Jun 10, 2014
12:51 PMStyle & Shopping
Privet House Style Emporium Marks Milestone in Shops at Target Afterglow
Photos by Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times
The sign above the shop in the charming village of New Preston in Litchfield County.
No one needs—let’s say few to avoid so definitive a declaration—any of the gorgeous antique, vintage or artisan-rendered home furnishings, accessories or other aesthetic flourishes arranged very stylishly in rich-feeling, narrative-infused rooms at Privet House in New Preston.
That’s not to say no one has a need for tables and chairs, china or candles, artwork or silverware—rather to suggest that few truly need a collection of antique tobacco jars with decorative qualities enrobing vessels with dark, novelistic, Proustian interiors (below left). Or Burmese spice boxes with similar but more exotic qualities. Or remnants of hotel silver, fine and pure white refugees from the demise of Royal Boch china—or another mirror in silver leaf, a piece of painted furniture with serious presence, a pair of demi-lunde tables or a Modigliani-esque portrait painted by a student of one of Picasso’s wives.
What folks savvy enough to find their way to Privet House—celebrating its one-year anniversary in the tiny but lifestyle-amenity-rich haven of New Preston in Litchfield County—will want is the enrichment that all of these objets d'influence embody.
It’s how they make you feel that you need; the inspiration they will bring to the equation at home through qualities that redefine who you are and how you live.
“It an emotional thing,” says Privet House co-owner Richard Lamberston, a former creative director of Gucci and Bergdorf Goodman who also created the leather-goods design firm Lambertson Truex with his partner, John Truex. “The same goes with interiors as with fashion. Ultimately it’s about how it makes you feel. And your environment is, ultimately, more important than how you dress.”
“If we wouldn’t have it in our own homes, we wouldn’t have it in the shop,” he says in a statement that Privet House’s other co-owner, Suzanne Cassano, dresses down in more casual vernacular: “Basically it’s just stuff you want yourself.”
Ah, but what stuff this is.
In what has been a defining theme, Privet House stocks aristocratic brushes of all varieties, which decorate—like so many functional sculptures—a bijoux room in the rear, atmospherically overlooking a branch of the Aspetuck River.
When entering the shop, one encounters a collection of candles—but not just any candles (below). These seductive and serene scents come from Cire Trudon, the world’s oldest candle maker.
In an upstairs room is a low-slung antique Spanish writing desk, around the corner from a square dining table made of reclaimed wood and trimmed at its edges by metal. Nearby, 18th-century fragments that look like the twisty candles from a child’s birthday cake—though covered in gold leaf—are mounted on Lucite and topped by elegant black shades to become singular lamps.
The shop even has a collection of vintage books in an upstairs room, specially curated along certain themes, such as design, photography and royals. Cassano recounts that Joan Rivers, who not too long ago sold her house on the New Preston side of New Milford, once said she loved the books because they were so trashy and “bitchy.” (Rivers was referring to the biographies.)
Privet House, launched six years ago in nearby and even smaller Warren, had a second shop in Greenwich for five years and rose to national prominence when it was chosen as one of the first style emporiums to translate a top-shelf aesthetic for the national masses through The Shops at Target initiative. Shoppers partial to the big red bull’s-eye suddenly had access to lovely tote bags branded as Privet House designs, along with white dinnerware, colorful bowls, a cheese board, and even a fanciful bird cage that was displayed with books inside.
“It gives you a lot of credibility,” Cassano says of The Shops at Target inclusion. “It remains a calling card.”
There’s currently a calling card of a much different variety at Privet House. It’s the wall of paintings (right) in the front room by Thérèse Debains, who studied with Picasso’s wife Françoise Gilot at L’Academie Ranson.
Cassano and Lambertson acquired the works in the South of France, on one of their many buying trips each year.
As Cassano tells the story, they were at one of the famous French markets where treasures are found, and amid an intense burst to find the best of what was being offered amid a crowd of like-minded buyers, Lambertson spotted the paintings. They bought two portraits from the antiques and art dealer, who then revealed he had many more at his gallery at home in Lyon.
The Privet House partners arranged a visit and came back to New Preston with a trove of narrative portraits by Debains that reflect a Modigliani-like quality, along with some landscapes.
“I love our collection of paintings,” Lamberston says. “They were captivating to me.”
“It’s a little bit different for us,” Cassano says of the commitment to the artworks, and the decision to do a wall of art that commands the attention of anyone entering Privet House. But it has proven to be a brilliant (brush) stroke that has produced a tremendous response.
“The hardest thing is finding things not everybody else has,” says Cassano, and increasingly for Privet House those things will involve items and designs created by and for Lamberston and Cassano. Already, filling a void in the world, the shop carries a selection of its own Privet House cutting boards.
With Lambertson and Truex having revived Lambertson Truex & Company, look for that design aesthetic to translate into a new collection for Privet House. Lamberston says he and Cassano are in the process of “pulling our thoughts together on that.”
There may be accessories like a tote and small leather goods. Whatever emerges, expect it to be so beautiful, and functional, that you’ll have to take it home. Privet House is a destination for that type of experience—and so is New Preston in a larger sense.
While Privet House was the only style-setter in town when it launched in Warren, it’s now surrounded by other shops that exist on an equally lofty level.
“We’re no longer the destination,” says Cassano. “The town is the destination.”
New Preston is special in a lot of ways—having its own splashy waterfall is symbolic of the village’s singular nature—and having a cluster of independently-owned shops where the owners are present on prime shopping days is one of those ways.
That translates into the most fertile concentrated patch of retail ground in Connecticut for urbane sophisticates who treasure everything from fine wine to home furnishings, accessories, men’s and women’s clothes, garden embellishments, all-natural products to take home and render into fine dinners and more.
Lamberston and Cassano first met as neighbors in Sharon. As the story goes, Cassano, a corporate refugee devoted to shopping and collecting, realized that her passion had to become a business. She opened VOL. 1 Antiques in Warren in the fall of 2006.
Lamberston became one of Cassano’s biggest supporters. When a nearby space opened up, Cassano asked Lambertson to consider opening a shop—and the partnership was forged between a minimalist (Cassano) and a maximalist (Lamberston) who together create a perfectly balanced aesthetic.
“When we first started talking about opening Privet House, we felt there really was a need for a shop that felt like an emporium … a place where you could just wander around and always feel an unexpected sense of discovery,” Cassano says.
You can find the results in New Preston, at 13 East Shore Road. The phone number is (860) 868-1800, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the website is privethouse.com. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday through Monday.Privet House Style Emporium Marks Milestone in Shops at Target Afterglow