Today's post is a love letter to Linda McFadden, the elegant pirate in the photo above. She is the owner of Past Basket, an everything-you-could-possibly-want shop here in Milwaukee. Linda doesn't know this, but she formed my style. Those of you who have complimented my taste, who have purchased things from my shop, who like the way I set a table, let me just get this off my chest: all my best ideas are stolen from Linda.
Linda and her husband Dave opened Past Basket in Kohler, Wisconsin, in 1991, and I would ditch my four squirrelly boys to drive up and drool. Then, in 2001, the McFaddens opened their flagship store about two miles from my house. For goodness sake, you can imagine what that meant. I could jog over in a pinch.
Linda carries the crème de la crème in tableware, glassware, linens, and home accessories. I fell in love with Simon Pearce, Yves Delorme, and MacKenzie-Childs. I developed crushes on the two reigning Johns of the design world -- John Robshaw and John Derian. One Thursday night, I got to meet Capucine Gooding, the creative director of Juliska, and we talked about Bunny Williams.
But it's not just the pretty inventory that makes Linda's shop so special. She cuts the sweetness of her style with a dose of nature. She uses birch trees as design elements, and did so long before it became trendy. She decorates with nests, branches, leaves, logs, shells, and wildflowers foraged from her yard. No vignette in her shop is complete without a reference to Mother Earth.
I've gotten to know Linda and Dave. She agreed to let me shoot a tablescape at their Lake Michigan home north of Milwaukee. For those of you who are not in this area and can't shop at Past Basket, the photos will give you a feel for Linda's shop. Because Past Basket is a reflection of Linda's home and vice-versa.
Linda believes in relaxed entertaining. Her quiet but confident hospitality puts everyone at ease. She doesn't fuss over starched linens. She arranges flowers loosely in whatever containers she has available. She mashes up an old world European elegance with a modern American country style. You can see this most readily in her dishes. She mixes new pottery with antique porcelain plates she has collected over the years. She loves the pieces that are hand-painted with ships or natural motifs. They're hard to find now, but Linda still keeps an eye peeled. (You can see in the photo below Mr. Caterpillar likes Linda's taste in china as well.)
Linda and Dave have been married for more than a half century. They've raised three children together. They've built a thriving business that survived the economic downturn of 1990 and 2008.
That day on the beach, Linda's husband Dave and my husband Gary worked diligently behind the scenes. Linda noticed the way these two toiled without complaint, and with sisterly solidarity, she confided to me her approval of my husband's support and respect for my endeavor. "Everyone talks about the men who don't support women," she said. "What about the ones who do? The ones who support women and their dreams? And they don't have to be big ones."
Linda has an austere beauty that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. And like Hepburn, Linda suffered as a child in war-torn Europe. She and her family escaped the Soviet invasion of Estonia, lived as refugees in Germany for five years, and then arrived in the United States when Linda was thirteen. She and her family landed in New York City in 1949 and were resettled in Fort Worth, Texas, where with the help of a sponsor, they began a new life on a farm.
Learning that Linda journeyed to America on a boat, I understand her love of dishes painted with ships. She lived as a refugee, and she knows that a beautiful table makes daily life a little better. Perhaps because she experienced the loss of her home as a child, Linda holds dear all the little things that make a house a home. You can experience Linda's vision of home at Past Basket. You'll find Linda there among the dishes. Stop in and say 'hello'.
Past Basket is located at 383 W. Brown Deer Road in Fox Point, Wisconsin.
Photos by Renn Kuhnen.
New at Finder Not Keeper, a few items inspired by Linda's soigné style. Click on photos for shopping details:
Phew! You made it to the bottom! Thank you for your time today, and if you liked the story about Linda, you might also enjoy the story about another style maven, Carolyne Roehm. Click below to read more.
Collage by Nicholas Ballesteros
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