Shopping Sconset Square in Westport, Connecticut

Tucked behind the storefronts of Westport’s bustling Post Road, Sconset Square puts unique design destinations within a few steps of each other.

Text by Debra Silber Photography by Laura Moss

Sconset SquareThere are certain steps worth following to ensure a well-designed home: find yourself a great designer who shares your vision, build a foundation of impeccable furniture, and then add surprise and delight with exquisite accessories. Sconset Square, a neat package of five design destinations tucked alongside the Post Road in Westport, has the potential to turn all of those steps into one very short walk.

Design has been part of this small square since Manhattan transplant Wende Cohen opened her bazaar-like shop, Bungalow, here twenty-one years ago. But this past year, with the addition of Sue Appleton-Webster’s midcentury goldmine, Swoon, and designer Kerri Rosenthal’s Concept Gallery, the site achieved critical design mass. Its reputation now firm, the square recently welcomed Bespoke Designs, a couture invitation and stationery studio whose custom-designed products include linens, china, and other home accessories.

With each of the shops focusing on a different design niche, the square’s business owners describe an atmosphere of support rather than competition. “At Sconset, everyone stays in their own lane,” says Cohen, emphasizing the distinct perspective each brings to the marketplace.

At the top of the square, HB Home showcases carefully curated pieces that project contemporary sophistication. Partners Patricia Healing and Daniel Barsanti provide full interior design services to a roster of A-list clients, but the pair’s unique furnishings draw plenty of fellow designers as well. With a focus on larger statement pieces and a few accessories, the Westport store has a slightly more relaxed vibe than HB’s locations in New York City and Greenwich. Pieces on display—from a table featuring a live-edge slab encased in acrylic to lamps with rugged concrete bases—showcase texture rather than fussy details. “We both see things very simplistically,” Barsanti says. “When something is ornate, we like it to have a statement behind it.” While much of the store’s stock is one-of-a-kind items, the owners tend to settle on a select silhouette for their upholstered pieces, updating that collection periodically. After you’ve run your fingers along the faux-fur covering on a pair of armchairs, take a minute to browse the lineup of HB Luxe custom fabrics that are printed in Brooklyn on imported Belgian linen.

If there’s any shop that requires a second look—and possibly a third and a fourth—it’s Bungalow. At least three times a year, Cohen upends (or so it would seem) a shipping container full of finds from European markets into her narrow shop. Failing to take that second look means you might miss that the black-and-white frame of an imposing mirror is composed of porcupine quills, or that the delicately etched surface under that candle belongs to an African rain drum. “People say they have to do laps,” says Heather Desmond, who like the rest of the staff is eager to help visitors locate exactly what they’re looking for—or just as likely, something they never dreamed of owning. The store specializes in natural and cultural artifacts, exemplified on this particular day by the African currency bracelets, Moroccan tent poles, and Indonesian oars on display. Not all of Bungalow’s offerings come from across the globe, however. Tucked in among the exotic are locally crafted jewelry, scarves, and other personal accessories, including an impressive selection of reading glasses. It seems the shop, whose worldwide wares demand a closer look, has gained a following among those who take that second look seriously.

In May 2012, the square’s future as a design hub got a boost when designer Susan Anderson opened White Birch Studio in the corner formed by HB Home and Bungalow. Anderson offers contemporary lighting, furniture, and tabletop accessories along with design services. Her fabric gallery boasts a lineup that includes Thibaut, Holly Hunt, Kravet, and Designers Guild. Stop in for a custom pillow or a complete home concept. “We like to say no project is too big or too small,” says manager Eric Simmons. Just inside the door you get your first hint at a design selection that’s a bit daring: a spiky Lindsey Adelman–inspired chandelier meets a voluptuous, vellum-covered chest by Julian Chichester.

