The House That Privet Built
“We already feel like we don’t have enough room,” Suzanne Cassano says, as she surveys the new digs of the home-furnishings and antiques store, Privet House, in the tight-knit community of New Preston, Connecticut. “It instantly feels like home, though. In the former location in Warren, we had a tendency to pile it high and let it fly. Here we made a hybrid of both shops [Vol. 1, which was devoted to antiques, and Privet House]. I think this is a more refined, polished version of one and a much more interesting version of the other.”
Cassano co-owns the now five-year-old store with Richard Lambertson, who started Lambertson Truex handbags in 1998 and remains its creative director. Known as arbiters of good taste, their collaboration has an instinctive design sense, having grown into a strong collection of new and vintage pieces in the understated, chic two-story emporium. The space unfolds with thoughtful precision, with a small apothecary area, bath linens, a wire brush collection (which they’ve become known for), French flea market tables ($135), table linens such as bandana cocktail napkins ($24 for 12), and an unrivaled tabletop collection with tea towels, olive wood boards, vintage cookbooks, dishes, and textiles. There’s also an expanded selection of home furnishings and one-of-a-kind antiques, as well as beautiful objets d’art.
Before Lambertson came along, “when I started Vol. 1,” Cassano says, “I thought, ‘No one knows where the hell Warren is and no one will know if I fail,’ but when Richard and I then opened Privet House together a little later we did arrogantly say, ‘Well, it’s not just going to be one location. We are going to start here, but we’ll also go to Greenwich, Sag Harbor, maybe somewhere like Nantucket.’” Finally, they found a cottage house in Greenwich in which to set up a second shop, but they have yet to expand to other posh towns up and down the eastern seaboard. They were a bit waylaid when Target, the national retail chain, tapped Privet for the first round of the now super popular “The Shops at Target.”
Privet House launched a 125-piece collection in 1,800 stores last May, marking the only time this high-end purveyor would be affordable to the masses. Cassano says of her Target experience, “They were wonderful to work with, and we had a blast and I wish it was forever. It didn’t make us a household name, but it certainly elevated our recognition factor. All the other stores were in major cities and we were in Warren so for them to find us was such a compliment.”
Cassano came from the fragrance world; at one point she worked for the holy grail of the industry, Calvin Klein. Her luxury goods second act came through a hobby with an old girlfriend (and still best friend) that led them halfway around the country 20 times a year for the flea market circuit. “We were spotted by the people that put together Piers Antiques Show in New York City. You would have thought they asked us to do the Antiquariat in Paris. We were so excited we thought, ‘We’re going indoors! We can wear real shoes. This is it!’” Cassano, a self-proclaimed over-planner and over-thinker, didn’t give much thought to the big leap into retail life. “I didn’t want to become a shop girl. I was a corporate refugee. I went in, signed the lease, painted and moved in in three weeks. I just did it. It felt right.”
“We decided to make a much more concerted effort to hold back and make a collection of things because most of us who shop for a living can’t wait to put things out.” Examples include artfully displayed vintage Steuben, Wedgwood edme, Fenton glassware, and a soon-to-be-revealed room devoted solely to hotel silver.
The Greenwich and New Preston locations serve as a yin and yang. The former is a high traffic location on weekdays, and the latter sees weekender volume. As far as Privet House launching its own collection anytime soon, Cassano feels, “The world is not waiting for yet another collection of something. I personally think the world is so unedited. Hopefully, what we do here is edit it a bit.” —Dale Stewart
13 East Shore Rd., New Preston, CT
Open Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.