Cedar Meadow is a new shop in Woodbury, a collaborative endeavor by James Orsi and Veronica Martin featuring posters, antiques, and marvels from the natural world.
Woodbury is known for its antique stores and quintessential New England architecture. Now it can boast another great shop — one with a different take than its neighbors. Cedar Meadow opened its doors in March and has quickly become the talk of the town. A hybrid of an art gallery combined with an antique and retail home shop, it is filled with delightful posters from the turn of the century, one-of-a-kind natural objects, and well-worn antiques for the home. At the time of our visit, Cedar Meadow still didn’t have a sign above its entrance, but Brigitte, an adorable, brown toy poodle, welcomes all who enter the shop with her happy dance.
The shop’s owners Veronica Martin and James Orsi have combined each of their passions into a collaborative aesthetic that is surprisingly in harmony within the space.
A few years ago, we wrote about Veronica’s former poster and photo gallery which was located in the Switch Factory building in Bantam. Veronica moved her business to Woodbury and joined forces with James to create Cedar Meadow. She specializes in selling original Belle Epoque period posters from the 1880s to 1920s. Veronica has been passionate about Art Nouveau posters since she was nineteen. Her extensive knowledge on the matter of Art Nouveau Posters comes from years of studying and collecting. “My first poster, which I still have at home, is by Jean de Paleologue (aka PAL) from the 1890s advertising apricot liqueur, called Abricotine.” She studied Art History at Columbia University, and subsequently attended programs at the Musée D’Orsay in France, the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, the École du Louvre in Paris, the School of Nancy in France (studying art nouveau furniture), as well as a school in Nice, France.
Veronica seems to know the back story of many of the pieces she sells. The Creme de Menthe Rose poster, which she has for sale in her gallery, was created by artist Leonetto Cappiello in 1902 and was owned by Dr. Hans Sachs, a European dentist who had a collection of 12,500 posters. He and his wife who were both Jewish were arrested during the Holocaust and his posters were confiscated by the Nazis in 1938. For unknown reasons, the couple were released two weeks later and escaped to America. (It is said that one of his patients here in the U.S.A. was Albert Einstein.)
She shows us two extremely rare German posters by Ludwig Hohlwein, one from 1908 and another from 1926, art nouveau period and one by Alfonse Muca, the renowned artist whose work epitomizes the Art Nouveau genre.
“Often times, but not always, the graphic is more important than the name of the artist. A collector would prefer a very rare poster from a lesser artist than a poster image which is really well-known and over-circulated by a more renowned artist.” Veronica sources the posters from major metropolitan areas such as London, Italy, France, Chicago and New York. They can be shipped to anywhere in the USA and Europe. She can accommodate a customer who would prefer to have a poster unframed, but so far, everyone has chosen to keep the posters in the frame in which it is displayed at the gallery.
Veronica’s business partner James Orsi is an architect and landscape designer who has an interest in natural things. He grew up in Connecticut on the shores of Long Island Sound and on a farm in the Berkshires. He spent a lot of time in the water and exploring the coastline where he discovered a few seagrass-topped sandbars that had fascinating treasures. There were remnants of plants and animals that lived there – shells, rocks, driftwood, skeletons, feathers and whole animals such as birds, mammals, crustaceans, and fish. For James, as a young child, it was always thrilling to find these things and it sparked his curiosity. “When I was seven, I found a deep sea anglerfish washed up on the rocks. Sea anglers are stout, wide fish with a ten-inch lamp growing out of their forehead and a dagger-toothed mouth big enough to eat a whole pumpkin. Such a stunning moment.”
James’s love of the natural world is evident at Cedar Meadow, where the walls are adorned with botanical prints of ferns and birds, and tabletop surfaces feature displays of sea creatures, insects, and animals. Corals from the sea, a stuffed owl, and colorful stuffed birds perched inside bell jars keep company with framed butterflies, elk antlers, a bird’s nest in a cloche jar, and a mounted sea fern.
