Berry bowls and more. STEVEN STOLMAN
Gary McNatton and Monelle Totah STEVEN STOLMAN
Disposable cloth napkins STEVEN STOLMAN
Can't live without? STEVEN STOLMAN
Another hostess gift idea. STEVEN STOLMAN
Disposable cloth napkins in a rainbow of colors. STEVEN STOLMAN
Shakers STEVEN STOLMAN
Cutlery to candles. STEVEN STOLMAN
Wooden bowls. STEVEN STOLMAN
By Steven Stolman
She’s a petite dynamo, the daughter of a Louisiana restaurateur who freely admits that she graduated from LSU with a degree in partying. He’s a soft-spoken Kentucky gentleman who studied design and psychology at Vanderbilt in Nashville. They found their respective ways to San Francisco to work for iconic American retailers—she for Williams-Sonoma, he for The Gap Inc. They met at a gift show, and the rest is history.
For Monelle Totah and Gary McNatton, the affable owners of Hudson Grace, a newcomer to the Hamptons home décor scene, this summer has proven to be an enormous leap of faith that started with one question: Would East Enders take to a decidedly California vibe? After all, what plays in Montecito doesn’t necessarily translate to Montauk. But the answer has been a resounding “yes,” even in the increasingly crowded space of highly curated, artisanal tableware.
Indeed, design professionals and casual shoppers alike have been crowding into the tiny Wainscott shop that is little more than a vestibule within the Serena & Lily Beach Market. The assortment is subtle: an array of white ceramic platters and bowls, flatware, glassware, table linens, wooden cutting boards and the ubiquitous lineup of bespoke scented candles in bell jars. But what heft… what fragrance! Nothing is common to the touch, everything is tactile. And the scents are intoxicating.
You ask yourself, “How can I possibly live without this ingenious berry bowl?”
“I was the director of Chambers [the first retailer to bring European hotel"-style bedding to the American consumer] when Gary poached me to start Banana Republic Home,” said Ms. Totah. “After five years, I returned to Williams-Sonoma as vice president of design for Williams-Sonoma Home, heading up all tabletop design."
For his part, during his eight-year tenure as senior vice president, Mr. McNatton grew The Gap Inc.’s personal-care business into a $200 million entity. His products and fragrances have consistently won industry awards.
As big as those businesses were, Hudson Grace, which premiered in San Francisco in 2012 and has grown to include five California locations, could not be more intimate. “Chuck Williams taught me about authenticity and originality, and guided me to always go to the source," said Ms. Totah of the founder of Williams-Sonoma.
And if you’ve never thought that a salad bowl needed to be authentic, you’ve never owned a Hudson Grace salad bowl. Seemingly carved from some majestic tree trunk, the bowls beg to be rubbed with garlic and salt and anointed with artisanal olive oils and vinegars before you add the kind of baby lettuces that Babe Paley was famous for serving at her dinner parties. Could glasses this thin and sparkling clear hold up to today’s rosé-swilling Hamptonites? You betcha.
Ms. Totah proudly hoisted a monolithic cutting board: “It’s perfect for cheeses,” she instructed. And she’s right—cheese undoubtedly tastes better when served from something that looks like it was reclaimed from Noah’s ark.
“There’s a comfort in holding something beautiful and chunky and not at all delicate,” Mr. McNatton said. “We go for things that are meant to be worn, to be used, to be loved.”
When a friend of Ms. Totah and Mr. McNatton’s was named CEO of Serena & Lily, the conversation of shop-in-shops began. “We were thrilled,” said Ms. Totah. “We only do tabletop, and our simple purity balances with their decorative patterns and prints.” Yet, for all the painstaking perfection of Hudson Grace’s offerings, the prices are unexpectedly gentle. The must-have berry bowl is a mere $38, less than your typical Hamptons berries … a cunning glass match striker filled with just the right wooden matches is $24.
This is hostess gift heaven. We all know about those disposable cloth cocktail napkins that come on a roll, but to be able to buy them so conveniently and pleasantly in such a charming setting is a godsend for the last-minute shopper. “I am the ultimate consumer,” Ms. Totah admitted. “To create Hudson Grace we looked to our own lifestyles, to our own homes, to what we use to entertain.”
And how are the two Californians finding life on the East End? “We love the natural beauty and the vibe of the different towns,” said Mr. McNatton. “The Atlantic is more approachable than the Pacific and warmer … much warmer. And we LOVE the hedges. The big difference between the West Coast and here is that we see a bit more urgency to get out and enjoy the summer. In California, it seems summer never really ends.”
“Our Hamptons pop-up feels so right,” Ms. Totah continued. “Our clean, modern, casual aesthetic seems to fit right in. We’ve met the nicest people, who clearly love to entertain and love their homes. It’s been a wild, crazy, amazing ride.”
(at Serena & Lily Beach Market)
332 Montauk Highway
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