Five Questions: Owners of Town House Finds + Designs

July 7, 2016

Text by Robert Kiener

townhouse_darienThe owners of Darien’s Town House Finds + Designs explain how they have opened and run a successful shop that offers both home decor and women’s accessories.

1. How have your backgrounds helped you in retail?
Tina Jones: Kate and I were stylists for magazines—I was at Martha Stewart Living—and we developed an eye for design. Home styling and decorating have always been passions of ours.
Kate Simpson: My job as market editor at Domino magazine was to hunt for cool products to feature. That’s where the love of the hunt started for me.
Jennifer Borden: My love of accessories and fashion came from working with Kate Spade, where, as licensing director, I helped develop the company’s partnerships with makers of sunglasses, shoes, stationery, fragrances, and more.

2. What type of items do you look for?
KS: In the beginning, I chose pieces that I would like to live with in my own house. I have come to understand who our customer is and what she wants to buy: one-of-a-kind pieces you won’t see in a friend’s living room.
TJ: We love vintage furniture from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that blends in nicely with modern-day homes. We fall in love with so many pieces we buy. For example, we have this great octagonal, malachite mirror in the store and we will all be sad when it goes!
JB: We marry the high and the low of fashion. You can have the best of the best, but you don’t always have to have the most expensive; a $20 necklace can work great with an expensive piece of jewelry.

3. What is popular now; what is trending?
JB: Jewel-toned furniture items are big now. People are mixing a lot of metals, glass, and chrome. In terms of accessories, fringe—on bags, on tasseled necklaces, and on pillows—has been really big.
KS: Abstract art: it’s a great way to introduce color and offer a unique expression in your house.
TJ: Funky vintage mirrors are popular. People love “puff,” such as chairs with Mongolian fur on them, to add texture to a home. More people are adding layers to their home with items that have strong colors, patterns, or textures.

4. How do you find inventory?
KS: It’s an ongoing hunt. Wherever we travel we keep an eye out for unique pieces. We go to estate sales, antique malls, and flea markets.
JB: We also attend the big trade shows, and I am always looking at magazines and social media. Instagram is an excellent resource for finding amazing things and connecting with craftspeople.
TJ: Twice a year we go to the Brimfield, Massachusetts, market with a U-Haul truck and spend two days scouring football fields full of stuff. We also check out eBay and Etsy and even Craigslist.

5. What has surprised you most about opening a shop, and what advice would you give to some who may want to?
TJ: I was surprised how much work it is! You have to love what you do to do well at it. Be passionate about what you want to sell, because it is really a representation of yourself.
JB: It’s a 24/7 business making sure you have what people want, paying attention to trends, and staying ahead of the competition. Customer service is really important. One of the charms of running a small shop is that customers get to know us and vice versa. When I get something I know a couple of women in town will like, I text them. People appreciate that personal element.
KS: It surprises me how fast inventory turns over. People are always looking for something new and fresh. Regarding advice, I would say trust your vision and go with your tastes and style. If you have good taste, people will come to you.