Two designers creating a roadmap to a simpler more fulfilling lifestyle
Saturday, November 7, 2015
MERCHANDISING THROUGH LIFESTYLE VIGNETTES
A VERY PERSONAL RETAIL HISTORY
Neither Rick nor I were ever schooled in merchandising. We came to being merchants and retailers on a whim and a prayer. It was a situation of jumping in and then sinking or learning how to swim real fast. Brooke Alderson, our neighbor in a small village in the Upper Catskills where we had a second home, had opened a little shop in the late nineties with tons of quirky charm. Brooke had opened her shop in half century old building that had originally been a feed and grain store and most recently a lawnmower and small tractor shop. Brooke shared the building with another merchant but it was an oil and water situation. What Brooke brought to this little hamlet was a new vitality and sense of pride that had been absent for decades. Once the woman sharing the other half of the old mercantile building decided she didn't want to return for the following season it looked as if the small spark of growth Brooke had brought might be blown out. Living right in the village we had taken to making daily trips to the new social hub of the village perusing the funky painted furniture, oilcloth brought in from Mexico, the counter filled with penny candy and the incredible entertaining conversation under the savvy direction of Brooke.
At the end of the season Brooke phoned us in desperation asking if we knew anyone who might want to take over the soon to be vacant half of the building. We were flea market and antique junkies with a cellar full of collectables. We looked at each other and within that conversation and without hesitation said, "We'll do it". Completely inexperienced in opening a shop we were winging it and wing it we did.
We opened Mercantile the following season with a look we neither researched nor planned. It was intuitive to display our mix of vintage and new in a way that let our customers see how they could fit our sense of design into their homes. We staged vignettes of beds made up with vintage linens and dining tables set with dinnerware and flowers. It was the way we saw things and somehow it seemed to work and it worked for almost a decade.
When we moved to Madison we carried the idea of creating settings that were more home than store into our new venture into the world of retail with our little jewel of a shop, Pleasant Living.
Since the store was so small, interior real estate made for tinier vignettes but we always felt providing a vision of how a piece of furniture could be used or how a table could be set were a way to show off our wares and help customers see our vision.
There's now a store in New York that has taken this idea of blurring the lines between home and shop to the extreme. It's called The Apartment and is the brainchild of fashion stylists Vanessa Train and Morgan Wendelborn.
The Apartment is on the third floor of a flatiron building in Soho. This is their second venture following their first Apartment in Los Angeles.
There's a bit of voyeurism in walking into The Apartment. The feeling that some one might pop out of the shower wrapped in a towel and saying, "Who the hell are you" rests at the back of your head the minute you walk in the door.
The Apartment is set up as an apartment with everything for sale from the clothes in the closet to the knives in the flatware drawer.
The only thing missing are the leftovers from last nights dinner showing up wrapped in Saran on a shelf in the frig.
You can walk from room to room opening up drawers and rummaging through closets finding lingerie, fine art photography, beauty produces and an array of designer furniture and home accessories.
The Apartment is open Tuesday through Saturday noon to six and by appointment. It's worth a trip to another one of Manhattan's little secret finds. THE GALLERY
Untitled Film Still #2, 1977
Cindy Sherman, photographer
Represented by Gagosian Gallery