02:58 PM • Permalink

It’s Annie Selke’s World. And You Can Live In It.

By Lisa Green

When we last caught up with Annie Selke, just a few months ago, the founder and creative force behind the Annie Selke Company was busy putting the final touches on her first consumer catalog. Like everything she envisions, that venture has been a great success; now proven, the catalogs will continue to roll out each season. Which means it’s time for the indefatigable doyenne of textiles and home goods to embark on another project (or two). And, in fact, a pair of new ventures are in the works, and we love that the Berkshires native is keeping them both — a pop-up shop and an inn — local.

First up, the Annie Selke pop-up store at 36 Main Street in Lenox, Mass. The diminutive space will be a showcase of the bedding; rugs; jewelry; art; tabletop, storage and decorative items; and other objets found in the catalog. Displays of product lines will change monthly; television monitors will feature the breadth of products and iPads will allow customers to shop the full Annie Selke inventory.

Top: Annie Selke pop-up shop; Bottom: 33 Main.

With space at a premium, the shop will be “an exercise in good editing and merchandising,” Selke says. “It’ll be helpful to have the big monitor so people can experience the depth of the brand.”

The pop-up store is scheduled to open in early June and will run for six months as a test. But we’re betting on Selke’s golden touch that the doors will stay open long after that.

Part of its success will likely be a by-product of the second project, 33 Main, an inn billed as an Annie Selke luxury lodging experience. If you’ve ever strolled the aisles at The Outlet at Pine Cone Hill in Pittsfield, you know that Selke’s entering the hospitality industry seems like a natural brand extension. Too, Selke’s peripatetic life gives her insight as to how to pull off a luxury inn.

“I spend 175 nights on the road in some form of hospitality,” she says. “I feel battle worn, and uniquely qualified to say what a comforting and comfortable lodging experience is.”

The real estate god must have known this, because it placed in her line of sight a handsome 1836 property for sale. She passed by and admired it every day on her way to work, and after a while of drive-bys, Selke felt like she needed to look at it. She asked her real estate friend, Kelley Vickery, to arrange a showing.

Annie Selke and COO Bob White.

“We kept looking at each other, saying, ‘it’s great, right?’ I brought in an architect friend and Bob White, our COO, and they all thought it was great, too.” And thus Selke added “inn owner” to her title.

Selke was in the process of finalizing the artwork for the inn when we spoke. She’s personally choosing all the furnishings, right down to the glazes and colors of the custom ceramics that will match the rugs and artwork.

The building, which has the perquisite “great bones,” is getting all-new bathrooms and plumbing, new tile and floors. Each of the eight rooms (two of which will be pet friendly) will be unique, offering changing showcases of fabrics and patterns from Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert and all the other lines. Mattresses are coming from uber-luxury brand Hastens (the bed of choice for the likes of Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and Bono); tiles are from The Tile Shop and wallpaper from Ralph Lauren Home.

“We’re getting down to the granular level on details,” Selke says. They’ve developed their own bath and body products with Farmaesthetics, and are even testing the toilet paper. Ironically, the sheets for each room have yet to be chosen.

It hardly needs to be said that the furnishings at the inn will be available for sale; that’s where the pop-up shop, conveniently located right across the street, comes in. 33 Main, slated to open in August, will be a living Selke lab that guests can try out and take home with them, if they choose. And who wouldn’t choose to take home a Pine Cone Hill bathrobe?

33 Main is slated to open in August.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/29/17 at 11:27 AM • Permalink

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.

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.

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