Our Windows | By Jack Tambini
Since their inception in eighteenth-century London, window displays have grown into a true art form, capturing the imaginations of consumers and passersby alike. Window display design reached new creative heights throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries at luxury department stores such as Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as the high-end boutiques one finds along New York City’s Madison Avenue. Truly great window displays don’t just serve as an exhibition space for a store’s inventory: they tell a story. The window displays at Painted Swan are meant to inspire the local community of Carroll Gardens, and they often serve as a thoughtful commentary on the present season as well as on current events.
While shopping online continues to dominate the retail landscape, it can be so refreshing to stroll down one’s local main street and enjoy a carefully crafted window display. “I love creating windows for my little shop in Brooklyn.” Says Painted Swan owner Andrea Romeo, “When I first opened the shop, I thought the objective was to sell your products. I truly did not understand the impact a store window can have on the community. I start planning the window a month or so before. I love planning for holidays and seasons because you have license to go over the top. No restraints, no editing, just celebration.”
Indeed, the changing of the seasons and the unpredictable news cycle offer priceless inspiration for Painted Swan’s window displays. During the December holidays, the shop’s window is transformed into a winter wonderland, with white hand-crocheted snowflakes and linen and lace stockings. After restocking with an array of antique silver flatware and serving pieces, local artist Bria Deserio created a display of “dancing” silverware inspired by Beauty and the Beast. In the summertime, hanging lamps, seashells, and driftwood make the perfect background for furniture repurposed with Annie Sloan chalk paint.
“I think Halloween is my favorite.” Says Romeo, “The shop is in a neighborhood where Halloween is celebrated in a major way. Almost every brownstone is layered with skeletons and pumpkins. The local funeral home, Scotto’s, puts on a yearly event that draws crowds from all over Brooklyn.” Painted Swan joined in the festivities by featuring a skeleton bride and groom juxtaposed with a vintage candelabra. During the early weeks of the Coronavirus pandemic, while the store was closed, the window was graced by a statue of the Blessed Mother surrounded by candles, offering much-needed hope to locals during a dark time. Conversely, at the end of 2020, when much of the world was seeking a return to normalcy, the shop window humorously featured a “2020” banner falling into a trash can, a reflection on the collective desire to put such a terrible year behind us.
Walking along Court Street in Carroll Gardens, one will find many shops with windows thoughtfully showcasing everything from expertly tailored clothing to vintage books to works of art. Creating such displays galvanizes a sense of magic and whimsy among the community. Painted Swan is so pleased to be taking part in this tradition and looks forward to showing future displays, always with its trademark vintage bicycle included.
Please enjoy some images of our past window displays and Andrea's reflections on them.
"For Halloween, Painted Swan has a tradition of small white ghost pumpkins, and they appear every year to kick off our fall season. Our Halloween windows started off tasteful and restrained, and have become more and more over the top as the years have gone by. A local funeral home uses our corner every year to host a Halloween extravaganza, with coffins filled with candy, witches and ghosts. People come from other neighborhoods each year to experience it. My all-time favorite was the Swan Lake Halloween display, which Bria Deserio orchestrated."
"As we were putting this Halloween window together, a young ballerina from the neighborhood helped by directing us as to the proper poses for our Swan Lake display."
"This window was also created by Bria Deserio from conception to completion, inspired by Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I enjoyed listening to comments, especially from a young child who thought a princess lived here."
"Summer displays are always just fun and carefree. We include symbols of the summer like seashells, baskets and light and airy lamps of our own design, to mimic mosquito netting in a tropical atmosphere."
"One of the scariest times in our neighborhood was the earliest stage of the pandemic, when ambulances and sirens were going off every five minutes and the streets were deserted. It was an eerie feeling. Right before we were forced to close, I thought of a statue that was gifted from one of our neighbor’s brownstones that was sold and needed to be removed. Years before, I was walking in the neighborhood and found her so enchanting, not knowing that years later she would be gifted to me. As Mary protected the neighborhood for years in front of the brownstone, it was only fitting that she continued to do so during Covid. I was so thrilled to provide her with a window to do that. It was incredibly touching, having people stop and pray in front of the shop. Even non-religious people said thank you for acknowledging the suffering of New York City."
"New Year’s is a time to put the past behind us and 2020 needed to be in the trash heap! While the previous year’s display showcased a grandfather clock to celebrate the passage of time, 2020 was a year we wanted to put behind us."
"World events often come into play when designing our windows and this display’s purpose was to showcase the amazing chalk paint by Annie Sloan and how easy it is to transform a piece of furniture from ugly to chic and beautiful. Right after completing this display, the Bernie Sanders meme went viral online, and we couldn’t help but showcase Bernie in our window."