Friday, August 24, 2007

Charlotte Moss Townhouse - Part III

So, I failed to mention earlier what I was doing with the rest of my Friday. Well, this morning I was touring the Charlotte Moss Townhouse with none other than Charlotte Moss herself and her wonderful assistant Cathy! Go ahead. Take a moment to hate me. I know you want to. I would hate me too. But let me tell you how it happened anyway.

I got home last Saturday after a day of shopping in the city to find an email from, I almost fell off my chair, Charlotte Moss. I had to look at it a few times to make sure no one was playing a trick on me but apparently, Ms. Moss had learned about the wonderful world of blogs! She was so gracious and flattered that I had included the shop on my blog and wanted to meet me! Me! Crazy! So we planned a little interview and meeting!

I thought I would be too nervous to ask questions and write down all the answers legibly and comprehensively at the townhouse so Ms. Moss was kind of enough to answer a few questions ahead of time with the help of her very sweet assistant Cathy. After the interview section, I'll get to the tour!

I mentioned to someone else I interviewed recently that creative types either know from the time they are little that they want to be an artist or designer or get sidetracked completely and end up working in finance or law until they can't take it anymore and finally make the switch. It seems to have been the latter in your case since I know you had a successful career on Wall Street before becoming an interior designer. I'd love to know if you were creative growing up and how you made the decision to finally open your own interior design business.
Yes, I was creative as a child but got sidetracked to Wall Street. In college, I wanted to major in interior design but was too intimidated to complete the portfolio required because I couldn't draw. So instead, I majored in English and took all my minor credits in art history... and as the story always goes on Wall Street...mergers. When the firm I worked for was acquired by a larger one, it was the perfect time for assessing the future. It just seemed like the right time to get a business plan together, take the bonus and go buy a container.

You had a shop on Lexington Avenue from about the time you started your business until it closed in 1996. What made you decide that now was the right time to open another shop, especially one on such a grand scale?
When I started the business in 1985 it was done with a concept similar to an English decorating shop which was foreign in the US. A couple of years ago, I started to get the retail pang again because I felt that something was missing in the shopping experience. As an interior designer and after having done 13 decorator showhouses in my career, I've heard the oooos and aaaahhs from visitors to those rooms - hence I know the value of the finished product. The finished product more often than not isn’t only about the contents but about the atmosphere. I wanted to again create my own retail atmosphere as if I were inviting people in to my own home.

The one thing that everyone seemed to notice right away from the photos online was that the actual facade of the townhouse seems a bit more clean and modern than the rendering. Can you explain to everyone what happened?
Very simple - the restrictions imposed by being in a historic district as well as what the city of New York and the landmarks commission will and will not let you do - it's as simple as that.

I know you love to read, especially biographies about women. I'd love to know which is your favorite book and what are you reading now?
I couldn't possibly name a favorite book! I have 3 libraries so it would be like naming which is my favorite library. I've read too many books to only name one but let me just say if someone gave me a day off I would spend it locked in my library. I have 3 books I'm working right now, Hermoine Lee's biography on Edith Wharton; Istanbul and Deluxe by Dana Thomas. I usually read 3 or 4 books at the same time - all very different. I do that too but my problem is that I never finish half of them!

I think it's important to give back in this world and I know you are very philanthropically inclined. What are the causes that are most important to you?
Child welfare, literacy, immunological research…Unicef, Operation Smile, The Leukemia Society.

We all know now from Joni over at Cote de Texas that you recently sold your Aspen house otherwise known as Winter House and bought a new house. Will we see another book? Perhaps, A New Winter House?
Maybe sometime in the future (first I have to decorate the next Winterhouse - but that's after I merchandise the store for Christmas) but before that you will see "A Flair for Living", a lifestyle book being published by Assouline for Spring 2008. You heard it here first folks!

I've joked to friends that the Charlotte Moss Townhouse is like Mecca for Southerners. I've overheard mothers and daughters on Madison Avenue talking about going over there and the day I visited, there was another big group of Southern ladies shopping. Did you ever have any idea that the new Townhouse would be so well received and talked about online?
My previous store, lectures and books have always had a strong Southern following - after that all you can do is pray.

And finally, what can we expect from you next? What other fabulously chic ideas do you have up your sleeve? After the Townhouse, I can only imagine!
Well of course we won't let the whole cat out of the bag - BUT - as I mentioned above, my next book "A Flair for Living" will be published by Assouline next spring. We'll have a new fragrance at the same time and depending upon how much energy I have a great CD as well. We also have two new collections of bedding to launch in February, two new china patterns this fall, and of course lots of Christmas goodies so please come shopping! We’re going to have a great article in the October issue of O Home hitting the newsstand soon – check it out. We are soooo excited! And so are all of us!!!

I have to say, meeting Charlotte Moss today and having her show me around the shop was such a treat. She pointed out so many details that I would have otherwise missed and was so passionate about everything. She was very eager to point out that the shop was specifically designed to have a diverse array of points, not just so everyone can find something for their price range but because "that's the way we live". We now live in a culture that mixes their Manolos and vintage YSL with current J.Crew, just the way she does!

Charlotte Moss has so much going on, that I cannot understand how she is not exhausted! She is so passionate about the items she has chosen for her shop and she very much appreciates the craftspeople who continue traditions that are slowly dying out, it's hard not to get excited too. There is so much forward momentum with her that you get the feeling she must wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for her next project!

I was very honored that she would take the time out of her obviously busy day to take a little blogger like me on a personal tour. I think that speaks volumes about the graciousness of Charlotte Moss. She also assured me that I am welcome back any time and there will be no need to sneak around taking photos! So sweet! I definitely look forward to reporting back on what I can only imagine will be some spectacular holiday decorations and accessories! Many thanks to Charlotte and Cathy for such a special and memorable tour!

Oh, one piece of advice, if you want to buy anything online or in the shop at Charlotte Moss, I'd do it soon because you know the minute Oprah's O at Home magazine comes out, there will probably be a mad dash to buy up every fabulous item...but if that happens, I have a feeling Charlotte Moss already has a few new tricks up her haute couture sleeve to keep us coming back for more!


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