A Westport Homecoming
October 31, 2019
Text by Erika Ayn Finch Photography by Michael Partenio Produced by Stacy Kunstel
Wende Cohen has a theory about design: buy what you love, and you’ll always find a place for it in your home. So, when you walk into her 4,000-square-foot carriage house and notice the African carvings or the antique trestle table from Belgium, you might assume they are artifacts purchased during her travels around the world. The answer is a bit more complicated.
Three years ago, Cohen, owner of the Westport lifestyle boutique Bungalow, was at a crossroad in her life. She found herself returning to Connecticut after living in Aspen for seven years, seeking a fresh start in the same town where she’s owned her boutique for the past twenty-five years. She stumbled upon a carriage house from the 1800s with a moniker that confirmed she was moving in the right direction: Brophy Carriage House. “Brophy is my maiden name,” she explains.
Cohen, who had a career in advertising and sales in New York before she opened Bungalow, didn’t want to decorate her new space with objects from her Aspen home. Not only did it defeat the idea of a fresh start, Cohen also firmly believes that once pieces are collected together, they form a connection, and breaking that connection harms the integrity of the objects and their space. But with an at-home birthday bash just weeks away, she knew she needed the house to come together quickly. “I wanted it to be casual and comfortable and more of a hodgepodge,” she says. “I was also in a phase in my life where I didn’t want to put too much meaning into material items. I was looking for a space that was beautiful but not surrounded by objects with history.”
Where did she go to achieve this edited, organic, look? Her own shop. Cohen does all of the buying for Bungalow; she says 80 percent of what’s in the boutique is sourced from dealers in Paris who shop globally. For Bungalow, she pulls from what the dealers curate. And for her own home, she pulled from what she curated for Bungalow. The result is earthy and textured with objects that feel like they’ve been in the space for much longer than three years. And though she isn’t necessarily sentimental, she does have some items from her past, including nods to her love of classic fashion houses like Hermès and Louis Vuitton.
One of her favorite objects, though, is a simple crystal heart that she keeps on her desk. (She’s also quite fond of an old-fashioned toothpaste squeezer key, but that’s another story.) Because she was in the middle of a transition while she was setting up her new home, it was important to bring in items that facilitated healing and helped turn the home into a sanctuary. “For me, it’s really the little things that bring me pleasure and peace,” she says.
Asked for advice on decorating with items found while traveling, Cohen recommends collecting objects that remind you of a specific moment during a trip. “Look for things that played some sort of role in your adventure,” she says. “If you’re in Morocco, and you’re drinking a lot of tea, purchase some along with a tea set that will bring back the smells and feelings of your trip and add that part of your story to your home.”
Interior design: Wende Cohen, Bungalow, Westport