Sag Harbor has become an artistic center with a magnetic force that’s getting stronger and stronger. One of the latest creative types pulled into the Village’s center is Natasha Esch, who just opened a vintage furniture and home accents store at 40 Madison Street .
Even the shop’s name, MONC XIII, was an exercise in innovation. Browsers needn’t fret that they might reveal a lack of antique-savvy or expose a challenged knowledge of French if they ask what it means. For a recent interview, Esch sat in one of the sitting areas she has created. We were on a pair of mid-century red leather Chesterfield sofas, as comfy as they are beautiful. In front of us was a 1950 Italian occasional table, holding sculptures consisting of a set of three French black and white circa 1950 ceramic vases. Completing the arrangement were two 1940s art deco chairs in black leather. Wearing totally 2012 pastel summer jeans and a comfy but chic T-shirt, Esch explained the name that she and co-owner husband, Matt Coffin came up with. “‘M’ is for husband Matt. ‘O’ is for my seven-year-old daughter, Orchid. ‘N’ is for me, Natasha. ‘C’ is for last name Coffin. The ‘13’ is for my son, Sky’s, birthday.”
When her family decided they wanted to move east, she said New York City was out of the question. The East End was the perfect place to raise children. She decided to sell her Los Angeles shop and bring her expertise to Sag Harbor. It wasn’t exactly something that happened over night. “Our approval process (for the shop) took a full year, which was very long. I found that in order to do something in Sag Harbor, it has to be a passion project, and you must have patience.”
The name has the owner’s stamp, and certainly the shop itself does as well. Esch described it as “a long-held dream to create a beautiful setting that captures my love of old and new, where tradition meets modern.” Esch is confident that her sense of design and reverence for the Sag Harbor/Hamptons environment are a perfect match for the super-discerning summer and year-round residents, and that the store lends a fresh take on what is the East End look and atmosphere. Her style, she said, is “an evolution of all the exposure I have had in designing homes for the last 12 years—the result of having edited all my favorite things into one elemental style.”
Esch is originally European—born in Germany, schooled in Switzerland. She came to the United States for college. She studied business, but when her family acquired Wilhelmina Modeling Agency, she took over as vice-president, and began to admire the creative part of the business. “I was exposed to the photographers, the stylists, the designers and the other creative types, I saw so many successful people. Having grown up in a very traditional German life, I always thought artists had to be starving artists. “ Not wanting especially to starve, she thought, “Wow! I can make a living being creative!”
That’s when her designing flair took over her life. She moved to Los Angeles, bought a house and pulled out all her creative renovation and decorating talents to transform it into a dream home, and the next thing she knew, her house was featured in Elle Décor in 2000. “It was a very exciting moment for me,” she said. “The story actually marked the start of my career as an interior designer.” You can look the article up—it describes in detail the process she went through.
One thing led to another—Esch was profiled in Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Women’s Wear Daily. Soon she was in demand for interviews on CNN, E’s Fashion File, MTV and “Entertainment Tonight.”
Artists have long known that setting is vital to their work (Imagine Gone With the Wind set in Minneapolis, or Mad Men taking place in rural Mexico—impossible!). “Design is always very contextual to environment and location,” she said. “I wouldn’t decorate a house in Manhattan the same way I would decorate a house in the Hamptons.” Understanding the client’s desires is vital. “The person living in the space provides the context of the environment. The lifestyle they lead makes up the environment in which you design. There was a void when I came here to the Hamptons of how to present a picture of a whole home. And you don’t want too many choices, there are too many choices in life nowadays. You just need a few good ones from a well-edited collection.”
Defining a Hamptons aesthetic is what she does—but definitely, not, she said, “the Hamptons cliché that Diane Keaton’s house in the film Something’s Gotta Give was.
People will want to look in MONCXIII for arrangements or individual pieces to reflect the lifestyle here. For the next beach party, why not pick up a leather-covered Coleman cooler? “It is the Maserati of coolers,” she said, laughing. But seriously—“everyone needs to have one to take to the beach!” And not to worry about sand or water ruining your investment. “It’s made of saddle- type leather, by Sol Y Luna, a Spanish company, and it ages beautifully in the outdoors.” So do the leather-covered wheelbarrows—“use it for a back yard- party to hold ice and beer.” While you’re at it, how about a leather-covered bicycle?
Two years in the making, the space occupied by MONCXIII is a modern twist on the traditional, built by local builder Tom O’Donoghue and architect Martin Sosa, with landscape design by Joseph Cornetta Designs. The ceiling features salvaged oak barn ceilings, exposed wood beams, vintage European industrial lighting, Bendheim antique glass windows and a custom designed spiral staircase as the store’s centerpiece. It all feels very East End. Esch promises to welcome the community with receptions throughout the summer to show off her rotating inventory. “There is so much diversity here, in architecture, nature, and people. I’m happy to see so many Europeans.” In meeting the public at receptions, she added, “I definitely want to emphasize that if you’re doing your home decorating, you MUST come to MONC XIII,” she said.