Vol. LXIII, No. 22
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
ITALIAN-STYLE: I love introducing people to new things. Its the most interesting part of the work to me, and it all started with meeting these artisans who are so passionate about what they do. And, I love Italy and enjoy introducing people to the work of these Italian artisans. Greg Evans, owner of Tuscan Hills, stands behind a display of an Arte Italia 3-piece cannister set, serving platter, pasta bowl with pewter rim, and a wonderful summer pitcher from Vivant.
Tuscan Hills is a treasure trove of artisanal craftsmanship in a sea of mass production, said an ASID-certified interior designer recently.
Indeed. This very special store features handcrafted furniture and home accessories from Italy (mostly Tuscany, Umbria, and the Lake Como region) and from many artisans whose work is exclusive to Tuscan Hills in the U.S.
Recently moved to a new location at 4438 Route 27 (Main Street) in Kingston, the store was originally opened in 2003 on Nassau Street.
Space was the number one reason to move, says Greg Evans, co-owner with his wife Suzanne. We werent able to show much furniture in our other location, and we focused more on gifts and accessories. Now, we can display a lot more furniture, and we are distributors in the U.S. for all of my furniture lines. You wont find the pieces anywhere else. I sought out small business artisans who can work with us exclusively.
Mr. Evans loves Italy! He wants to bring the creations of these talented artisans to the attention of more people in the U.S. Even while working in management counseling for 13 years prior to opening Tuscan Hills, he hoped eventually to have such a showroom.
My wife, Suzanne, and I wanted to figure out how some day we could work with Italian artisans, he explains. I had first gone to Italy with my parents when I was 14 or 15, but it was only for two nights we were on the way to Kenya. I went back in 1991 on vacation, and rented a villa in Tuscany. I absolutely had the best time, and by chance, met a couple of artisans. So the seed was planted.
He and his wife began looking for locations to open a store, and as he reports, We went to Italy every year to scout out artisans. We started out looking at ceramics, then we had the fabric component, then the iron component (furniture). We first opened with seven or eight lines, and we now have 25 to 30 lines.
The furniture, accessories, and gifts are displayed in a wonderful, spacious showroom, with items invitingly arranged and appealing to browsers and buyers alike.
Dining tables, chairs, bedroom furniture, lighting fixtures (intriguing lamps and chandeliers), linens, throw pillows, table top items, ceramics, crystal barware, terra cotta planters, framed artwork, alabaster, cutlery, and gifts for every occasion are among the choices.
Furniture includes Italian walnut, oak, ash, and iron, and as Mr. Evans points out: Italians are known for their innovative design and the use of wrought iron and wood.
People typically like to come in for the dining room tables and chairs, he adds. Possibilities include an iron table and chairs, an antique wooden bench from the 1800s, and a large rustic ash farm table. There is also a wonderful handcrafted expandable roll-top dining table, which will extend to more than eight feet from a closed position of five feet. From the Romano dal Canto Workshop in Ponsacco, it is made of ash, and is accompanied by side chairs with iron.
Mr. Evans has added a very nice touch with small signature write-ups about many of the pieces, including information on the origin, artisan, etc. I like all things different and unique, he says. I like to understand the story behind the piece and who made it.
Mr. Evans also wanted to introduce more contemporary pieces into the new store. Several items, such as a chest of drawers painted silvery white and an iron bed with a contemporary design, are examples. There is also a chest of drawers, which offers a classic look, but with modern accent and hardware, creating an interesting blend of traditional and modern.
If customers are looking for gifts and accessories, Tuscan Hills can accommodate, and its signature gift bags are gorgeous. Ceramics and linens are very popular, reports Mr. Evans, and the beautiful Majolica ceramics are always in demand. U Grazia Majolica is the 13th oldest continually operating company in the world, he adds.
The famous Busatti linens are lovely, exquisitely made, and include table and kitchen linens, towels, aprons, and an attractive double place mat, among many others.
Also special is the extraordinary cashmere from Rani Arabella, including buttery soft throws in assorted colors and designs. This cashmere is from goats in the Mongolian Mountains, explains Mr. Evans. Because it is so cold, the goats have very thick outer coats, but the undercoat is wonderfully soft. So they comb out the undercoat for the cashmere. This is unique cashmere.
In addition, there are gorgeous throw pillows, colorful art glass, jewelry, wonderful salad servers, and a new addition, rugs. Beautifully-packaged bar soap is a welcome hostess gift, as is one of the charming bud vases. A selection of childrens items includes bowl, plate, cup, placemat, and napkin featuring fun designs.
Several companies do custom designs, says Mr. Evans. There are plates and platters with initials, which are great for wedding gifts. We also have fabrics with monograms.
Prices cover a wide spectrum, with bar soap from $7 and many gifts in the $30 to $40 range. Furniture is also in a variety of price points.
Customers are coming from all over the area, he reports. Were even getting people from Princeton who had never come to the other store. Also, were right across from Main Street and near to Eno Terra. People like to have lunch there and then come in to see us. Another thing is that we have great parking available in the back of the store.
An interesting and popular part of Tuscan Hills business is the opportunity for customers to rent an Italian villa. We are the U.S. representative for Tuscany Now villa rentals, he says. There are weekly rentals or longer, and they can be very customized as to how many in the party, what do they want to do there. They could have a chef, cooking lessons, guided tours, etc. I just want to get people to go to Italy!
Tuscan Hills also offers wine tastings and olive oil (which it sells) tastings, and Mr. Evans looks forward to expanding the furniture even more. We are constantly trying to find new artisans, who will be the right match for our store, and we go to Italy on business a couple of times a year.
Tuscan Hills is a special place, adds sales associate Marion Murphy, who lived in Italy for many years. In Italy, there is a different philosophy, a different way of life, a different way of enjoying things. It really is La Dolce Vita! At Tuscan Hills, we bring you into that element, that way of life. You can see the passion, the love that goes into the items made by these artisans.
She also points out a small pewter box which includes an inscription: Tutto è Possibile All Is Possible.
Certainly, if youd like to bring a bit of Italy into your home, the knowledgeable Tuscan Hills staff will make it possible!
Hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday 12 to 4. (609) 921-9015. Website: www.tuscanhills.com.
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