Shopping for our Lives, Our roots in this neighborhood can be traced through our local purchases
Our roots in this neighborhood can be traced through our local purchases
by Frances Madeson
Moving to a new apartment gave Joseph and me a chance to slough off the worn, dysfunctional, mismatched and patched objects of our former dwellings. Decorating our East River co-op one bedroom apartment, and shopping for those furnishings locally, was one of the important ways we oriented ourselves to our new Lower East Side surroundings. The business owners on Grand Street, Orchard Street and the Bowery offered us our first opportunities for a connection here, and our transactions were pleasant, even reassuring.
Out went the old and in came a custom- built teal mohair sofa ordered from Sheila’s Decorating (68 Orchard Street), a well-established “old-school” vendor where we found both value and dependability. Sheila has been selling to the neighborhood for so long, she already knew the dimensions of our elevators and helped us design a sofa that would fit with ease. We returned to Sheila’s store for additional purchases–a swivel chair for the bedroom covered in softly textured Italian muslin and steel and leather kitchen chairs. She is a woman of strong opinions - when we inquired about some lesser quality fabric we were considering, she was adamant: “I won’t sell it to you. You’re not going to be happy!”
We ordered a custom bedspread from Harry Zarin’s (318 Grand Street) and received expert help in selecting a durable but handsome fabric. Our saleswoman Karen recommended that we have the corners kick-pleated for a tidier fit, and add piping on the edges for a more finished look. As promised, the workmanship was excellent—even stitches, everything tied off, and delivered in pristine condition—the high quality work product of able hands. When I wavered at the extravagance of buying a matching headboard, Karen would have none of it. “Oh, but it’s so much sexier with the headboard!”
From Yien Wong, the soft-spoken owner of The Red Threads (81 Orchard Street) we bought silk throw pillows in colors so muted and rich that they provide daily visual reminders of the values of peace, delicacy, simplicity and harmony in the home. From her neighbor, Debbie Grogan, the “new kid on the block,” the proprietress of Eggplant (88 Orchard Street), we bought dried flower arrangements, vibrantly colored tapered candles, and homemade aromatic sprays–all the little finishing touches that personalize a room while adding a splash of freshness and verve.
All of our lighting fixtures, as well as coffee and console tables, were bought from Light Visions (142 Bowery) and its three sister stores. Working with our salesman Brad was like having an interior designer’s expertise available to us. We’d offer up a few adjectives and with little ado he’d help us select overhead fixtures, swing lamps and torchiers to match every room.
With all the new space, we happily added artwork to our walls. Every time we found a new piece at a gallery, thrift shop or art fair, we brought it to Richie at Amity Studios (377 Grand Street) for suitable quality framing on a budget. Each time, he treated our paintings—and us—like we were framing a Picasso.
With pride and joy, we have just celebrated our three-year anniversary on Grand Street. Building on our positive experiences with local merchants, we are in a new phase now, forming different kinds of links in the chain that binds us to our neighbors.