If a Legend falls in New York- do we hear it?


I am still reeling from the closure of Takashimaya in Manhattan  in 2010.  New York has yet to see anything take it’s place in sophisticated design.  So I cringed when I opened my email this morning to see the announcement on One Kings Lane that Bunny Williams had closed Treillage – the unmistakably, best garden store outside of England.

Some very good designers dabble in retail and find out how difficult it is. They make it beautiful only to realize that they cannot also make it profitable. The sheer amount of energy and time it takes to make something that effects the customer- attacks their senses and imagination- is the same work and determination it takes for a producer to put on a Broadway musical- or a politician to give a Convention key note or a lawyer to make a closing argument, a chef – a sauce. Its not just talent. Its lifting and moving and choosing and selecting and long hours and little help- unless you staff-up and then for sure, you are in the red.- Eventually the ones with money or other choices move on.

But the Buyers always remain- not the customers-and not the collectors- the Buyers- (Kim Faison, Kenny Ball, David Bell, Darrell Dean, Scott Estepp) -those of us who cannot stop seeing any object in a different place- scheming how to get it, move it, restore it and then place it where someone else might see that spark of specialness in it too. Buyers are a unique group of people and John Rosselli and Bunny Williams  are the best. Their vision and taste separately were legend but together they could work a fair or a show with twice the speed and accuracy.

But that is only half of what it takes, because all that buying must eventually be turned into selling. And in these times, selling is the hardest obstacle. The economy is OK but many people no longer enjoy showing off their wealth instead choosing to follow the trend but with a little better quality.  China has learned to make things look good and companies like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn have learned exactly what to have them make and present it to us over and over in all forms of media until we want it- and then they even loan us the money to buy it and you can see it on line – in every color and pattern. If it comes and we don’t like it, our credit card gives us our money back.

But are we in danger of taking unique style and turning it into fast food for the home?

The great stylish people have always masked their hard work putting out to the world that it is effortless.  Because effortless sells.  But it is anything but that. Meryl Streep’s speech in the Devil Wears Prada sums it up in the story of the shabby cerulean blue sweater. But with fashion, the Great Houses will remain although more tenuously each year. But in Home Design- we are losing too many voices. We have supported the third tier stores which seduced us with free shipping and fast turn around and we have relegated the single, unique design stores to museum status. We assume they will always be there because they are so special.

A walk through Takashimaya was a look into the world of what was available around the world to the very best buyers in the the world. Everything from hand creams to cashmere pajamas to steel tables- and the flowers. I sigh every time I think about what it felt to walk through those doors. Even when I had not one dollar- I looked and planned for my next trip. They never spritzed you or offered you a coupon. It was too elegant.

Treillage was like walking into a french courtyard. Everything was good. New mixed with old. Crusty with sleek. Each piece calling you to imagine it at your home. And behind everything was the deft hands of John Rosselli and Bunny Williams along with a cracker jack staff who all had taste. No matter the price tag, you could never be sorry you bought from them. You knew it was in good taste and it gave you a sense of ease.

I was searching for the word that encompasses what they offered that is priceless and should not be forgotten. “Unique” is dangerous because there are some very ugly unique things for sale. Not everything was “Special” because it was just in good taste. You cant fill a house with “Special” and have it turn out right. “Pricey”, “Expensive” – the Design Gods would laugh. Money has nothing to do with taste, they all knew.

Then I landed on it. What makes a good convention speech, a good final argument in a law case, a perfect sauce, a successful musical or a great store?  It’s all in the Edit.  And Treillage was the best edited store of its kind. And that is what we should all be looking for…things that have been edited to the point that they are basic and simple, yet special to the eye in that spot, unique to us and our lives, without a monetary stigma- just priceless in that place and at this time.


Items still available on One Kings Lane.

2 thoughts on “If a Legend falls in New York- do we hear it?

  1. You need more than just a great store. I think the problems is there is a lack of customer service and products that you can find at stores such as HomeGoods and Marshalls. Also, when retailers leave or forget to remove the stickers from the products that say HomeGood on them, it makes you want to never return to that store. I found Takashimaya cold and sterile and waaaay overpriced. Finally, the rents in NY are just ridiculous. I don’t know or understand why anyone would pay the amount of money that they do and end up out of business. I do agree that brick and mortar will eventually be phased out but we only have ourselves to blame. When customers walk in and try on dresses, only to leave and order it online that is tragic. Small businesses are hurting all over the country and again if you shop online, you really can’t make a comment.

  2. I have been in retail for 40 years and I can tell you that the price of real estate is outdistancing the ability of retail to be sustaining. When a great store that you love closes for no apparent reason it is usually because the overhead is just too high for it to make money. In many areas the only stores that can afford the high rents are corporate stores that subsidize their brick and mortar stores with Internet sales. Eventually the brick and mortar will be phased out and that will be the end of traditional retail…owner run stores where somebody actually makes a living from their business. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s the way it looks to me.

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