When entrepreneur and designer Kim Caravella met with GBC board President Meg McAuley Kaicher in early 2017 she was, to put it mildly, a busy woman. After three decades of tireless hustle and training she had established herself as a sought-after interior designer known equally for her work ethic and discerning eye. She is a mother to daughter Gabby (who was seven at the time) and married to fellow entrepreneur Randy Caravella, owner of Randy’s Wines in Cos Cob. She was also about to embark on a new project, long in the making: opening habitatgreenwich, a design concept shop and boutique in downtown Cos Cob.
Nevertheless, when McAuley Kaicher asked her to co-chair an upcoming family-focused fundraiser at GBC, Caravella accepted. “I must have been crazy. To be honest, I didn’t know much about GBC at that point. Meg explained to me that afternoon that GBC was seeking to refresh and reinvigorate–she referred to it as an ‘environmental oasis for community connection’ and that struck a chord. These are things that make my designer ears perk up. I’m a passionate person and when I feel something is right, I jump in with both feet. The GBC mission was very attractive to me.” That event, Frolic in the Forest, is entering its third year and is now one of Greenwich Botanical Center’s most successful fundraisers.
Less than a year later, Caravella accepted another unexpected offer from McAuley Kaicher: to open a second retail location at the Greenwich Botanical Center. “Another crazy leap,” laughs Caravella, “but at that point, I had fallen in love with the GBC and made a lot of new and great friends. Randy and I are committed to supporting our community because we love where we live. We became dedicated supporters of the GBC because we recognize how valuable of a community resource it is….it truly is an oasis.” Within weeks habitatgreenwich x GBC was born, with a portion of sales donated to support GBC programming.
Watching Caravella scuttle about the GBC location of habitatgreenwich, it is apparent that her tireless energy is fueled by an ingrained belief that there is nothing she can’t do if she puts her mind to it. I watched as she crawled, climbed, hauled and reconfigured. At one point she picked up a heavy teak root bench and carried it outside. Noticing my alarmed expression, she commented, “it needs to be more weathered.” Her eyes, hands and brain are always moving trying to make everything just so.
The Greenwich Botanical Center location of habitatgreenwich is a perfect melding of the 63-year old organization's revitalized mission and Caravella’s modern vision as a designer. The GBC is located within the 60-acre Montgomery Pinetum and surrounded by greenhouses, art, evergreens, woodland trails, wildflowers, a peony garden, old stone structures, sculptures, and a pond. This location is a bit of a departure from her downtown location because Caravella has taken great pains to choose merchandise that reflects its surroundings. She motions toward an abstract work by local artist Allison Meyler that evokes GBC’s must-see spring peony garden. On another shelf are a pair of mixed media pieces, Birds 1 & 2, by local Greenwich artist Melissa Rozmus, that one might purchase as an off-beat memento after taking a guided walk in the Pinetum with Director or Horticulture, Lisa Beebe. There are reclaimed wood benches, ornamental brass leaf bowls and handmade baskets. Nature is a recurrent theme, but Caravella’s choices are unexpected and modern.
“Overtime I came to recognize how I felt differently at this location and therefore chose differently.” She picks up a floral stationery set by Hudson Valley-based artist, Elizabeth Grubaugh and uses it to physically punctuate her point, “I think more about where things come from, who made them and how much energy it will take to get them here.” Grubaugh prints locally and uses recycled pages. “People visit my store after taking a horticulture class or practicing yoga upstairs. They are already inspired and feeling good. I want that vibe to continue for them in my shop.”
If the GBC has had an effect on Caravella’s aesthetic, Caravella has contributed much to the GBC’s efforts to broaden its appeal. Board President Meg McAuley Kaicher notes, “When I was looking for someone to help, Kim Caravella was at the top of my list. Kim is keen on the benefits of outdoor time and the effect it has on one’s well-being: this is evident in her design aesthetic and merchandise. She’s a tireless advocate for Cos Cob. I knew she’d be a great asset.” McAuley Kaicher points out that when she has meetings at the Center, she tries to guide them into the store. “I think habitatgreenwich x GBC exemplifies the spirit of our reinvigorated organization: modern yet enduring and inspired by the ways nature connects us as a community.”
The third annual Frolic in the Forest event is taking place on April 26, 2020 at GBC.
Greenwich Botanical Center is located within the Montgomery Pinetum at 130 Bible Street in Cos Cob, Connecticut. The organization is dedicated to promoting horticulture, conservation and the arts through educational programs, outreach activities and special events. To learn more please visit Greenwich Botanical Center online GreenwichBotanicalCenter.org. @GreenwichBotanicalCenter
habitatgreenwich x GBC is located within the main building at GBC. Hours for both GBC and the shop are Monday - Friday, 9:00am - 4:00pm. Habitatgreenwich.com email@example.com @habitatgreenwich