Monday, July 14, 2014

Eleish Van Breems

I recently had the pleasure of spending a day with one of my personal design icons, interior designer and antiques dealer Edie van Breems. Edie and her business partner Rhonda Eleish are the founders of Eleish Van Breems and the authors of three of my favorite design books, Swedish Interiors, Swedish Country Interiors, and Reflections on Swedish Interiors.

Edie spent the morning talking with me about her work and how Eleish Van Breems has evolved and grown since she and Rhonda began working together in 1998. Childhood friends, they followed different paths after school, but working together was always on the horizon and when the right moment presented itself, they seized it. A mutual interest in design, a shared heritage with family connections in Sweden, and an affinity for the look and lifestyle made Scandinavia their focus.

Edie gave me a tour of her beautiful house, part of which functions as a showroom for antiques and as the office for her interior design business.

Long known for their selection of fine Scandinavian antiques and home accessories, Eleish Van Breems is now importing a range of beautiful Swedish reproductions. The furniture is crafted in Sweden and includes pieces in a variety of styles from different historical periods. The pair have recently collaborated with Farrow and Ball to offer finishes from F&B's incomparable line of paints. The partnership came about as Edie and Rhonda searched for a manufacturer of high-quality paint whose colors were consistently true to samples.

A basic tenant of Swedish life is maintaining a balance with nature and these pieces are produced with a focus on sustainability and using environmentally friendly materials. Painted by a talented team of artisans in Connecticut, the finishes are rich and durable. Edie showed me a few new arrivals and recent finish samples.

After enjoying an exquisite lunch prepared by Edie in her light-filled kitchen, I pulled out my dog-eared copies of all three of the Eleish Van Breems books and, in true design geek fashion, made Edie sign each one. She was very good natured about it.

Then we hit the road. Our first stop was the Farrow and Ball shop in Westport, Connecticut. Overseen by the charming and dapper Gardner Stevens, the shop has some pieces from the Eleish Van Breems reproduction line painted in colors one would not normally associate with Swedish interiors.

This ”¶stermalm chair is painted a deep aubergine - a non-traditional finish color that offers a modern interpretation of historic Scandinavian design and shows how the pieces can work in contemporary interiors of any style.

From there we went to Lilian August in Norwalk, Connecticut where Eleish Van Breems has an in-store boutique showcasing a selection of their Swedish and Scandinavian antiques and decorative accessories.

At the end of the day Rhoda met us for a cup of tea, and she and Edie talked about the inception of Eleish Van Breems and how, from the beginning, educating the buyer was a priority. A client took home not just a piece of antique furniture, but knowledge of Swedish history, regional styles and folk culture, of stylistic decoration, traditional color palettes and the minerals used to create them. The combination of soulful antiques in the light, uncluttered, elegant Scandinavian aesthetic they championed was irresistible. Rhonda explained that the Swedish principle of functionality in furniture design is why the pieces remain relevant in contemporary interiors.

Today, Eleish Van Breems continues to inspire, demonstrating how the tenants of Swedish style can be interpreted to suit anyone's personal taste. Edie and Rhonda are such a dynamic pair, and clearly so passionate about what they do, it is easy to see why Eleish Van Breems has met with such success and created a devoted following.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Antiquarian's Garden

I spent a few days last month travelling through Connecticut and was fortunate that my trip coincided with the Garden Conservancy's Open Day in Litchfield County. I cannot sing the praises of the Garden Conservancy loud enough; through it I have gained entry into private gardens I have previously only seen in books or magazines, and never imagined exploring in person. In case you missed it, last week I shared photos of Bunny William's garden at Tone on Tone (we are giving away a signed copy of her book on July 8th so stop by if you haven't already) and today I am sharing another - very different but equally inspiring garden - antique dealer Michael Trapp's in West Cornwall, Connecticut.

Tucked behind his shop, the garden is laid out over a series of terraces above a river. Michael's unique style is evident wherever your eye falls; salvaged building materials and re-purposed artifacts give the garden a 'lost in time' quality.

Stone steps lead to the pool and grotto on a lower level:

A small terrace offers a beautiful vantage point over the pool:

One of two studios on the property:

After having visited a variety of gardens, of different styles and sizes, I have arrived at the conclusion that every garden possesses a degree of magic and surely the source is the spirit of the person who looked at an uncultivated plot of land saw in it exactly what was possible.

For information on joining the Garden Conservancy visit their website. Open Days continue across the country through November 1st.