Westport, a home for sophisticated style
Story and photographs by Mary Shustack
Westport offers an adventure in style, as a recent day spent wandering throughout the downtown that spreads out just beyond the banks of the Saugatuck River proved.
Sure, you’ll find the “big” names here, the stores so familiar to most every shopper these days.
You can’t walk Main Street without seeing, among so many others, J. Crew or Banana Republic, Gap or Ann Taylor, Brooks Brothers or Williams-Sonoma, Coach or West Elm. And the adjacent Post Road East, a more meandering street, is home to Tiffany & Co., Urban Outfitters, Patagonia and Paper Source.
But even big names have a special intimacy in Westport. Jonathan Adler, for example, which has some two-dozen boutiques around the world, has a charmingly vibrant home in the décor store on Main. It’s filled with bold colors, playful designs and a touch that any decorating fanatic would envy. It’s a mix of bold style and delightful humor with a bit of retro thrown in for good measure. Pick up a figurative vase or a travel book on Capri, a Charlie Chaplin-inspired pillow or a chair upholstered in a mod fabric. Each has a signature style, as do the walls, which sport the designer’s quirky encouragements (from “enter our groovy world” to “take tambourine lessons”), while his traditional manifesto near the door – including the line “We believe in irreverent luxury” – is localized to proclaim what seems to be quite true: “We believe that Westport is chic.”
And that is further echoed by those shops that are perhaps less familiar in the broadest sense. They are not often found in this area, an individual shop with a single location or one that’s part of a smaller, regional group.
That is where some of Westport’s fun really begins.
Take Addison Wells, which is dedicated to offering an eclectic mix of designer shoes, bags and accessories in a space reminiscent of a very ladylike shoe salon of an earlier time. But the choices are hardly staid and include Loeffler Randall pumps and Robert Clergerie boots.
“We buy a really wide range of designers,” says manager Ashley Kuehl, mentioning additional brands ranging from Frye to See By Chloë to Jil Sander to Henry Cuir. The last, she shares, is “all handmade in Italy. Besides Barneys, they’re really hard to find.”
With other shops in Nantucket and Sarasota, Fla., Kuehl says travel-savvy Westport residents are a built-in audience for Addison Wells.
“A lot of people do know who we are and have shopped our other locations,” Kuehl says. “Everyone seems to be super excited we are here.”
At Francois du Pont Jewelers, a 35-year-old family business, Noel du Pont says that Westport residents have a wide range of taste, so his shop offers a broad selection of watches, jewelry and small accessories.
“It’s mixed,” he says. “It’s a little of everything.”
That seems to be a running theme here, where lighting at Klaff’s on Post Road East ranges from dramatic chandeliers dripping in crystals to simpler models that would be right at home in a traditional Colonial.
Dovecote, a sweeping store filled with an eclectic mix of furniture, decorative accessories and personal finds ranging from colorful tunics to sweet bracelets, is the place to find a leopard-print pillow or a shapely turquoise vase. There are Asian-inspired cabinets, stately mirrored armoires, brass-and-glass coffee tables and more than a few geodes dotted throughout. It’s a mix that offers yet another moment of signature style, exemplified by a vintage bamboo fan-shaped chair.
Curb appeal continues on the Post Road East, where peacock-themed linens and pillows add a lively air to the window of Fig, a boudoir and bath store, while oversize garden ornaments beckon the shopper into Spruce Home & Garden, set within a distinctive stone building that once served as the town hall.
Inside the calming space, it’s all garden accessories and planters, birdcages and jewelry, scarves and the shop’s new line of soy-based candles and reed and clay diffusers.
One of seven regional shops, Spruce has also launched a collection of cashmere sweaters.
And if it’s clothing, perhaps a bit out of the ordinary, on your shopping list, then amble up the Post Road to Vintage Virtuosa, one of those proverbial “worth-the-trip” destinations. Fashions and accessories from the 1940s through the ’80s offer a stylish walk through recent fashion history.
“Our ’70s is doing really well,” says Amanda Burns, the curator and niece of owner Karen Ellman.
But other eras are also proving popular, she says. “We do see demand for the flapper styles.”
The shop often buys collections. On this day, fashions from a prominent surgeon with homes in Greenwich and on Park Avenue were in the spotlight, from an I. Magnin jacket to an Albert Nipon dress to pieces from Adolfo.
When the items were purchased for the store, Burns says, “It felt like Christmas.”
Her enthusiasm continues as she shows off other fashions, along with shoes, hats, bags, home accents – and what makes them special.
Here, she said, “You see the stories behind (them).”
And that’s also the sensibility of DAVIDsTEA, a charming spot back on Main Street and the ideal way to end a visit to town.
The loose-leaf tea shop, where more than 150 options – from English rose to cocomint cream to licorice twist – are featured, is part of a Canadian chain that’s making its way into America.
“We spend a lot of individual attention to make it less daunting,” says manager Julia Ambrose, before adding with a laugh, “I can find a flavor for anybody, even if they don’t drink tea.”
This is the kind of place where they’ll offer you a sip of the daily featured flavors (recently blueberry jam and cinnamon rooibos chai) and explain the various types of teas, brewing methods and more. You can buy the tea by the ounce, the teapots and accessories, or simply have them brew you a cup, hot or iced, for $3.
Flavors change by season, Ambrose says: “We sort of treat tea like fashion.”
And Westport, she adds, has proven a welcoming home since the shop opened in October.
“The reception’s been wonderful. Westport is a great place and it’s been wonderful for us.”