The Oscar can be found next to the Barbies. It’s all in the mix—an artful assemblage, really—at Scout House, a new boutique in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, that brings under-the-radar designers and makers in fashion, home, and food to the stylish denizens of the Berkshires. (Yes, they’ve always existed, but now, thanks to coronavirus-induced migratory patterns, they seem to abound.)
It’s the first retail project from Bobby Houston, a filmmaker. (He won the Academy Award, which is sadly not for sale, for his 2005 documentary, “Mighty Times: The Children’s March.”) He left California and landed in this quirky hamlet a decade ago, and embarked upon a second career buying, restoring, and flipping historic homes with his partner, Eric Shamie. For Scout House, he masterminded the build-out of a big old pile from 1860 on a prime patch of downtown, and then enlisted his friend the interior designer Jennifer Bianco to source the goods it would ultimately contain.
“It’s a little bit gendered—I crash and bash, and she fluffs and primps,” says Houston of their arrangement. Bianco, who has outfitted some of the Berkshires’ best-looking interiors, has filled Scout House with Charvet tabletop pieces, French linens, Turkish towels, and women’s ready-to-wear from Frame, St. Roche, and Brochu Walker.
Houston handled the library’s offerings; around 1,500 books, new and used and, occasionally, first editions, are offered for sale. Before moving to Great Barrington, the peripatetic entrepreneur owned a bookstore in Ojai, California. “It lost money for eight years and then sold for a record sum,” he says. “I thought, Well, that was fine. I am still a bookseller in my heart—I’m always telling people what to read.”
The furnishings, largely vintage and culled from the Shaker and midcentury-modern periods, are also, conveniently, for sale. “What I’ve been doing for a decade is modern-farmhouse look—mixing an old, paint-covered armoire with Mies van der Rohe tubular steel chairs,” he says.
So far, Scout House is a hit—its nooks and crannies were largely emptied of merchandise after just a few fair-weather weekends blessed with heavy foot traffic. Expect its popularity to grow as the summer crowds descend.
“I’ve lived in a variety of nice places, and this is my terminal address,” says Houston, who also, according to legend, hosts some of the region’s most lively dinner parties. “It’s this brainy little town, and that’s what keeps me here. And it was the first town in America to have streetlights!”
Ashley Baker is a Deputy Editor for Air Mail