Q&A with...Vanessa Bikindou, interior design store owner
NEW CANAAN — Caravan Curated Home, located at 12 Burtis Ave., has no particularly established style. If anything, it breaks the notion that one needs a definitive style at all with its vibrant mix of European and American art.
Vanessa Bikindou, a 38-year-old New York City resident, opened the interior design shop in October 2016 and has expanded her collection of items to maintain a steady clientele and attract new customers. A former attorney in Paris, Bikindou said her countless travels influenced her passion for art and interior decor.
Q: How did you become interested in art?
A: I’m originally from Paris and I was an attorney there for a few years. Later on with my husband, I moved to New York in 1999 and I had a company that used to sponsor these one-of-a-kind celebrity events.
With this company, I came up with an idea for a concept: I had friends who were paparazzi for the French magazine Paris Match and we went to collect the trash of celebrities, literally their garbage, all over California and we brought it back, displayed it and took photographs of it.
We collected garbage from Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Halle Berry and we had a huge print with three-dimensional renderings of the products. We had a huge success and exhibited all over the country and we sold limited edition photographs — that’s how I got started.
Q: The transition from attorney to artist, how did that go?
A: When I came to New York City, I fell in love with its energy and creativity. I wanted to explore some sort of different outlet, a different area outside of my original field.
When I chose art, it was a natural change, I really enjoyed it. I never felt like I was going through something of a typical process. I was working for myself, creating things and producing a certain type of event and it was really interesting.
I had the opportunity to take over a property in the Caribbean and I transformed it into a construction and decor shop and I discovered I was into it a lot. When I came back to New York City to stay permanently I wanted to stay in that field and was more passionate about furniture and decor and antiques.
I would go to the flea markets and antique shops when I was still living in Paris and so I was always very much into decor and art from a while ago.
Q: How did the idea for Caravan come about?
A: I opened Caravan about a year ago. One of my best friends lives here in New Canaan with his daughter and I would come here to visit them on weekends and for holidays.
I started to build a client base where I would sell antiques or furniture and so I began looking for retail and interior decor with one-of-a-kind appliances. I needed a space to embody all the different activities that I had and, though I started originally with interior decor, we put the shop together and I kept adding.
Q: Is there a certain style you wish to express with Caravan?
A: Honestly, I’m very comfortable with a lot of different eras and I love the mix, it blends naturally. I’m as comfortable with 18th century French just as I’m with mid-20th century American.
My idea is to show that it’s possible to blend and mix multiculturally. It’s a puzzle of different styles together without fear of standing out. I wanted to offer the client the possibility to explore.
Q: What appealed to you about New Canaan?
A: New Canaan is a real community with an interesting sense of the aesthetic. There’s a well-traveled and educated clientele. Most people are collector of antiques. There’s also a history of creativity in terms of architecture, with an array of architects in the 1950s and 1960s. Artistically speaking, it’s a very interesting place.
What I like to do is to showcase. I work with a lot of New Canaan artisans and I appreciate being able to promote local artists and their work and to blend it with different products.
Q: Do you go back to France often?
A: I do go to France often but also Italy to source and purchase a lot of things for the shop. I would say there’s one third of France, one third of Italy and one third of America in the shop to create a sort of blend.
Since I travel a lot, I do miss Parisian food. I always come back with an enormous luggage full of authorized foods and whatever I can travel with. Since I’m always in different places, I never really have the time to crave a special place. I’m pretty blessed that I’m able to travel often.
Q: Do you miss being an attorney?
A: Not at all. Back in high school I felt that I was always interested in becoming an attorney. I thought it was something that would lead to a corporate career and I was always logical and organized.
I enjoyed it — it was the sort of work that let you be very flexible intellectually, so you’re able to naturally connect yourself to other areas and work and excel in other things. It gives you an intellectual structure.
Q: Any new projects?
A: It’s been about a month and a half since we opened a house showroom on Park Street. It’s a very interesting space and there’s a house that is used to showcase different rooms and furniture styles. It’s only used for interior design and it’s a different style than Caravan. I want people to easily see a large array of furniture and house accessories.