Driving along North Street in backcountry Greenwich, you’ll see one horse farm and gracious home after another.
As you come into the area known as Banksville, you may notice a particularly charming white house. A pair of elegant figurative sculptures and comfortable chairs sporting faux-fur throws dot its porch, these artistic touches flanking a statement-making front door in an unexpected splash of teal-blue.
What you’re seeing isn’t yet another well-appointed residence but rather the exterior of Eclectic Home, veteran interior designer Kimberly Handler’s new home décor and design store.
And be assured, those hints of a stylish approach yield a big payoff once you step inside, as we do on a recent afternoon.
Handler has promoted the store as offering a “vibrant mash-up of vintage and new furniture, accessories and art,” and we have to agree.
Moments after entering, we’re captivated by the, well, eclectic mix of patterns and textures, goods and displays that feature everything from vases to pillows, chairs to books, lamps to mirrors, tables to accent pieces and an array of art both large and small — and yes, even some jewelry.
The setting has proven ideal for Handler, who shares that she “had been thinking about opening a store on and off for years.”
And, she adds, “I like that it looks like a house on the outside,” noting the interior’s footprint allows her to create an array of vignettes that can — and do — often change.
“The store looks totally different today than it did three weeks ago,” Handler says — recapping her first weeks in business, having officially opened in early January.
Eclectic Home offers her, she says, a different approach than her work through Kimberly Handler Designs does.
“Everything you bring into a room has a purpose,” she says of the balance she always strives to create in her residential projects.
Here, it’s a bit more, as she says, “fun” — a vibrant explosion of sensory experiences, from bold fabrics to unusual textures, intriguing art to unique interpretations of classics.
“Opening a store has been a good learning lesson for me,” she says.
And a bit later will add, “It’s kind of fun for my creative side, constantly moving stuff” — before adding with a laugh — “I don’t know if it’s OCD or what.”
Handler, a Greenwich-based interior designer with nearly 20 years’ experience — her design studio is just down the road — is fulfilling her dream of bringing her design expertise to a wider audience with this retail venture.
By design, it’s a showcase of hand-selected vintage, modern and one-of-a-kind home furnishings, accessories and art.
The location was both perfect — and familiar.
“I live in Greenwich and ride horses in Bedford,” she says.
Handler, who grew up outside of Princeton, New Jersey, and went on to college at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, eventually got her start in the world of interior design. Following her studies at New York School of Interior Design, she worked for a Manhattan-based design firm before she launched her eponymous company in 2003. In her company, she focuses on residential design, renovation and new construction.
Her approach is bold, an assured blending of the traditional look often favored on the East Coast with the relaxed feel of California living. It’s no surprise, since she and her family lived for a time in Malibu, where they still maintain a home.
“To me, it’s the most interesting mix of people, from one end of the spectrum to the other,” she says of the beach community. She loves both the lifestyle — and its enduring influence on her work.
“We go out as much as we possibly can.”
A WHIRLWIND START
For Handler, Eclectic Home may have been in mind for ages but was quick in coming to life.
“When I decide I’m going to do something, I normally rip the Band-Aid pretty quickly,” noting she decided to go ahead with the shop in November, officially opening Jan. 7.
It sounds like an impossible feat.
“This is what I do,” she said, noting she relied on her long-cultivated network of vendors and a test run before the holidays.
It’s proven to be the perfect complement to her design work, she adds.
“I think I was looking for a creative outlet, (a) way to pull together things that I love.”
And often those things have local ties, from the handcrafted table created in Brooklyn to bold photography from Fairfield County’s Allyson Monson to signature artwork from Kerri Rosenthal, who has a flagship shop in Westport. (Both familiar to WAG readers from past features). The remainder of her inventory is a mix of design favorites, such as sassy home goods from Jonathan Adler (see story on page 64), to vintage finds and antiques. The latter Handler sources on buying trips that range from upstate New York to Vermont but, she adds, “Wherever I am, I’m looking.”
“I think there’s nothing better than going and finding a treasure,” she says. Often, she will repurpose those finds to create a modern piece — the perfect example, a grouping of traditional Queen Anne chairs made new by her revamp featuring black-and-white Loro Piana fabric and vivid green lacquer.
While she expects to have customers ranging from someone searching for a home accent to those looking for a stylish gift, Handler also is looking to become a resource for other designers. To that end, she offers a trade discount and the chance to source items for their projects on approval.
As she looks around her new surroundings, Handler says she finds her new location ideal, expecting to draw customers from not only Greenwich and Bedford but also Armonk, Chappaqua and beyond.
After all, she says, “I will drive to a store that I like.”
And she hopes Eclectic Home becomes such a destination.