Local Style: Chip Stinchfield on Homey Connecticut Charm

A SPECIAL FATHER’S DAY EDITION

Local Style: Chip Stinchfield

 

For some, personal style comes in the form of perfectly hung designer confections. For Chip, it comes by way of antiques, interesting décor, and a store filled with treasures. We sat down with the owner of the The Whitney Shop in New Canaan, Connecticut, to learn his styling tricks for seasonal settings and for always looking polished. (Added Father’s Day bonus: Chip just happens to be the dad of our very own copywriter, Katie.)

Rue La La: We’re firm believers in an all-encompassing life of style – what does that mean to you?
Chip: Good food and good friends. That’s why I love cocktail hour – it’s about gathering your friends and family together and relaxing. Your environment and surroundings really matter, but you don’t need anything fancy. One of my favorite places is a simple deck overlooking an ocean.

Rue La La: Do you have a guiding philosophy on home decorating?
Chip: Comfort and casual elegance. I like rooms that are transitional and can be changed from season to season. Low-maintenance and neat, rooms that flow well together. I use different areas of my home at different times of year. In the winter, I spend evenings in the kitchen and family room where things are more cozy. Once the weather warms up, you’ll find me in the sunroom or on the deck.

Rue La La: What’s the aesthetic of your own home?
Chip: A mix of old and new. Some of my favorite pieces I acquired when my wife and I were first married and had a shoestring budget: a beautiful print of Nantucket we splurged on one Christmas to remind us of where we got engaged, or a pair of lamps in our living room that we were given on our wedding day.

I also collect pieces from my travels and incorporate them into my home to remind me of each trip. My kitchen and family room were both inspired by a few trips I took out West about 10 years ago. I picked up some hand-woven rugs I spotted in Wyoming that gave the room a very Western flair. And after vacationing in Italy a few years ago, I transitioned the room to feel more rustic Italian. The basics were already there — I just swapped in new rugs and pillows and the room took on a whole new feel.

Rue La La: What’s the story behind your shop?
Chip: My parents started the store as a frozen food delivery service in 1947 when families were starting to own freezers. That backfired, so my father went back to work in advertising in New York and my mother stayed on and started selling kitchen-related gift items, like crockery. It just grew from there.

Rue La La: We hear you’re a pro at shopping antique shops and flea markets. What’s the best thing you’ve ever discovered?
Chip: For years I’ve wanted a canoe to display on the lofted rafter in my family room. I finally found one at a flea market in April and with a bit of elbow grease, it looks new. I’m also partial to a carpenter’s chest I use to store wine in my dining room. I’ve had it for maybe 20 years.

Rue La La: What’s your style when it comes to dressing? Do you have a summer uniform?
Chip: I don’t like standing out. I try to be casual but neat, and always respectful. When I’m going out for a meal, I think it’s nice to dress up. There is something about putting on a coat and tie for cocktails that feels celebratory.

Overall, I dress very preppy, but more rugged than polished. I know madras and seersucker shorts may not be “in” but I love them. They feel natural to me. I love Reef flip-flops and I never wear socks with my dress shoes in the summer. I’m drawn to things that are loose-fitting and cotton.

Rue La La: Besides your wardrobe and your interest in interior design, are there other areas where you express style?
Chip: I’m big — no, huge — into food. When I wake up, the first thing I want to know is what’s for dinner. I’ve just gotten into Bobby Flay’s grilling cookbooks, which I love. I’m big into seasonal eating. In the winter I make hearty stews, and in the summer I am all about the grill. I like to make big Sunday breakfasts any time of year. For me, food is comfort. Everything revolves around getting together with family and friends and sitting down to enjoy a good meal.

(You can read more of our interview with Chip on Facebook.)

June 16, 2011