Does Greenwich’s East Putnam Avenue have room for another home furnishings and home design firm? Kim Alessi and Robert Passal certainly think so, as their recently opened Putnam & Mason atelier looks to attract individuals and designers looking for something different.
“We’ve had a steady flow of foot traffic since we opened last month,” Alessi said at the 34 E. Putnam Ave. showroom, steps away from Farrow & Ball at 32 E. Putnam and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams at 45 E. Putnam, as well as a Lillian August outlet at 26 E. Putnam.
“The great thing about being in Greenwich is that about 95 percent of our end consumers have their own designer,” she noted, “so they usually work together when they’re looking at our pieces.”
Putnam & Mason offers cash-and-carry and delivery options, as well as a “sample bar” for browsing finishes and fabrics from the luxury likes of Sacco Carpet and Loro Piana.
“Vendors can use the space as their own showroom,” Alessi said, noting that local service vendors include KLASP Home, Wheelock Kitchens, Phoenix Audio Video, Eastridge Construction, and Gro Pro – plus, it should probably go without saying, Robert Passal Interior Design – as well as collections by the likes of Romo, Chesney’s, Holland & Sherry, and Fromental.
“The idea is to provide people from Greenwich and the surrounding area with a place where they can see and touch luxury brands without having to go into Manhattan,” she said. “This saves the time and effort of going to a New York Design Center or D&D.”
Putnam & Mason is the only Connecticut showroom to offer products by Chesney’s – a British maker of high-end fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and accessories – while companies like Fairfield’s Phoenix Audio Video can showcase the likes of a one-piece TV-mirror framed in Alessi’s signature leather skin as the showroom’s centerpiece.
A professional jewelry designer, Alessi made the switch to home design after moving to Bronxville and becoming frustrated by an inability to find a suitable frame for the large mirrors in her new home. By designing her own woven hide mirror frames, she realized that “this was going to be my next life.”
Expanding into designing wall panels and other home decorating pieces, Alessi began searching for a partner for what would become Putnam & Mason, eventually being introduced through a mutual friend to Passal. The owner of Manhattan’s Robert Passal Interior & Architectural Design, Passal said he was struck by their similar interests and welcomed the idea of returning to a retail operation, which he’d been involved with several years earlier.
“It just unfolded on its own from there,” he said. “Kim acts mainly as the operations manager – she’s there every day – and I do most of the buying, setting up the shop. The whole design district on East Putnam was very appealing to me.”
The pair went on a buying trip to Italy and France before opening, which among other items netted them a stunning 17th century chest from an Italian convent. “Everyone who comes in asks about it,” Alessi said. “Since it’s right by our display window, it’s become a real draw.”
In addition to the 1,125-square-foot store, Putnam & Mason rents space in a New York City warehouse to hold the many items, including “thousands of yards” of material that would not fit in the store or with its atmosphere.
“This is designed to be a showroom, almost like a model room for a home,” Alessi said. “We’re not interested in just cramming in as much as we can.”