Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Big Switch

Turning an old telephone building into a design center



Wendy Carlson

For years, Peter Kahane passed a neglected red-brick building on the way to his office a few storefronts down on New Milford’s Church Street. Weeds and brush shrouded the graffiti-marred structure. But instead of an eyesore, Kahane saw a blank canvas—and an opportunity. New Milford, where stretches of farmland bump up against strip malls and subdivisions and homes near the historic town green date back centuries, might seem like an unlikely place for modern and contemporary design. But the vernacular limestone and brick building, built in 1917 as a switching station for Southern New England Telephone Company, seemed like the perfect environment to Kahane. The town, which took ownership of it in 1963, had used the building as a community center and home of the Parks & Recreation Department up until the 1990s when asbestos and lead issues shuttered it. Over the years, the structure deteriorated, becoming a shabby cousin to the town’s restored historic Town Hall located across the street.

It’s future seemed bleak, especially after an attempt by a local artists group to raise $1.5 million to renovate it failed. Then, in 2012, Kahane and his wife, Stephanie, co-owners of Ameico, an importer of modern and contemporary European design products, purchased it from the town for $120,000 and spent just under a million to remediate and renovate the 6,000-square-foot, two-story structure. Last year, they relocated their offices, and in June they opened 29 Church, a retail stop featuring design products from Ameico’s collections, which represent some of the foremost designers from the Bauhaus period of the 1920s up to the present.

From the beginning, the Kahanes, who split their time between Bridgewater and Switzerland, sought to retain the building’s architectural integrity. Much of the original structure was preserved, including the wood and cement flooring, casement windows, and ruddy brick exterior. Even the six-inch round holes that had been cut into the wooden flooring to house switchboard wires were capped with illuminated clear resin-sanded discs to protect historic details. The building’s adaptive reuse earned the Kahanes the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation 2014 award.

But beyond restoring a significant town structure, “we also wanted it to become a destination place that will draw more people to New Milford,” says Jennette Purdy, general manager of Ameico, “I’ve heard realtors who show homes in Litchfield County tend to direct clients to drive through Woodbury because it is prettier than driving up Route 7.” The town green, reputedly the longest in the state, is just a stone’s throw from the building, she notes. “But newcomers often completely bypass New Milford and that’s something we want to change.”

So far, it seems to be working. Shortly after a story about Ameico appear in the New York Times, Ameico’s retail store witnessed an influx of visitors, including Manhattan day trippers, she says. “A number of them said it was the first time they had been to New Milford and they didn’t know there was anything like this up here.”
On the first floor, where operators once sat at switchboards, employees now tap at computers filling wholesale orders. Above the retail shop, a showroom features meticulously displayed items like a Man Ray beechwood chess set; Josef Albers book shelf, writing desk and nesting tables; Miguel Mila lighting fixtures; and Enzo Mari posters. Tabletop accessories include Wilhelm Wagenfeld salt and pepper sets, Enzo Mari letter openers and Carl Mertens flatware.

And, if you aren’t familiar with those names, on the second floor, a conference room and library features Kahane’s private collection of industrial design books along with framed vintage posters. The space was designed as a gathering place to educate the public on design. “We have always felt that one of our missions needed to be to explain what is good and original design. This building gives us the opportunity to do exactly that, in a beautiful environment,” wrote Kahane in an email.
A surprisingly large community of architects and designers are tucked away in Litchfield County, says Purdy.

“A local architect just told me that the assistant of Arne Jacobsen, one of the most famous architects of modern design, lives in Washington. So its not far fetched to have a design center in a small town like New Milford.”

Standing on the new rooftop porch which overlooks the town, she added: “Our hope is to make this building a place where both professionals and the public can learn more about good, original design and about the history of New Milford itself.

Add your comment:

Connect With Us    

Sign-up for our event 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

November 2018

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Join Art Rodia, an instructor with over 30 years of yoga teaching experience, as he guides this gentle yoga class. Created for people over fifty and beginners who need a gentle and accessible...

Cost: 10 per class

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Harper Keehn is a professional knife sharpener based in New Haven. Bring your knives, serrated knives, pizza cutters, scissors, food processor blades, and other edge tools to be sharpened on site....

Cost: 1.25/inch

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

(Litchfield, Conn.) Brandywine Living at Litchfield will be hosting their 6th Annual Ladies Night Out Charity Shopping Event on Thursday, November 15th  from 5-7 PM. This spectacular community...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Brandywine Living at Litchfield
19 Constitution Way
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine Living at Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9500
Contact Name: Amber Chapman
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Brandywine Living at Litchfield's 6th Annual Ladies Night Out Charity Shopping Event.  Thursday, November 15, 2018, from 5 pm to 7 pm. Join us for food, signature drinks, fun and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Brandywine LIving at Litchfield
19 Constitution Way
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine Living at Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9500
Contact Name: Nanette Bergin

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

The League of Women Voters of Litchfield County will co-sponsor a talk with the Litchfield Historical Society on Saturday, November 17 at 4 p.m. entitled “Nation of Immigrants" featuring Kevin...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Lithfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

St Joseph High School's Maroon & Gold Gala is a scholarship event that casts a spotlight on the school’s strong commitment to community service and leadership. It is a fabulous...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Waterview
215 Roosevelt Drive
Monroe, CT  06468
View map »


Sponsor: St Joseph High School
Telephone: (203) 378-9378
Contact Name: St Joseph High School
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Following a Dream

Peter Gallagher on Life as an Actor

Coal-Fired Kiss

Sasso’s Coal Fired Pizza also has incredibly fresh seafood

A Taco Sensation

Èl Camión has been crowned Connecticut's Best

What is the stone marker under a tree on the green in Litchfield?

Champagne Is So Over ...

What i’m bringing to your holiday potluck
Edit ModuleShow Tags