Retro Style, Modern Friendship

An anthropologist and art historian find common ground in the 1950s.



Photography by John Rizzo

We’ve been mad for mid-century modern since way before Mad Men hit the airwaves and Belkind Bigi, a mainstay on Main Street in Tarrytown since 1996, is the go to mecca for like-minded afficianados. Browse through the brightly lit space and you’re likely to find furnishings by the likes of Edward Wormley, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, George Nelson, Vladimir Kagan, Paul McCobb, and Harvey Probber. The day of my visit I coveted a Peter Ghyczy fiberglass Garden Egg Chair for $1,200—closed, it looks like a space pod, then flips open into a chair—and five signed Bert Stern photographs of Marilyn Monroe from The Last Sitting at $3,500 each.

Owners Stacy Belkind of Scarsdale and Marina Bigi of Hastings-on-Hudson first met 20 years ago at the Bronxville Antiques Show. “I had heard about Marina’s collection of American art pottery and visited her booth,” Belkind says. “One thing led to another and we quickly became friends.” They were in agreement about what constituted great design-—sleek and minimalist—and decided to collaborate. As neither of them had a shop at that time, they would display their wares twice a year at the Pier Show in Manhattan.

The two traveled via a rather circuitous route to collecting home furnishings. Bigi had studied anthropology for two years at the University of Rome in Italy before moving to the United States in 1982. She enjoyed going to craft and antiques shows and that is where she met her mentor and found her calling. “Paul Brenner, who died a few years ago, had a little store in Hastings and he introduced me to early American pottery."

Belkind received her bachelor’s degree in art history at the University of Massachusetts, where she also did some graduate work. She say her mother is the source of her interest in home design. “She had an extraordinary eye and would go to auctions and bring treasures home. Once she found the perfect place for them, they stayed there. I do the exact same thing in my home. I’m very careful with what I bring into my home—which can be described as sparse. Sometimes I find a treasure at the store—that’s a great perk.”

“And when we get tired of something,” Bigi says, continuing her business partner’s thoughts as the two often do, “it comes right back here.”

There is one piece that they never tire of. “We have a radio cabinet that Vladimir Kagan had worked on when he was just nineteen years old,” Bigi says. “We still have the original receipt for $350.”

“I don’t think we could part with it,” Belkind notes, “but if we were to put a price on it, it would be around $10,000.”

The two chose Tarrytown as their base because at the time, 1996, it was a well-known antiques center, more so than it is today. They are able to source most of their inventory within Westchester. “We never have to go any further than Southern Westchester,” Belkind says.

“People call us when they are downsizing and we are happy to help their furnishings find new homes.”

In addition to the physical store, Belkind Bigi also has a presence on the website 1stdibs.com. Belkind says, “It receives more than one million visitors a month and hundreds of dealers, designers, and decorators shop there. It’s a great way for us to sell.”

Indeed it is. During our conversation, a decorator called regarding an oversize Milo Baughman swivel chair from the 1970s that she had seen on the site. Earlier in the day, Stella McCartney’s people called—they are opening a new boutique in Las Vegas and bought two Swedish end tables from the 1950s for displaying clothes. Other notable names have shopped the store as well. A few months ago, they personally delivered a sectional couch to singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright’s house in Montauk. “We once received a call from Dick Cheney’s people asking about a pair of slipper chairs,” Belkind says. “We thought it was a prank, but, sure enough, they called back and bought them.”

In addition to supplying designers and decorators, the store is also a boon for set designers. “They’ll be shooting in Brooklyn and want some 1950s-‘60s furniture,” Belkind says. Their merchandise has played supporting roles in The Producers, Across the Universe, Mona Lisa Smile, Whatever Works, and others.

Bigi estimates that about 50 percent of their store merchandise is shown on the site and a significant amount of their business emanates from there. But Belkind is quick to point out, “We would never close our store in favor of the web. We’ve made a lot of really good friends here in Tarrytown. People come in to shop and then stay to chat.”

Top of Page: Stacy Belkind (right) and Marina Bigi (left) in their Tarrytown shop.


 

 

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