For years, Shari Lebowitz visited Westport. When the time came to leave Manhattan — and her very successful interior design firm — our town’s arts, culture and strong sense of community made it a natural new home.
Her move worked out even better than she dreamed. Shari bought a home in Old Hill, made friends, found a sense of purpose, and met a fabulous man. They got married last October, in a beautiful wedding at Longshore. Their extended families enjoyed a perfect New England fall weekend.
But — you know there’s a “but” — while Shari wanted her event to be entirely local, the one thing she could not find here was wedding invitations.
Though she’d never heard of Printemps, she was looking for a place like it. Unfortunately, the all-things-stationery shop on Avery Place closed nearly 6 years ago, after 34 much-loved years in business.
Not long after, Shari saw a “magical” space in Sconset Square. She quickly realized it was perfect for a design studio.
The lease was available.
Bespoke Designs — the name she chose, to describe her one-of-a-kind approach to invitations, paper and engraving — is not a retail store, like Printemps was. It’s open by appointment only.
Still, she hopes her 2nd-floor studio becomes a “wonderful, warm place” where people feel welcome to stop in, talk, find unique designs, and share special events.
“We create custom products for people who want beautiful invitations and stationery, with their own brand and identity,” Shari explains. “Place cards, monograms — it’s all personalized, high-end, bespoke.”
She notes that weddings today can be much more complex than back in the day — when, say, Printemps opened.
There are welcome dinners, pancake breakfasts, clambakes. Bespoke Designs can create a unique map of Westport, including restaurants, private homes, the church and Compo Beach.
Though weddings are big business (and, Shari points out, “a lot more people are allowed to get married now!”), she is involved in much more. She creates beautiful designs for christenings, kids’ parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries — you name it.
She’s done her homework. She represents traditional paper brands like Crane, and has brought designers, calligraphers and hand-letterers into their network (from as far away as New Orleans). “These are people you can’t find elsewhere — or online,” Shari says.
Some will come to the studio for special events. Also in the works: calligraphy and related workshops.
Shari cites a recent Wall Street Journal story, calling ink the new status symbol. “In an age of unattractive communications, where people email and tweet and use emojis, we’ve lost the opportunity to be personal,” she says. “People are going back to pens and ink and personal notes — and they want them to be beautiful.”
Shari — who for years loved nearly everything about Westport — really loves her new venture.
She’s particularly excited about Sconset Square. Le Penguin has brought new energy to the small shopping center.
It’s right around the corner from Printemps. In many ways, what once was old is new again.