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Coming to America

Home Stories, a worldly new retail space, opens its doors in Brooklyn Heights

The store is elevated above street level to evoke the feel of a home.
The store is elevated above street level to evoke the feel of a home.
The owners, Sophie and Paul Yanacopoulos-Gross.
The owners, Sophie and Paul Yanacopoulos-Gross.

A lot has changed since 1996—a time when a pinboard was something to which your mother tacked newspaper clippings and television’s best-known interior designer was Delta Burke, not Nate Berkus. For Sophie and Paul Yanacopoulos-Gross, whose Geneva, Switzerland–based store, Atmosphere, opened that year, all that change has ironically brought more of the same.

For their new boutique, Home Stories, which recently opened in Brooklyn Heights, “we were literally placing the same orders from 20 years before,” says Sophie, laughing. “These things are completely timeless. Today, yesterday, tomorrow—it doesn’t matter. It’s beyond that.” That’s not to say that the shop that now resides at 148 Montague Street is a carbon copy of their original vision. Home Stories is as much an evolution of the couple’s brand as it as a reaffirmation of a lifelong philosophy that remains happily unchanged. “When the base [of your design] is good quality and a certain kind of simplicity, it allows an enduring versatility,” says Sophie. “And we are trying to make our selections with that in mind.” That includes a line of home furnishings, from made-to-order sofas to ceramic serveware, rendered in a richly subdued palette; the store also offers home styling and decoration services. A collection of furniture is in the works to complement the couple's bespoke fittings and built-ins, all designed in Brooklyn and manufactured in Italy.

After closing Atmosphere in the mid-2000s, the couple retreated to Jussy, outside Geneva, to restore a farmhouse that would double as their family home and base of operations. “All we wanted to do was have a nice shop and buy nice products and meet nice clients,” remembers Paul. The store had felt the first inklings of competitive pressure from the Internet, though it would take e-commerce a few more years of gestating to become ubiquitous. “If you have a product that 10 other shops have and that’s available online, the only thing that matters in the end is how much you can get it for, as long as it gets there fast. It pushes you to do something different and [try for] a certain kind of exclusivity,” says Paul. Adds Sophie, “Because products [have moved online], stores have to come with another proposal. We feel there’s a lot of education to be done.”

That education takes form in Home Stories’ pared-down aesthetic, reflecting a globalism of shared experiences rather than a didactic juxtaposition of Peruvian blankets and Moroccan poufs. The store is reflective of the way one might actually live with the pieces in stock, and that’s just how the owners like it. “The moment people come in, they change their rhythm,” says Sophie. “There’s another other tempo that sets in. They start to feel the space and all the senses at work. And I think that is what you bring home.”

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