When I bought my first house four years ago, I did not own enough stuff to furnish a house. Sure, I had some belongings that I’d been carting around for twenty years from one studio apartment to the next, but they were mostly books. I’d also inherited a few of pieces of furniture that had been in my parents’ home for decades, but even though I lean strongly towards the minimalist end of the decorating spectrum, my modest house still felt like a cavernous empty space. I seriously needed to go shopping.
For reasons of budget, time, and convenience, I bought a lot of what I needed in chain stores or online. Still, I wanted to shop locally as much as I could, so when it was possible, I filled my new space with things I found right here in Connecticut.
Based on that experience, as well as years of browsing and gathering inspiration in Connecticut home stores, I wanted to write a list of the places I’d recommend to anyone shopping for home goods – whether that means filling up an empty new house or apartment or refreshing one little corner of a room.
Mine, Mystic (16 Stonington Road.) This eclectic antique store has a bit of everything; to me it stands out as the place to go for pieces that are just too…specific to find elsewhere. This is where I found the perfect white chair to complete my mis-matched dining set, as well as a little console table that fit in my oddly-shaped entryway as if it had been custom made.
Fun Company Sample Outlet, Stonington (71 Cutler Street.) My go-to for affordable candles that smell amazing and don’t give me a headache (a tall order, believe me.) They also have stacks of gorgeous linens you won’t find elsewhere, and a selection of other household items and gifts.
Jeremiah’s Antiques and Collectibles, Putnam (26 Front Street.) A good bet if you’re looking for a piece of furniture that’s fallen out of fashion. This sprawling store is where I found the little old school desk I now use to store jewelry.
Hartford Prints, Hartford (42 ½ Pratt Street.) A cute destination for locally-themed, and often locally-made, items. It’s where I got the little postcard on my bookshelf, but they also have calendars and other items that let you display your Hartford or Connecticut pride.
Blaze and Bloom Vintage, Hartford (485 New Park Avenue.) This retro furniture and home store has a maximalist vibe, but the creative pieces sold here could work in any environment. It’s a good place to check out if you want something you won’t see in other stores- or other homes.
Past to Present, Niantic (260 Main Street) This is where the commemorative brick on my bookshelf came from (it was a present), but they also have furniture, art, and all sorts of other unexpected items for the home. Plus, they recently expanded beyond their Main Street shop to a second location a few blocks away.
Mystic Knotwork, Mystic (2 Holmes Street.) Who could resist a store that describes itself as “the first and oldest knot shop in the United States?” Not me; this is where I got my monkey fist keychain, which is still in perfect condition four years later. But they also have door mats, trivets, and other nautical touches perfect for a coastal home.
Mellow Monkey, Stratford (360 Sniffens Lane.) This store is crammed (in a good way) with tempting home decor items, from understated furniture and lighting to kitchenware and little accents with a lighthearted, coastal vibe. (It’s where I got the Westport mug on my kitchen shelf.)
Mongers Market, Bridgeport (1155 Railroad Avenue.) This massive space, stocked with an almost overwhelming assortment of salvaged items of all sorts, is where I’d start if I had to do it all again.
Partners Antiques, Essex (7 North Main Street.) A good source for, among other things, vintage glass jars, which I use for vases when my out-of-control yard starts sprouting flowers.
Seymour Antiques Co, Seymour (26 Bank Street.) Possibly my favorite antique store in all of Connecticut, this place is organized, calming, and gorgeous, with unique and beautiful furniture and home accessories.
Swag, Old Saybrook (875 Boston Post Road.) Another good source for candles, this quirky shop also sells kitchen items and other housewares.
Old Mill Pond Village Shops, Granby (383 Salmon Brook Street.) This collection of stores, all housed in rambling historic buildings, has a huge range of home goods from furniture to tableware to pottery to barn stars and other outdoor decor. (It’s where my friend bought me the small hamsa dish on my coffee table.)
Goods & Curiosities, Essex (47 Main Street.) The store of the famous and historic Griswold Inn across the street, this fun yet classy shop stocks a wide variety of tempting little home items. Much of what you’ll find here has a local, nautical flavor, and falls into the category of great gifts you really want to buy for yourself.
Lillian August Warehouse, Stamford (47 John Street.) The vast, outlet-like iteration of this high-end design store has moved from its former SoNo store to Stamford. I haven’t been to the new location yet, but it appears to have retained its character as a colorful shopping experience where you can also find a luxurious rug, chair, chandelier or smaller (and more affordable) bit of fancy decor.
Antiques on the Farmington, Collinsville (10 Depot Street.) Of the many multi-story, multi-dealer antiques bazaars in the state, this is one of the more navigable. It’s full of conversation-starting large furniture pieces, as well as glassware, art, and vintage oddities.
Mansfield Drive-In Marketplace, Mansfield Center (228 Stafford Road.) As you’d expect from an event that calls itself “the largest flea market in eastern Connecticut,” this place – located on the grounds of a drive-in movie theatre – has everything from tables and chairs to vintage road signs.
Bookstores. Of course, they’ll help you fill up your bookshelves, but bookstores are also good places to find home decor bits like magnets, mugs, and literary themed art prints. I wrote a whole post about some of my favorite Connecticut bookstores.
Museum Stores. They’re often described as sources for gifts or souvenirs, but museum stores are also great places to find unique little touches for your home. I got the tiny cannon on my bookshelf at the Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington (7 Water Street), and have bought other items at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford (600 Main Street.)
Garden Stores. They’re where you go for plants, obviously, but they’re also a handy source for pots – functional or decorative – and other indoor and outdoor decor items. Connecticut has a plethora of garden centers, but some of my favorites are Smith’s Acres in Niantic (4 West Main Street; White Flower Farm in Morris (167 Litchfield Road); Madison Flower Shop in Madison (376 Durham Road); Logee’s in Danielson (141 North Street); and Panfili’s in Salem (142 East Haddam Road.)
Kitchen stores. From cookware to wine glasses to measuring cups to pot holders to…okay, you see where I’m going with this. This stuff can be found all over, but sometimes it’s best to go straight to a shop that specializes in products for the kitchen. Some of my local favorites (where even those who don’t love to cook can spend ages browsing) are New Preston Kitchen Goods, New Preston (11 East Shore Road); The Perfect Pear, Chester (51 Main Street); Weekend Kitchen, Essex (16 Main Street); and Kitch, Mystic (27 Coogan Boulevard.)
Anthropologie, Westport (59 Post Road East.) Yes, it’s a national chain you can find anywhere. But I’ll always return to Anthro for bowls and mugs (like the “J” mug on my jewelry-stand-slash-antique-desk), and their massive Westport concept store is not your typical mall Anthropologie.
Last but definitely not least, the best resource for Connecticut-based makers who sell their goods online as well as in stores and markets around the state is Nutmeg Collective.