OLD LYME — Whether for gathering inspiration, buying pillows and antiques or going for an entire home redesign, Artemisia has something to offer those who appreciate textiles, craftsmanship and home design.
In a building located behind the Cooley Gallery at 23 Lyme St., the store has retail space in the front, lined with pillows, fabrics, art and furniture, and a studio workroom in the back where co-owner Rosemarie Padovano sews and designs.
“I started the company in 2013 and this is the first time I’m doing retail — I opened the shop one year ago,” said Padovano Tuesday at her shop. “Before, in New York I had a workroom and an online shop and I had developed a reputation in New York for what I did and worked with a lot of designers, and so this snowballed. It started from making pillows to now we’re doing full-scale renovations and interior design — all residential work.”
Padovano co-owns the business with her husband, Marcello Marvelli. She studied fine art at Parson’s School of Design and earned a master’s degree in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. Marvelli holds a doctorate in Byzantine and Renaissance art from University of Florence and ran a gallery in New York City.
Keeping her hand in art making as well as bringing together people to create a project are the central themes of Padovano’s vision for her clients.
“I love to make. I’m a sculptor. My heart and soul is in materials and processes where I bring people together… And that’s exactly what interior design is. You work with incredible craftspeople,” she said. “I spend a lot of time being very specific about who I work with because I love people who are committed to excellence and I treat all design and architecture as art — I think of it that way — details matter and interesting materials and interesting processes, things that are not run-of-the-mill, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re expensive, it just means they have a refined quality or the people who make them have a certain amount of love in what they do and that’s really central to the company.”
The store reflects Padovano and Marvelli’s ideas about fabrics, finishes, antiques, and furniture, but it’s also a space for learning what their clients like and envision.
“The space for me functions more like a showroom — though it is retail you can buy things off the shelf — I feel like it is a place to meet and start a conversation about people’s homes and through their homes how to get them excited about the spaces they live in,” Padovano said. “The most gratifying part of design is seeing people psychologically change when you transform their home and that’s a really beautiful thing to watch…. And just to see the benefits of that in their everyday life where their kids are happier, they’re more comfortable, they each have their spaces to do what they love, and that’s really incredible.”
Two years ago, following an extensive search for a house and after living in New York City for about 20 years, the couple moved to Old Lyme.
“When we were in Brooklyn, we kept a little sailboat in Stonington and we drove up every weekend… and then one fall we decided to just stay on the boat every weekend and we had a chance to explore the Connecticut River Valley and it just kind of captured my imagination because it’s so different from the shoreline,” she said.
Together they worked on their house, a 1755 central hall colonial, and its gardens, designed by the Olmsted Brothers, which were featured in the June issue of Connecticut Magazine.
“We did a lot of work, very thoughtfully. The biggest project was the attic, which was a warren of electrical wires and plumbing and storage and we turned it into a gigantic reading room,” she said.
The space holds all of Marvelli’s art books, weighing about three tons, but the house did not require structural reinforcement to hold the weight.
“We consulted with engineers, the beams are like iron — these running beams go the entire length of the house, which is very rare,” she said. “The biggest part was the garden which had really not been trimmed in about 10 years and Marcello really fell in love with the garden, it’s really become his passion.”
An attention to detail is evident in the craftsmanship of Padovano’s pillows made with Fortuny and Clarence House fabrics, among others.
On the floor was a Turkish ottoman of the store’s design that looked like two pillows stacked on one another but was sturdy to sit on. All furniture can be custom-made, including sofas, in specific proportions, she said.
Oil paintings, a variety of cast bookends, a hand-painted antique screen and a 19th-century wooden bench with vintage cushions were among the items in the retail space.
“The antiques are mostly Marcello, he’s just buying unusual interesting pieces… it doesn’t matter the time period or the country, he’s just looking for beauty or patina or something that’s really unique,” she said.
Under one window, a flat file holds of hundreds of fabric samples and in the back room is Padovano’s textile library where she has solid velvets of every kind and every content, ikats, cut velvets, solid silk velvets, prints, chintzes, outdoor fabrics, sheers, performances, printed linens, animal prints, stripes and more.
“A successful meeting is when we pull everything out of the library, put it on the tables and go through all of the options together so that by time client leaves, the whole studio is turned upside down — everything is off the stacks, the fabric rolls are out, it’s a lot of fun, leathers, tiles, outdoor fabrics, rugs. It’s a one-stop shop… lighting fixtures,” she laughed.
Design and art require many of the same rules to work, and when they do, the result can be transformative, she said.
“When things are in their proper proportion, emotionally they translate. Just as you’re looking at a sculpture and you say, my God, that is so beautiful. It’s because the proportion is right, the form is right, it’s studied, all the details are beautiful,” she said. “When something is well-designed or when something is good art, it translates the same way — emotionally it changes you.”
Artemisia, 23 Lyme Street, open Thursday to Saturday from 12 to 5 or by appointment. 917.797.7644