Mention “Scandinavian furniture store” to most people and they might think first of Ikea. But a pair of women entrepreneurs are determined to prove that such wares go well beyond the kind of build-it-yourself beds, bookcases and similar items sold by the Swedish chain.
Eleish Van Breems is a Scandinavian home décor, furnishings and antiques store that has relocated from Woodbury to Westport, with a 2,000-square-foot “Home” store at 99 Franklin St. and a 981-square-foot “Design” operation at 22 Railroad Place. The company has been a 22-year passion for owners Edie Van Breems and Rhonda Eleish, who have been friends since they were 11-year-old students at the town’s Green Farms Academy.
“Our dads were best friends and we were always at each other’s houses,” Van Breems recalled. “We stayed in touch after college and rekindled our friendship when we were both working in New York City. I was working in photography and Rhonda was working in national retail merchandising.”
“I started thinking about the things I like to do,” Eleish added. “I was hosting some pretty elaborate parties and loving fashion, so getting into interior design seemed like a good fit. I started creating designers’ showcases around the city and Edie was helping out with a lot of it. We continued working together and decided to build on our mutual passion for the decorative arts.”
Undertaking a “rite of passage” by touring home furnishings and antique dealers in England, Holland and Sweden led them to fall in love with Scandinavian furniture, Eleish said.
Established in 1996, Eleish Van Breems has proven that Scandinavian furniture “isn’t just brown furniture,” Van Breems said. “Very few people were doing it here at the time, and it turned out to be interesting for us and for our clients.”
The term “Scandinavian design” refers to being based “on clean, simple, happy interiors that are in harmony with both the interior and the exterior, and that are balanced in scale and are sustainable and eco-supportive,” Van Breems said.
The Home store opened in 2016, joined by the design facility this past May. The move to Westport was driven by being “local girls,” she added. “Coming back to Westport was coming back home.”
‘A GREAT FIT’
“The community is filled with small, family-run businesses, so it makes it a great fit for us,” Eleish said. “We present a Scandinavian point of view to our decorative approach. We shop and manufacture in Scandinavia, so what we offer is unique and ever-changing. We are always looking forward and our goal always is to present an interesting, curated collection that is fresh.”
The women are working on launching a leather design line this year and are expanding their website to service both retail customers and a to-the-trade portal. Sales will be conducted via e-commerce platform Shopify.
Van Breems noted that the store’s offerings are at “all price points. There’s something for every budget.”
The pair have co-authored three books on Swedish design and expect to publish a fourth in 2022.
Additional stores are in the works, though locations have yet to be finalized.