Design Talk by MV article no. 4 - Retail Neighborliness

One thing I’ve always held true is that, as much love as I have for the things around me and as much joy as they may give me, they’re still things. It’s just stuff. I don’t attribute preciousness to, or feel unnecessarily protective of, the objects in my life. I carry incredibly valuable things at the store, but I’ve always wanted people to experience those things. I want to open them up to people, to share them, to make space for tactile relationships. The same goes for the items in my home.

For years and years I’ve accumulated complete sets of mismatched china, glasses, silver, and napkins, selecting a common element that is incorporated into all the pieces. I’ve been collecting turquoise and blue wine glasses, and I buy anywhere from one to six of a style that I like; that characteristic color stays true for the whole “collection” even though the styles differ. They’re old, new, from the flea market, gallery pieces, travel finds, and from local shops; they make up a constantly changing, aesthetically related collection of glasses. It’s not only that the eclecticism is fun and reflects my personality; it’s also pragmatic! If one glass breaks, the set won’t seem imbalanced. I have the freedom to fill its spot with another glass, from another place, with another story.

This eclecticism is part of my personal beauty. I want to liberate my customers with that ideal, and transfer creative courage to them through the eclecticism of my shop. The wonderful thing is, once you’ve found comfort in the unconventional, in the mismatched, in the aesthetically diverse, it’s all the more comfortable to recognize that your taste is going to change over time. Life is long, and we have so much stimulation now than we’ve ever had before. We don’t need to box in our aesthetic identity; rather, we can enjoy the opportunity to go and explore and evolve, to bring new things into our lives, and to appreciate the evolution of our creativity.

With this ethos in mind, I curate my shop to be a cornucopia of curio, and to function as a springboard for people’s own curatorial visions and aesthetic self-expression.

People carry things away from the storefront and combine them with their own curio, décor, or art, all in different ways than I’d ever have presented them. In a beautiful transference of creativity, this forges their story, paints their character, and contributes to their own environment of comfort.

Outside the home, that “environment of comfort” is really important as a business owner. In the name of hospitality, I approach customer service the same way I throw a party: I work my a** off to make sure things are ready for my guests to enjoy themselves, and once the first person steps through the door, I wipe my hands of the prep work and I’m right in the festivities with them, turquoise glass in hand. In my home, my guests have free rein. They can help themselves. They know where the food and booze are, so the party’s in their hands to enjoy. In my shop, I want people to enjoy their experience the same way. My team and I put a ton of hard work into the store for our guests to experience and discover things for themselves. We’ve made room for self-guided exploration, but we’re always in earshot.

As a business owner, a conscious aesthetics of hospitality is crucial to establishing relationships with your customers. All of these considerations, both visual and behavioral, are part of that, and lend to an environment that titillates, inspires, bemuses, tickles, and, most important, is comfortable and easy to enjoy.

I’ll close out by saying that as much as I love celebrating my customers by throwing parties in the store, I’ve yet to do a big sit-down dinner. The dinner table, as that fabled instrument of unification, feels like the next step in bringing together my loved ones and new friends alike. I can feel it coming down the pipeline! Comment below if you want to be added to the invite list. I’d love to host you.



As told to Emily R. Pellerin



Hi Michele,

Having enjoyed your store and aesthetic for I don’t know how many years, I would love to be added to your list of dinner guests!

Best regards,
Brenda Pilon

Oct 17, 2017

Abigail Broome Jenkins:

When we bought our place on Broome St years ago, and fell in love with the craftsmanship and creativity of BDDW. One day, leaving there, we wandered down the then desolate feeling Crosby to find your magical world. Just walking in to your space makes me want to pull out my sewing machine or water colors and create beautiful things… or re-do my entire home.

Would love to formally invite you all to our costume Barnoween party here at our farm in Jamestown RI. I think a crew is coming from BDDW/M.Crow. Dress as a musician, any era, any genre. Let me know your “song” if you’d like to perform karaoke!

Oct 12, 2017

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