Expect a new experience with each visit to The Concept Gallery, located diagonally across the square from White Birch Studio. Designer/artist Kerri Rosenthal opened the shop in September with a plan to switch the design focus five times a year, each new concept highlighting eight of the forty patterns in her XOKR line. The featured patterns make their appearance throughout the store on pillows, wallpaper, comfy floor cushions, and custom upholstered furniture. “The common denominator is that it always has a joie de vivre, a happy sensibility, to it,” says Rosenthal, who stocks the shop with all manner of accoutrements, from perfume to clothing to candles.

Midcentury goes glam next door at Swoon, where Appleton-Webster offers a carefully selected cache of vintage furniture, lighting, and decor. Expect bar carts of chrome and glass, brass accents, and animal prints in muted colors, with the occasional anachronism—a nineteenth-century clock, perhaps—snuck in as if it belongs. And of course it does. Appleton-Webster doesn’t think twice about bending the rules for a great look; she routinely refinishes or rebuilds tired pieces whose virtues have been obscured by worn frames or dated upholstery. A recent visit turned up a settee smartly dressed in gray-and-white zebra print, a wooden console table glossed up with lacquer, and a black metal chandelier recast in white. “It’s a fresh way of looking at vintage,” she explains. About 90 percent of the shop’s wares are one-of-a-kind, making each find at Swoon a fleeting opportunity.

Down the Road a Piece
To say Westport’s design trade is confined to a single square would be a disservice to the many shops and showrooms located a short drive—or in some cases, a manageable walk—away. A stroll of less than a block brings you to Dovecote (56 Post Road East) and its wide selection of eclectic furniture, antiques and accessories, creative lighting, and jewelry. Just next door, Fig Linens (66 Post Road East) is a snug shop filled with alpaca throws, comfy pillows, bedding, and fine linens. Leave the Post Road and head north on Main Street about a quarter mile to reach the showroom of Gilles Clement Designs (181 Main St.), where you’ll find a glamorous collection of designer furniture, lighting, and accessories. If your taste tends more toward tranquil, stay on the Post Road and cross the Saugatuck River to the Mar Silver Design Lab (14 Post Road West, by appointment only) for an array of textiles and decorative objects that reflect the designer’s signature neutral palette. Proceed a bit further and make a left to arrive at Circa Antiques (11 Riverside Ave.). Despite the name, Circa is less a traditional antique shop than a source of custom furniture and European lighting by Astele, and base camp for Natalie Dunagan’s home staging service. If there’s a kitchen or bath remodel in your future, you’ll want to bring your checklist to Karen Berkemeyer Home (175 Post Road East) for a fine selection of countertops, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, and tile. Sun worshippers and other optimists will discover much to their liking a bit further up the Post Road at Bel Mondo (222 Post Road East), where Heidi Lyme Thrun offers design services as well as a breezy assortment of furniture, giftware, and accessories in summer whites and tropical blues. •

The Details:
Bungalow, 4 Sconset Square, (203) 227-4406,
bungalowdecor.com
HB Home, 1 Sconset Square, (203) 226-8777, hbhome.com
Swoon, 9 Sconset Square, (203) 557-0997, swoonwestport.com
The Concept Gallery, 10 Sconset Square, (203) 557-6800, kerrirosenthal.com
White Birch Studio, 3 Sconset Square, (203) 557-9137, whitebirchstudio.com

Keeping Up Your Strength
With painted penguins frolicking on the foyer walls and a dining room done up in bright orange and blue,
Le Penguin at 7 Sconset Square (lepenguinbistro.com) is a cheerful bistro that offers French classics, fresh salads, and local farm-to-table entrees along with a discerning wine list to fuel that pending design decision. If your mood (or time constraints) demands coffee rather than Chardonnay, a short walk around the back of the square to Church Lane brings you to The SoNo Baking Company (sonobaking.com). Step up to the counter for made-to-order omelets, soups, salads, and panini, or cut to the chase and choose from among the beguiling options in the pastry case.

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