Shop Visit: Stewart House in Providence
November 15, 2023
At Providence’s Stewart House, Ellen and Karen Deutsch remind us that everyday items can be objects of art.
Text by Erika Ayn Finch
There’s an unwritten rule about not working with family, but if you float that by sisters Ellen and Karen Deutsch, they will dismiss it—probably in unison. You could attribute that to their parents, who successfully owned and and managed an art gallery in Manhattan for twenty-five years, or to the fact that the duo seem to be the very best of friends. Either way, when it came to opening the doors of Stewart House in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood, Ellen says she had absolutely no hesitation about going into business with her younger sister. “Seeing my sibling in a professional capacity is one of my favorite parts of this job,” she says. “It’s a privilege to see her strengths in action. Most people don’t get that opportunity.”
Aside from spending time in their parents’ gallery, the Deutsch sisters don’t have an extensive background in retail: Ellen was an account director for a web design company and Karen taught upper school English. But both have lived in Providence for more than twenty years, so they were acutely aware of the city’s dearth of home-goods boutiques. “If we needed it, we knew others did, too,” says Karen.
So in November 2022, they leased a 100-year-old, 1,200-square-foot former real estate office on Hope Street with the goal of opening Stewart House—named for the Greenwich Village apartment building where they grew up—by the end of June 2023. Working day and night, they met that goal, each quitting their jobs a mere week and a half before hanging the open sign.
Early on, the Deutsches landed on Farrow & Ball Railings as the backdrop color for the shop’s selection of nubby accent pillows, cozy throws, hobnail servingware, Jill Rosenwald table lamps, Apotheke candles, milk-glass cake platters, French linens, and original artwork. Vintage rugs cover the space’s century-old wood floors; its original columns were repurposed as decorative pillars. A tiny William Morris-papered backroom, where Stewart House’s collection of Pillivuyt porcelain can be found, reveals antique stained-glass windows. Aside from being exquisite, the offerings—and even the space—speak to the sisters’ appreciation for items that can be multipurposed and used every day. “There’s no reason why we can’t expand the definition of art,” says Karen. “Art can be both beautiful and pragmatic. And the right piece can make what we already own even more beautiful.”
Stewart House, Providence, stewarthousepvd.com