I am excited to introduce you to one of my stylish and talented friends. I met Stacy Kunstel in L.A. 3 years ago as she breezed in to a party with her beyond chic opera coat for an afternoon tea at Hutton and Ruth Wilkinson’s home. It was a dreamy day to say the least. She immediately felt like an old friend with her warm and engaging personality. Our paths have continued to cross in the design world from, L.A., the High Point Market, NYC and Atlanta. She is not only a well known stylist, but also a designer of the ever popular Dunes and Duchess brand created with her partner Michael Partenio.
What is your training?
Trained as a journalist after quitting two years of architecture school, was a travel writer gallivanting around for seven years, have been an interiors photo stylist for the past decade and have created more than 75 magazine and book covers. Michael on the other had was born a photographer. He’s in the business of creating beauty.
What inspires you and your designs?
Storytelling is how so many things start. Dunes aka Michael Partenio (my partner in life and business) and I will be driving in the car and I’ll start telling him about what I’m thinking in terms of product. I’ll weave a story and he brings it to life with a design.
What is your favorite piece?
I love everything! If I didn’t love it I couldn’t make it, but if I had to play favorites I’m really nuts right now for our Chappy Etagere,
the Captain’s Compass Table
and our Moderne sconce.
I’m still waiting to get any of these for our own house.
How has the your area influenced your work?
New England is pretty magical. It’s so much more rural than people imagine, but it’s rural with the best restaurants, incredible stores, scenic rivers, mountainous hikes, historic architecture, beaches and islands. We are hugely influenced by the nautical traditions and furniture making of New England. Turned wood, craftsmanship and hard work are always a part of what we do and design.
What is your favorite restaurant in your area?
Lucia in New Milford, CT, where our workshop is is always fantastic.
We also love Ecco Rooftop in nearby Bethel, CT, where they cook everything in a wood-fired oven.
When we’re in Boston it’s Sportello
What is your favorite cocktail?
We’re wine drinkers. A little rose, a little white, a little red all go well with us. We do have some traditions though—Dunes likes pastis on the rocks after dinner
and we drink Maker’s Mark manhattans from Thanksgiving eve to New Year’s Eve.
Of course I drink really good sipping tequila when he’s not around. 😉
How do you balance personal life and work?
I think balance is a myth. It would mean that you’re taking from something else in order to give more attention to another. There are just some days that we work till midnight in the workshop and others when we snuggle in bed, ignoring the alarm clock. I think it’s really important to listen to your body and understand your partner. Of course eating right, yoga, laughing, sex and wine really help.
Sailing from Greece to Italy to France and eating in all the little port towns along the way.
We dream of doing a collection of branded boutique hotels incorporating all our pieces along with custom designs and a mix of antiques, sailor stripes and a beachy soundtrack.
Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?
I can’t afford to give everyone a candelabra or I would! In summer I love bringing a big bouquet of flowers mixed with fresh herbs from the garden and whatever tomatoes, peppers, zucchini or watermelon I have ripe at the moment.
In the winter I give the Tatine candle called Swarm of Bees. It’s the best smelling thing ever.
Who is your style icon?
—smart, sexy, confident women who don’t take themselves too seriously.
I’d also include Inès de La Fressange
Your favorite up and coming artist / designer?
I think what Tracy Hiner at Blackcrow Studios is doing is mind-boggling beautiful.
What is your most treasured possession?
My dogs. But they really own me. I have two English Springer spaniels named Friday and Lizzie and a rescue named Shell.
What are you reading?
and I always have a Deepak Chopra book with me. It’s just relaxing.
What are you listening to?
Snowmine, Rhye and at our house there’s always some mix of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Buffet, Arcade Fire and Serge Gainsbourg going on.
What are your favorite blogs / publications?
The English Room,
and Coco + Kelley
I am never without a newspaper—NYTs, WSJ, Martha’s Vineyard Gazette. The T magazine in the NYTs and the WSJ magazine are both phenomenal and should be must reads for anyone interested in fashion and design. I get every interiors magazine of course, even foreign ones and my best girlfriend from college sends me copies of the Danish fashion magazine In, where she’s the editor in chief.
Enjoy a few of my favorite iconic Dunes and Duchess pieces in all their lovely glossy glory.
I am mad for the Double Rachel Sconces and the new Mini Rachel Sconce.
Stacy’s take on these beauties…
“We’ve always done things a bit over scale and the Mini Rachel is one of three pieces we did small (Sweet Pea Lamp, Wave Lamp included). We just wanted designers to have a little more flexibility in terms of size, but didn’t want to give up with visual impact of the piece. We can do them in any of our colors and custom colors and have both linen white and grass cloth shades.”
Be sure to visit Stacy and Michael at High Point Market at booth G-6044 in the Market Square.
What pieces are on your wish list?