FALLS VILLAGE — To say that Bunny Williams is the doyenne of interior design and a master of good taste is to put it mildly.
During the 30-plus years she has had her eponymous firm, she has changed the face of decorating, how we look at our homes, and how we live. There is practically no one who has not felt her influence, copied her ideas, styled their gardens and homes her using her ideas, and looked to her for inspiration. Indeed she is a one-woman crusader for tasteful, comfortable and creative design that we all want to emulate.
A part-time resident of Falls Village for 40 years, she has nurtured her beloved home and gardens and contributed in countless ways to the development of this quaint New England town. Now she has partnered with Christina van Hengel to create 100 Main — the ultimate shopping experience celebrating local artisans.
“I knew what the building should look like,” explains Williams. “When I first came here it was an active grocery store. The minute the big markets came in it couldn’t survive. Then there was a computer business on one side and hairdresser on the other. The building just got shabbier and shabbier. I kept thinking if the building had a flat roof and a porch with rocking chairs it would look like an old general store.”
By the time Williams’s interest was piqued, the building was owned by the bank.
“The bank people were very nice to me, happy that someone was crazy enough to want to buy the building. I offered less than the asking price and they agreed to it. So we all came out ahead.”
Williams began to speak with people about the concept and wanted to find someone to work with her. Enter Christina van Hengel.
“I met Christina through Abigail Cusick, director of the Little Guild in Cornwall. Ten minutes after meeting her I asked if she wanted to join me in this endeavor. I was thrilled when she said yes.
“I love creating things and having great ideas,” she continues. “When you find someone like Christina who can share your vision, it’s wonderful. And it’s exciting to work with someone younger.”
Van Hengel, who resides in Great Barrington, Mass., started out in wealth management and then helped develop a fashion line called Maiyet that worked with artisans in developing countries. From there she moved into fashion editorial and worked at Harper’s Bazaar.
“When I was introduced to Bunny and listened to her idea for a shop, I was very excited about the prospect of working with artisans locally and having their works displayed in such a beautiful spot,” says van Hengel.
Williams hired contractor Seth Churchill from Salisbury to renovate the building
“I described exactly what I wanted,” says Williams, “and he got it right away. The bones were there; they just had to be returned to their original state. We found a cement floor under the grubby tile and polished it; we preserved the amazing sculptural trusses that support the roof. We used inexpensive wood siding on the walls because it’s durable and flexible for hanging pictures. Seth opened up the front of the building so that I could have my rocking chairs and my porch.”
It was done remarkably fast, with the major work being completed in June.
Finding merchandise was the fun part. Williams and van Hengel started to called people they knew and asked them to “show us their wares. We did online research and visited local craft fairs and markets to cull the best products.”
“We now have about 40 artisans and hope to add two new ones every month,” says Williams. “We have three ceramicists, but they are all quite different. The one glass artist we have is selling like crazy. These artists have a limited capacity for producing their work and it’s all manufactured in the tri-state area.”
“Since the production is limited, having more artisans providing new merchandise will help keep the store alive,” adds van Hengel. “If we sell a dozen glasses, there may not be another dozen right away. So we will constantly be looking for new suppliers.”
There is something for everyone, from the aforementioned glass designer and ceramicists to fine artists, woodworkers, metal sculptors, to craftsmen who create unique hand painted tabletop items, beautifully made tablecloths and napkins, straw baskets — the list seems endless. There is even a line of clothing made of fabric from Ireland.
The selection process is simple — both women have to like the work.
“It’s our taste,” says Williams. “It has to have fine craftsmanship, quality, and some connection to the environment. My taste is very eclectic, but the item has to have a quality we both like and, when needed, beautiful packaging.”
100 Main is opening at the perfect time. There is a new energy in Falls Village. There are new sidewalks and plantings along Main Street; the old town hall is now home to artists’ studios; the local inn is very successful, and the former Methodist church houses both the Falls Village Children’s Theater and the Blue Moon Cafe.
Since 100 Main officially opened on Aug. 9, the response has been amazing. Cars were lined up on Main Street and customers were wandering through the shop, seemingly delighted with what they were seeing — and buying. The shop is open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We will be open year round,” says Williams. “January, February, and March are the months it would be fun to have something extra, perhaps offering classes and having artisans come to teach their skills.”
And knowing Bunny Williams if she sets her mind to it, it will happen.
Find 100 Main on Facebook, and on Twitter @100MainStFallsVillage.