I have been a professional interior designer since 1964...I am a collector. It’s almost impossible to be in my profession and NOT be a collector! We are surrounded by remarkable textiles (I have a collection), all kinds of accessories (check), art work (check), antiques (check), carpets (check), tribal artifacts (check check), plus furniture and light fixtures which I don’t collect! My husband Peter and I have traveled extensively over the years ( always with one or two empty bags for purchases). It’s a great plan…but, sometimes...you have to buy more bags! Living in a 17 room Queen Anne Victorian helps…or doesn’t help depending on your view. Then there are auctions (yes), private sales (yes), archeologists (yes), and the occasional flea market.
About ten years ago, I was rummaging through the Mexico Room on the third floor where I store all my fabrics and Mexican hand carved masks and I had an epiphany…I have too much stuff! I think it is a injustice to call it “stuff” since almost every piece of fabric in that room is there for a reason. Woven by Dorothy Leibus, designed by Josef Frank, Jack Lenor Larsen, Jim Thompson Thai silks, Scalamandre brocades and tapestries, woven textiles from the great Boris Kroll, printed cottons from Liberty of London, historic prints on linen and cotton from Brunswig and Fils, huge antique paisley shawls from Kashmir, antique American silk and cotton quilts, hand sewn molas from the San Blas Islands, Chinese silk embroidered panels from the early 1900s. The Open House was born that day!
Our Scott & Scott business manager, Susan Leone, came up with the idea of an open house before…and that day in the Mexico Room made me realize that she was right! Before I knew it, we were making plans for a whole new venture! It was a bit overwhelming going through the house and separating out things that would be sold. Labeling took forever, sending out emails and designing and mailing invitations was stressful, selecting shopping bags and printing business cards, set up took three weeks, and deciding how we wanted it to look seemed like an unending task. But there was no problem filling every room with interesting and unusual items - every one with a story.
The opening night finally arrived and we were swamped with buyers! A line of people were waiting at the door and rushed into the different rooms like it was a special sale at Filene’s Basement (a Boston legend)! We were all overwhelmed! Shoppers would walk around with their hands full of items, unwilling to set any of them down for fear they might be picked up by someone else! It was really an exciting night! Weeks after, people would stop me to give their addresses so they could get on the list! The word spread like wildfire and the next year we had even more people! We added two more days. The director of my television program, “The Total Woman” joined us the next year to help unpack, setup, restock, help shoppers and wrap purchases. My friend, Kate Ouderkirk came down from Maine to manage the finances and checkout. On the 7th year of The Open House, my friend Lauren Coombs Labak had some time between jobs to help with the upcoming open house and we began to discuss the possibility of making the open house an internet business. She built this website and set up our Pinterest and Etsy site (where we offer items you can purchase). In just a few months, we were running a brand new business! We called it Open House Boutique.
I believe that every object has a story…the older it is...the longer the story. I strive to find things that have great stories…some of them are told on this website under (oddly enough) “Stories”. If you decide to visit the shop…every item in it has a story too.
Lauren has moved on to a new and exciting job… I will conclude with the words she wrote about OHB when we first started it;
"Every year she sold the pieces she could bear to part with to close friends and family, knowing that the stories she had researched and written for every piece would find a home with someone who would not only appreciate the beauty in the piece, but the considerable history behind the object. This would become the central focus of The Open House. So every year, a lucky few would be able to buy from her collection as well as her handmade bags, runners and extraordinary jewelry.
Her site is her way of sharing with you her outlook on life. Everything has its own history and in coming into possession of an object, you become part of its history. You don’t have to live the Ikea life. Surrounding yourself with objects that have substance is a concept she feels is incredibly important. To look at elements in your home that remind you of a loved one or a time in history is an extraordinary feeling. One that she thinks feeds the soul. She hopes you find something that speaks to you in the shop."