Caravan’s world view

You never know what you’ll come across at Caravan Curated Home in New Canaan.

Stepping in the front door on a recent morning, we find a giant bronze sculpture in the shape of a Chanel shopping bag, a creation by Jonathan Seliger. Steps away, a corner vignette is anchored by another oversize piece, an elaborately carved wooden door just in from Jaipur. Also within this front room, a custom coffee table by Thomas Throop, a local furniture maker coincidentally profiled in WAG in 2013, adds depth, as do a couple of pineapple sculptures, a vivid green couch and a turquoise tray filled with a grouping of martini glasses.

All are finds gathered by Vanessa Bikindou, Caravan’s Parisian-born owner whose vision guides the shop tucked into one of the town’s winding side streets.

Caravan, which reflects the laid-back elegance of Bikindou herself, is a trove ready to delight those with a love of eclectic elements and an artful approach to mix-and-match décor.

Photograph by Mary Shustack.

On the surface, it is a home furnishings and lifestyle retail store that also provides home décor services. The space, which marked its first anniversary in October, is set up as a collection of fully furnished living areas, the front room yielding to a larger space encompassing bed and bath “rooms,” a kitchen and a wildly eclectic living room complete with an airplane-shaped working bar.

No matter where you look, Caravan is filled with an array of unique objects that gracefully join designs from artisans and vendors whom Bikindou showcases for their emphasis on quality, originality and design.

“Caravan is kind of a concept,” says Bikindou, who draws inspiration from sources around the world.

Throughout, her goal is simple.

“You create an environment of elegance,” she says, but also keep in mind comfort and livability.

How you do it, she says with a smile, is “also kind of a puzzle.” 

And that’s the fun — putting it all together. It’s something that Bikindou clearly delights in helping her clients do.

With extensive experience in interior design, she founded the Caravan company some 10 years ago in Manhattan, where she continues to live with her movie-producer husband.

They arrived in New York when Bikindou, now 38, was in her 20s. 

“That’s it,” she says of her reaction to the city. “I love the place. That’s where I want to be.”

She left behind Paris, where she grew up, went on to study law and became an attorney, a profession that sharpened her organizational skills and appreciation of structure.

The transition to interiors, she says, was a natural one.

“My passion’s always been décor, objects,” she says, adding with a laugh, “At one point, I think the passion took over.”

Now, with a by-appointment showroom in New York, as well as one in New Canaan that complements the Caravan store, Bikindou serves clients in the city, the Hamptons, Connecticut and Westchester.

BROADENING REACH

It was a combination of friends and clients that led her to New Canaan, where she thought her unique approach would find an audience.

“We specialize in one-of-a-kind furniture,” she says, building a look that is “a combination of contemporary and antique, sort of a balance.”

The outlook, she says, is “more international. I also try to reflect a client’s passion in a house and a home, make it feel like it’s their home.”

At Caravan, it’s all about “rotating décors. We change constantly.”

Photograph by Mary Shustack.

It allows her to meet the needs of her varied clients.

“Every project is totally different,” she says. “Each person that comes to me is from a different angle.”

It may range from someone simply stopping by for new pillows to a full house project, as she often works with architects and builders.

From her team to her collaborators, Bikindou stresses it’s important her clients know she has a strong network in place, one she has carefully built.

“It’s like a relationship. You kind of create a kind of ‘zone of comfort,’ trust and knowledge of each other.”

Whether it’s the young families moving up from the city or longtime residents, many of whom have multiple homes, Bikindou’s New Canaan clients do share some traits.

“They’re always kind of traveled, international,” she says. And, she happily notes they often share another key feature — openness.

She welcomes the “open eye,” someone willing to “mix the styles together.”

“I think that’s the fun of it, to feel here you are limitless.”

But, she quickly adds, “of course, it should be cohesive.”

And that’s where she comes in. 

“I think it helps when you can have sort of a visual, ‘This can go with this.’ The visual here is very important. People can see it is possible to adapt something.”

She loves clients who are “open to mixing, like some 18th-century chair with a Moroccan blanket.”

It’s not random, though. It has to have meaning.

“People want to feel their house is personal to them, so they’re more inclined to find a treasure and build a room around it.”

Bikindou is always on the lookout for such treasures, traveling not only to Paris but also throughout the French countryside as well as Italy — a sprinkling of Swedish design is always welcomed, too — sending container after container back home.

So, does a trip to someplace new find Bikindou on the hunt, tracking down antique shops?

“Everywhere. I think it’s a disease. My disease,” she says with a knowing smile.

But that’s what happens when you’re always looking for “something superb.”

To seek out “the beauty,” she says, is so important “in a world like ours now.”

After all, she says, “The idea is to make people happy at the end. The house is very personal. It’s your sanctuary. It is the most important place, after your body, it’s your home.”

QUALITY, ALWAYS

Bikindou says clients appreciate the value of creating an interior with a strong foundation.

“At the end of the day you notice you keep a piece for much longer. It’s good to see furniture as an investment.”

She likens it to a woman having a pair of really good shoes. It sets the tone of quality and style: “After that, you can play.”

And Bikindou is all about the playful spirit. Her research is dedicated if not formal. It is, rather, a fusing of, “so many things like art, films, literature. I think it should be a sort of celebrating of different cultures.”

And that’s clear no matter where you turn in Caravan.

The kitchen area is a showcase of the retro-hued Big Chill collection, while the bath vignette highlights Badeloft products. Photography from Antoine Verglas, Peter Beard and Bonnie Wang hangs throughout.

“I always work with artists who are friends,” Bikindou says, the relationship allowing her to collaborate on offering limited editions of select works.

“We also do art placement for clients,” she adds.

Again, it comes back to building an environment.

“It’s always a question of layers and giving multi- dimensions to a house so that it evolves, like a personality.”

Bikindou continues to expand, recently entering the world of home staging with a New Canaan project, and also collaborated with Hamptons vintner and lifestyle maven Joey Wölffer to create a pop-up store in Palm Beach, Florida.

“It’s all decorated ‘very Caravan,’” Bikindou says of the December project that opened her eyes to another creative avenue.

Back in New Canaan, glancing around the space, one comments on the gaggle of glass bubbles overhead, one of two similarly fanciful lighting creations in restful shades of blue found in the store.

The pieces, Bikindou explains, are made-in-the-USA work created by a Vermont glassblower and can be customized for both size and color.

“It’s endless with possibility,” she says with a smile.

Kind of like Caravan itself.

Caravan Curated Home is at 12 Burtis Ave. in New Canaan. For more, visit caravancuratedhome.com.

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