MIX­ING IT UP

OLD AND NEW, CLEAN AND RUS­TIC: FUR­NISH­INGS PRO PLAYS UP CON­TRASTS

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style - By Rose­marie T. An­ner

Kim Car­avella says she has a “fire in the belly.”

“I’m pas­sion­ate. I want to know ev­ery­thing, do ev­ery­thing,” she de­clares. “I want my in­te­rior de­signs to be the best that I can make them.”

We’re in her of­fice nook at the back of her re­cently opened bou­tique, Habi­tat Green­wich, in Cos Cob. She slides her swivel chair back and forth, for­wards and back­wards as she talks ex­cit­edly about her re­lent­less pur­suit for per­fec­tion. Her hands wave in the air like the wings of a spar­row flut­ter­ing at a bird feeder. She wants pieces that are beau­ti­ful, func­tional and so dif­fer­ent that ev­ery­one would want them in their own home. Car­avella goes far be­yond choos­ing be­tween Dec­o­ra­tor’s White and Dove White for the walls in your kitchen.

Take the “Gabrielle” chair in one of the shop’s win­dows. When she couldn’t find a “host­ess” chair she liked, she de­signed her own. The chair has del­i­cately splayed back legs on a sub­tle gray base, blue-on-white fab­ric from a tex­tile ar­ti­san in Brook­lyn, and util­i­tar­ian up­hol­sterer’s tacks in lieu of gimp. She fussed over that chair “down to an eighth of an inch,” like a bride check­ing her ap­pear­ance be­fore walk­ing down the aisle. You will need more than a few min­utes to ap­pre­ci­ate the chair and its un­usual com­pan­ions: a pa­pier mâché ta­ble, washed blue pot­tery, lux­u­ri­ous throws, a mas­sive pen­dant lamp of cloth and bam­boo, and a pouf fab­ri­cated from jute.

A sim­i­lar di­chotomy plays out is a sec­ond win­dow dis­play where Ti­betan leather mar­ket bags strike strong mas­cu­line notes against the fem­i­nin­ity of a Bird of Par­adise plant fab­ri­cated com­pletely out of cloth. Car­avelle's aes­thetic is also ev­i­dent in the pow­der room, which she loves to show off to vis­i­tors. A dou­ble soap­stone sink that speaks of a coun­try home comes to life be­neath a posh pen­dant light made from open-weave black wicker that casts spi­der-web de­signs on ceil­ing and walls.

Work­ing from the ground up is Car­avella’s style. She stud­ied and worked with masters in the field. She did cur­tains and drapes for Win­dow Treat­ments in Darien, and build/de­sign with Brooks & Or­rick and Mitchell Stu­dio in Green­wich, scour­ing ev­ery de­tail of a pro­ject from sketch to in­cep­tion. To­day, she brings all that she learned on the job, and all that she dreams of into her show­room, to big and small projects for her clients.

Start with the lay­out of the floor in her of­fice which she shares with her part­ner, Nicole Gan­non. The end-cut oak tiles are so out-of-the-box beau­ti­ful that the de­sign in­vari­ably draws ex­cla­ma­tions from shop­pers of “I want that.” In fact, those three words seem to be the mantra of this bou­tique.

There’s lots of aged pieces ca­vort­ing with the con­tem­po­rary here: an old three-legged ta­ble from Wales, its top sport­ing a crater in its cen­ter prob­a­bly caused by can­dles that burned the night away; a white lamp whose base looks like an ex­ag­ger­ated ar­ti­choke; a pair of dec­o­ra­tive antlers serv­ing no other pur­pose per­haps other than to jazz up seden­tary book­shelves; a long open-front con­sole to show off art­work on top while di­vert­ing the eye away the ra­di­a­tor it hov­ers over; a small bureau in pur­ple for an up­dated whim­si­cal look; and lots of gray, blackand-white pil­lows with oc­ca­sional splashes of blue or green. There are host­ess gifts ga­lore, from books, scented soaps and can­dles to jew­elry, framed art work and vases.

“Each item at its essence speaks to my taste, spirit and vi­sion to im­part warmth and beauty through de­sign into the lives of oth­ers,” says this petite dy­namo. She wants her shop to be a fun ex­pe­ri­ence, with mu­sic play­ing and the space scented with sub­tle fra­grance.

“I don’t like to do things that’s not to per­fec­tion,” she states em­phat­i­cally and then she tells the story of how when she was 5 years old, she was de­ter­mined to learn to ride a bike. So she climbed up on the seat and ped­aled away. No go­ing down like a pin in a bowl­ing al­ley. De­ter­mi­na­tion and per­sis­tence is the story line of her ca­reer. It is a tra­jec­tory that took her to that win­dow de­sign shop when she was just 19 where she learned about jabots and swags, how deep a hem of a cur­tain should be, when to use cloth-cov­ered chain at the bot­tom of sheers. She was still in de­sign school, load­ing on an­other job as a wait­ress. In five short years, she had saved enough money to buy a house in New Canaan. That’s drive.

Habi­tat Green­wich sits snugly in a bank of re­tail shops sand­wiched be­tween the fire­house and Cos Cob School. Within that strip is her hus­band Randy’s Wines and Spir­its. Just a few steps fur­ther and you’re into high-end fish, meat and cheese shops, as well as gelato and juice sta­tions. And other in­te­rior de­sign­ers who she views as col­leagues.

“It’s like a mini Brook­lyn,” ex­claims a happy Kim Car­avella. And then she turns se­ri­ous.

“I be­lieve in time­less de­sign,” says Car­avella. “I love re­ally clean lines mixed with or­ganic nat­u­ral tex­tured shapes, a mix of old world and new world. I love mix­ing vin­tage pieces and nat­u­ral tex­tures with mod­ern pieces and el­e­ments. They all come alive and dance splen­didly with one an­other.” Habi­tat is at 234 E. Put­nam Ave. in the Cos Cob sec­tion of Green­wich.

Rose­marie T. An­ner is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Sun­day Arts & Style.

“I LOVE RE­ALLY CLEAN LINES MIXED WITH OR­GANIC NAT­U­RAL TEX­TURED SHAPES, A MIX OF OLD WORLD AND NEW WORLD.”

Con­trib­uted photo

Habi­tat Green­wich has joined a Cos Cob neigh­bor­hood the owner com­pares to a “mini-Brook­lyn.”

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