A Few of Their Favorite Things
Ever wish you could peek inside the homes of home-furnishings and accessories shop owners? Five open their front doors and share a few of their personal treasures.
By Susan Hodara
Photography by Todd Shapera
You’ve wandered into that divine home-furnishings store, and loved everything you saw. Ever wonder what the shop’s owner’s home looks like, what he has inside his home? Wonder no more. We invited owners of five very different Westchester home-furnishings shops to share with us some favorite pieces of their own.
Fit for a King
A door is a positive image for me,” says Everick Brown, owner and chief designer of ebhome, a sophisticated shop carrying classic modern furnishings and funky, global home accessories. “Wherever there is a door, there is an opportunity.”
African mask (above)
Brown’s decorative door, however, doesn’t stand at the threshold of his contemporary, multi-level Mount Kisco home; the rough-hewn beauty leans against the living-room wall. The ornately carved, wooden piece, about three feet wide and just under six feet tall, once marked the entrance to the home of a Dogon tribe king in Africa.
The deep brown wood was burnt before it was carved (“It still has an ashy smell,” Brown notes) and the carvings record stories about the family for whom it was made. Rows of figures—dogs, goats, geckos, and pregnant women—recur in the design. “I bought it in the late 1980s when we were living in an apartment in Brooklyn,” says Brown of the 150-year-old piece. “I didn’t have a lot of money. I think it cost me two months’ rent, but I had to have it.”
A part of Brown’s extensive collection of artifacts, the door has international company in the living room, including a wooden chest from Asia (above), an African daybed, and exotic masks that adorn the walls.
a good memory
For the past seven years, Tara Turner Lockhart has imported English antique furniture and accessories for her Bronxville shop, The English Room. But there’s one piece she never could put a price tag on: the mahogany chest-on-chest that for the past two years has graced the second-story guest room of her Bronxville home. Not only does Lockhart (a British import herself, having come to the U.S. 13 years ago) appreciate its centuries-old elegance, but the piece has been passed down through generations of her family, holding precious memories from her childhood.
Stamped on the back of Lockhart’s piece is the date 1802. The brass hardware—oval handles engraved with the words “Trafalgar Sacred to Nelson”—hails from the same period and refers to renowned Navy captain, Lord Nelson. Above each handle is a brass
“Our family inherited it from a Miss Howe in London, who was somehow related to my Great Uncle Albert James Vanner,” Lockhart says. Vanner was the chief baker for J. Lyons and Company Cadby Hall, a London company, established in 1894, best known for its chain of tea shops.
Another Lockhart treasure: a set of four ornate gilted sconces in her entry hall. “A set of four sconces is harder to find than a pair, especially if they’re period pieces,” Lockhart says of the pairs, each of which has a gold-plated bow at the top with gold-plated ribbons trickling down into a pattern of acanthus leaves and foliage swags. Purchased at an auction house in England four years ago, these sconces are in the Regency style, made in the 1920s. “I love the Regency period,” Lockhart says. “It’s such an elegant period in furniture and decorative accessories.”
Four years ago, Wendy Rubin and her husband, Lee, co-owners of Wendy Gee!, expanded their 108-year-old Old Greenwich, Connecticut, home to include a room just for the two of them. “We call it our office, but think of it as a den,” she says. “We can come in here and close the doors; we work, we read, we talk, we relax.”
And often, they do so in two upholstered armchairs, one on either side of the room, each with an ottoman. These contemporary club chairs, covered in straw-colored velvet, were made by Maine Cottage, a company whose pieces Wendy Gee!, a contemporary funiture and accessories shop in Larchmont and in Greenwich, Connecticut, has carried for 12 years.
Another favorite pick is one that would not be found at Wendy Gee!: an antique French lingerie chest, once a fixture in Wendy’s childhood bedroom, that sits at the entrance to the Rubins’ living room.
The chest was built around 100 years ago of cherry wood with an inlay; its drawers open with brass pulls. Once used for storing lingerie, it now holds placemats, napkins, and other flat articles.
“Wendy has a strong attachment to this chest,” Lee says. “We wanted to find an important place for it in our home. And though it is old, it works beautifully with our updated furnishings.”
The little sofa that could
Interior designer Barbara Sternau calls her living-room sofa, one of the first items she chose for the room, “the little black dress of furniture.” Like the reliable frock that makes its way from informal to formal with the just-right accessory, this sofa can change moods, too.
“You can dress it up or down, and you can change its look with different pillows and throws,” says Sternau, owner of The Design Shop in Tarrytown, which offers interior-design services and an eclectic selection of furniture.
The classic camelback sofa has a single-seat cushion, roll arms, and tight back (no loose cushions). The much-loved piece made by Ashley Manor in North Carolina is upholstered in yellow Schumacher cotton-blend fabric with a small, sienna-colored leaf motif. “I love yellow,” Sternau says. “I would have loved to have a more formal sofa, but we have four cats and a dog and friends prone to spill red wine.”
Another piece dear to Sternau’s heart is an iron plant stand shaped like a spiral staircase that she bought 10 years ago, just after she and her husband had moved into their Waccabac home. “Shortly after we purchased the stand, I had a feng shui consultant come to the house,” Sternau says. “He said the plant stand would help move energy into our home because of its spiral shape.”
A shawl tale
In the 18th and 19th centuries, women from Jean Carrau’s village in France’s Pays Basque didn’t wear white to their weddings. “They wore black, and they covered themselves with special shawls,” says Carrau, co-owner with wife Anita Babikian of Haritz Barne Home Furnishings, which sells European furniture and decorative items, most imported from France. “Black was woven in just for weddings. The wealthier the family, the more black there was.”
One such example, formerly belonging to his maternal grandmother, serves as a striking accessory in the couple’s home, one rife with memories. The oversized cashmere wedding shawl, handmade in 1753, is delicately fringed and patterned with paisleys in deep reds and burgundies swimming in blues, greens, and black. “All the women in my family got married in this shawl,” says Carrau, who came to the United States in 1996.
The wedding shawl is now draped over the arm of an upholstered chair in the ornate master bedroom located on the second floor of the couple’s New Rochelle home. “The shawl belongs in this room,” Carrau says. “Every morning when I wake up I remember my grandmother, and I think of my mother, too.” The memories are important to him “because I am here now, far away from my roots.”
Another item that harks back to those roots is a painting hanging in the living room, a decorative motif of red roses and detailed flourishes. The artist? Jean Carrau.
“It was one of the first paintings I did when I was studying in France,” Carrau says, referring to the years 1981 and 1982, when he was a student of decorative painting at Ecole Blot in Reims. “In 1987, I bought the school.” For four years he ran the institute and taught decorative painting and design, and then sold it in 1991.
In its gold frame, the painting hangs over a French door in a room with paneled walls and other gold-framed artwork. “It fits in with the rest of the room.You can’t miss it when you walk in.”