June 09 2013
Christina Ohly Evans
My recent road trip through the hills of Litchfield County, Connecticut, yielded many fascinating finds, but the best was Pergola, a home and garden store filled to bursting with striking discoveries. These range from mahogany ferns in glazed cachepots ($26) to an unusual dining table fashioned from an antique New England barn door table ($1,975). Owners David Whitman and Peter Stiglin say they are “foragers at heart” and take inspiration from the wild woods. They seek out local artisans and craftsmen from as far afield as Japan, all of whom work with natural materials.
The store sits above New Preston Falls, just two hours from New York City, and its plants and flowers are a refreshing antidote to chaotic urban life. Inside is a uniquely curated collection of objects in a rich variety of materials – driftwood, gilt, burlap, onyx, skulls and vertebrae, feathers and coral – that sits within a botanical wonderland. Flora and fauna are a passion for Whitman and Stiglin. They have “a wonderful network of growers, greenhouses and farmers” from whom they source pairs of potted plants and floral bunches, which are displayed in galvanised sap buckets.
Weaving through the network of rooms is a journey of discovery. Past numerous chests and tables is a counter with a potted Japanese bird’s-nest fern ($68) and a spectacular printed gauze and canvas British Insects artwork by Elizabeth Lucas ($775). I bought some camellia-scented Carrière Frères candles ($48), pretty paper notecards by local artist Stephanie Wargo ($9 each) and sculptural planters by Ben Wolff ($12-$60), but my favourite piece (though I didn’t take it home, sadly) was an antique painted Chinese console ($3,950) made of elm, which was flanked by Akebia-vine armchairs ($295) with sheepskin throws ($135) – draped just so.
Elsewhere, gargoyle fragments have been transformed into lamps ($395), which look amazing with linen shades, but nothing trumps the rusted iron and glass curiosity box filled with dried vines, a small raccoon skull and preserved fungi ($420). Could any other curio better sum up Whitman’s ethos for the shop: “Making connections and nurturing the bond between nature and man”? Surely not.