It’s the kind of shop I want to live in. It is uncluttered, beautifully curated, welcoming and comforting. The floor to ceiling windows warm the space even when it is snowing outside. The large loft space is designed like an open floor plan apartment (probably why I want to live here…). A bed in the corner displays pillows, quilts and material swatches, a couch and chairs and their upholstery and fill options in the center, and a table behind filled with recipe cardholders, tea towels and cookbooks. There are bookshelves with artfully designed new edition classics- think Little Women and Great Expectations in cloth-bound hardcover with gilded lettering. These are books we are likely to already own, however the beauty of the cover sways your judgment and you very nearly buy them again, just for the effect they are likely to have on your shelf. There is linen, handmade soap, letterpress cards and wool. It is everything I dream of when wishing that the world still required hand sewing and writing with pen and ink. The objects are handmade by artists and artisans, mostly American, using traditional techniques and raw, unprocessed materials. They even sell a goat’s milk soap alongside the maker’s book about leaving New York City in search of the pastoral life in Vermont. If you’ve been following my debut on this site, you know my affinity for goats and that I am likely to be a sucker for all things related. I buy the soap each time I visit- it’s my little indulgence. Twelve Chairs Shop and Studio is just down the road from my house, and it’s truly a treasure in the neighborhood.
Now six months into their endeavor, Roisin (“Row-sheen”) Giese and Miggy Mason, friends from the Cornell University Interior Design program, are happy with their progress so far. When they conceived of opening a design studio together, they laugh now to think that they never questioned whether it was a good idea. They had chatted about the mutual desire to own their own studios while dressing for Roisin’s wedding, and then two weeks later—just after the honeymoon—Miggy was eager to discuss her ideas, having decided they should open one together. It was settled then, without a second thought and seemingly without ever second guessing themselves. They knew one another’s aesthetic and ability, and shared a vision that included comfort, beauty and sustainability.
With the help of the book 16 Weeks To Your Dream Business, Giese and Mason approached the project with structure and resolve. While living on opposite coasts and both working full time, Giese in commercial and residential interior design and Mason at Anthropologie, they each took chapters of the book to complete. They would then have marathon-length conference calls to discuss their ideas and progress. It took them much longer than 16 weeks, but they accomplished their opening date goal of September 2010, after one and half years of planning.
In addition to locally- and sustainably-sourced home furnishings, they provide design services. Just recently, they feel that their business has fine-tuned itself; they shop has begun to run smoothly enough to concentrate 50% of their energies toward design. Both roles are inspirational to them; they are able to continually change the layout and design of the shop, creating vignettes and new dimensions, while designing for a client’s unfamiliar space pushes them to readjust and tailor their ideas. It is in design that they see they have the most potential to expand, for they don’t want to grow in number of shops. Design allows them the creativity of new projects and challenges, while using the shop as their main showroom and advertisement of their abilities. They count the actual space as the third influence on their design, noting that the high ceilings and industrial quality allow for larger pieces with reclaimed wood and steel.
Another extremely important component to their business is its location and the community to which it belongs. Located in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, they purposefully chose the area because of its dedication to local, independent art. Fort Point Artist Community helps make the neighborhood art and design dense. Through Glovebox, a Boston group committed to helping undiscovered artists find unconventional gallery space, Twelve Chairs hosted artist Kate Castelli this winter in a show called “Chairs @ Twelve Chairs.” The next collaboration is with artist Christina Watka, whose beautiful installations are currently showing. In addition, an opening party for four Fort Point artists, Adam O’Day, Sean Flood, Jacob Higginbottom, and Jodie Baehre (one of the Glovebox founders) will be held in mid-April. All four artists paint Boston cityscapes, but in incredibly differing styles. It is these opportunities that make Mason and Giese agree that this neighborhood is rife with anticipation and is bursting with potential, and they are smitten with the energy and warmth with which they have been welcomed.
While Mason and Giese want all aspects of their business to be environmentally and socially responsible, they are wary of being “earthy/crunchy.” Instead they hope to show that one can feel good about their purchases knowing that the products are hand crafted, manufactured and designed locally, and without unnecessary chemicals. They specifically focus on small production and independent designers, for they love that they can call up the artist and speak with them about their products directly. These personal relationships help them not only choose their products with more knowledge and confidence, but can even help tailor a product for Twelve Chairs’ specifications. They hope to make the shop home-like but sophisticated, unpretentious and accessible. In an effort to mix old and new, they love to look for antiques wherever they can, always searching for a new piece to create fresh arrangements around. Twelve Chairs subscribes to their People and Planet Principles, only carrying an object that fulfills at least six categories. Such categories include requirements such as: the product is designed and manufactured by a company within the USA or Canada; the inks, dyes, and/or finishes used have minimum impact on the planet and are not harmful to people; the materials used are from natural, renewable resources; the methods used to produce the product are focused on energy efficiency, waste reduction, and worker protection; and the people that create the products are paid a fair, living wage and there is a commitment to social and environmental standards.
Both Giese and Mason look forward to a vacation. Between working in the shop six days per week, meeting with clients before and after work, and setting up the next art installation in the shop, the two are quite busy. They remain enthusiastic though, inspired by their favorite blogs (Oh Happy Day and Coco+Kelly), excited by recent publicity from the revered Elle Décor, even reading business books before bed. Miggy was recently proposed to in the shop, and her mind is already aflutter with her wedding’s design. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be.
Twelve Chairs is in my neighborhood, at 319 A St, Boston. But if you don’t live here, go find your own Twelve Chairs inspired store on your own, I promise you'll be transported.
Monday thru Saturday | 10 to 6
Sunday | By Appointment
Sunday | By Appointment