By Jill Connors
It’s hard to decide if the best thing about Chateau & Bungalow in Newport, Rhode Island, is its design-savvy owner Sarah O’Neill Fernandez, or its wonderful collection of objects — a mix that, speaking from personal experience, always seems to include exactly what the customer wants.
A native New Englander, Fernandez grew up in Connecticut and summered in Middletown, Rhode Island, the town adjacent to Newport where she and her husband are now raising their family. She studied interior design at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and worked as a design and retail professional until the recession hit in 2009.
Finding herself out of a job, Fernandez says, “I knew I wanted my own shop, crazy as that is, but 2009 wasn’t the right time, so I thought I would build an audience by writing a blog.” Launching chateauandbungalow.com also allowed her to work from home and care for her infant daughter (now nearly 6) and toddler son (now 8).
“Blogging about product lines that I admired and couldn’t find in Newport,” she says, “I was thinking I would one day carry them in my shop.” However, by the time she opened her store in July 2013, other retailers had read her blog, followed her tips, and picked up some of the lines she most admired. “I don’t do as much product-related blogging anymore,” she says with a laugh.
Shopkeeper Sarah O’Neill Fernandez opened Chateau & Bungalow in July 2013, after creating a blog of the same name four years earlier to build an audience while waiting out the recession.
Still, she has managed to put together a distinct inventory, an eclectic mix of unique items and sought-after product lines that is attracting a growing clientele. Her shop is full of both the whimsical and the pragmatic. There are vintage bentwood dining chairs, a tulip-based wicker table, and antique garden furniture alongside more established home design fare such as candles, lamps, bedding, and tableware.
“I like to think of the shop as a treasure hunt,” says Fernandez. “There’s everything from Biedermeier to Art Deco to Colonial all mixed in, but there are also the reliable items, like the taper candles and Turkish towels.” Prices are reasonable ranging from $2.75 for 8-inch taper candles to $1,500 for an artisan-crafted table. Her unique product lines include Roberta Roller Rabbit bedding (other Newport retailers carry the brand’s clothing), Jill Rosenwald custom-monogrammed trays, and stoneware bowls and pie dishes from Vermont’s Farmhouse Pottery. “I wanted it to be a place where you could come in and find that piece that would make your rooms unique,” says Fernandez.
The metal étagère, lobster-trap coffee table, and tulip-base wicker table are part of the well-edited mix of vintage items and consignment pieces in Fernandez’s inventory.
She frequently collaborates with local sources to host events in the shop. For example, a month-long sale of lampshades from Ramson House, a custom that is moving out of Newport, began on March 4. A Spring Equinox Party, the culmination of the countdown to spring Fernandez has been doing on Instagram, is also in the works. In the meantime, spending time at Chateau & Bungalow is sure to warm the spirits.
Chateau & Bungalow is Newport’s only source for custom monogrammed trays by Boston-based designer Jill Rosenwald. “They make great wedding gifts,” says Fernandez.
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