With degrees in Fine Arts and Architecture from RISD, James later worked for the architect and designer Peter Marino and Kohn Pederson Fox architects before working on his own architecture and landscape projects. James also has some professional experience in retail, working on the design prototypes for all of the Louis Vuitton and Chanel stores (among other retail companies) while at the offices of architect Peter Marino. The skills he developed there clearly have an impact on the look and feel of Cedar Meadow.
Veronica’s vibrant posters work well with the architectural ornaments, antique and vintage rugs and furniture within the shop. Behind the counter, she has a selection of vintage black & white photography — gelatin silver prints by Horst, Chiara Samugheo, and Clemens Kalischer, to name a few. The shop also carries paintings by local artist Vincent Giarrano, mostly with a natural theme.
The space is divided into 3 large rooms. There are chairs, armchairs, and a selection of antique mirrors, large and small. For garden lovers, there are planters, pots, metal pails, watering cans, baskets, metal containers, baskets, and vases. The farm tables are in great condition, and compliment vintage stools in metal or wood. In the back room are a set of Tonsu Japanese stairs with drawers on the side, antique books, and more gardening items. In the middle and front rooms are Kilim pillowcases from Turkey in long shapes made from Turkish rugs, and square pillows made of wool. New items include candles made of essential oils by Tatine, soaps by Tatine, and handmade candles in beautiful scents that only burn on the inside, so no worrying about drips.
James Orsi and his wife, Anne Hutchins were living in Manhattan and in the process of planning their wedding in the Berkshires when they began exploring Litchfield County, instead of just driving through. They ended up buying a house in Washington and have stayed for more than twenty years. Anne has a degree in Architecture from Yale and a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from UVA, and worked as a designer for The Central Park Conservancy and then started her own landscape design business. Anne has been living with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and her health has now declined to the point where she can’t continue her own landscape practice. James continued for a while to manifest both of their design visions through his architecture and landscape design business, but as Anne’s abilities declined further and his responsibilities as Anne’s caregiver changed, it became impossible for him to continue to keep any design business going. “Although many people with MS are able to maintain a somewhat active and normal life, there are some with more aggressive and ultimately untreatable forms of MS which is the case for Anne. When you are a creative person like Anne or myself you really don’t have a choice. Your creativity comes through in every aspect of your life and to have that severely blocked is not easy to come to terms with.”
“When Anne and I discovered that Veronica was looking for a new and better location for her gallery, I let her know that the Jennings & Rohn location in Woodbury was soon going to be available. Jennings & Rohn had developed a reputation as a destination for antiques and designers over the past two decades in their same location with quite a following. With that opportunity in front of us, we soon began discussions about the current state of the antique and creative retail business and the possibility of working together. Obviously, the antique and retail market has been completely transformed in the past fifteen years by the internet, online shopping and fluctuations in personal tastes. The Woodbury Antiques Trail has been going through a major transformation due to these influences. Although still forging on, it has been reduced from fifty plus antique shops to around fifteen or so shops,” explains Orsi.
These discussions led to the idea of transforming Veronica’s original vision of a gallery for antique and vintage posters and photographs into some sort of hybrid of art gallery with antique and retail home shop. “We still believe in people wanting to actually leave their homes and computers to venture out and explore. And so we wanted to create an environment that would really be about an experience of a consistent idea of place, but not of any specific place. We have objects from all over the world – France, England, Sweden, India, Indonesia as well as, and of course, some really great American antiques and products. To be able to transport someone not just by all of the objets intérieurs, but by sight, sound, smell, touch and perhaps even taste if one would like to linger for an espresso. And certainly, one of the themes tying our shop’s environment together is nature—the animals and plants that we live with every day without sometimes even realizing it in today’s world.”
Two smiling customers leave the shop carrying two beautiful blue planters, a vintage watering can, and a few more things. As they leave the shop with their purchases, they announce that they liked the antiques store that was there before and now they are really happy with the new shop.
Hours: Saturday and Sunday 11-5 or by appointment weekdays
289 Main Street South
www.cedarmeadowstore.com (not complete yet)
View photos of the store on the
Veronica Martin Gallery Facebook page