A Shop Where You Never Know What You’ll Get

Now in its second season
Theresa Davis, the manager of LongHouse Reserve’s new Instore museum shop, is surrounded by one-of-a-kind objects from the world’s most exotic places. Durell Godfrey

    “Jack redoes it every three weeks,” said Theresa Davis, the manager of INstore, the museum shop at Jack Lenor Larsen’s LongHouse Reserve. “In three weeks, you won’t see any of this.”
    Now in its second season, the tiny shop, judiciously placed near the entrance to the gardens where it’s the first and last thing LongHouse visitors encounter, somehow manages to squeeze in about 100 items, most of them chosen by Mr. Larsen himself. At 85, the noted textile designer still roams the world, and Indian cashmere scarves, English teapots, Turkish necklaces, Japanese kimonos made of Thai silks, and much, much more follow him back to East Hampton.
    INstore, much like LongHouse itself, is all about one-of-a-kind-ness. There are evening bags of Larsen fabrics with contrasting linings and drawstring closures, each different from the next, that look like they’d be right at home at the season opening of the Metropolitan Opera. No worries about being upstaged. There’s a circus contortionist of a sterling silver necklace, the most expensive item in the shop, that can twist and turn and become whatever shape the wearer makes it into, really 10 necklaces in one for $2,500.
    At the more breathable end of the shopping stratosphere are decorative wrapping papers from Nepal that could easily be framed and hung on a wall ($8 apiece) and cream-colored Ecuadorean tagua-nut rings, some dyed in mysterious colors. The nuts, which grow on trees, “take the dye just like silk does,” Ms. Davis said. “When they’re soft, you can eat them. Monkeys do.”
     Gonul Paksoy, a Turkish artist and designer, made the voodoo-ish little dolls that are to be worn as brooches. “She designs for royalty,” Ms. Davis confided. “If you have one of her pins, it’s a style statement.” At $90 for a two-inch pin, it had better be.
    A few of the offerings at INstore aren’t immediately identifiable. There are looped skeins of colorful strings, looking for all the world as if they’re waiting for a pair of knitting needles except that they’re not wool. Even Ms. Davis was mystified when she unpacked them.
    “What do you want me to do with these?” she asked Mr. Larsen.
    “Sell them!” he shot back.
    “But what are they for?”
    “You wrap presents with them!”
    With all these unpredictable objects arriving all the time from faraway places (and a few from near ones, including mugs by the East Hampton artist Emma Katz, striated to look like birch bark), there’s bound to be an occasional shocker. Ms. Davis was taken aback not long ago to get a whiff of something evil when she opened a box of woven iPad cases from India, some of them dyed blood-red and others jet black.
    “I e-mailed our Indian contact,” she recalled. “ ‘What kind of toxic paint did you send us?’ ”
    “Just put it out in the sun and the smell will go away,” came the reply.
    “And,” she said loyally of the now de-reeked and prominently displayed cases, “they’re unique beyond anything!”
    Because INstore, like LongHouse, is open for just three hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays (Wednesdays through Saturdays in July and August) and by appointment, it has relied on the museum’s members and visitors for sales. That is changing, though, with the snazzy new addition to LongHouse’s Web site, longhouse.org/longhouse-instore, designed by Ellen Watson and Jerry Lack of East Hampton, which features expandable photos of what’s in stock at the moment.
    “In summer, we get an international crowd,” said Ms. Davis. Not long before Valentine’s Day, someone in Italy used the Web site to buy a silk scarf imprinted with red hearts for the object of his affections in Germany.