White Flower Farmhouse is located on Long Island’s North Fork, in the town of Southold nestled between farms and vineyards, Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. This light and airy, corner lifestyle store is a lovely mix of painted white and bleached pine vintage and repurposed furniture, linen textiles, vintage hardware, ironstone and milk glass. Owner and designer Lori Guyer has created a unique, much sought-after brand, and we are excited to share her story.
What year was White Flower Farmhouse established? I opened the original White Flower Farmhouse on Peconic Lane in 2003. The space was small and I knew I would eventually need more room to grow. In 2011, I relocated the shop to its current space on Main Road in Southold; I happened to pass by as the space was being renovated. It was an old building and I liked the feel of it. And I loved that the previous store had been there for 30 years. I had a good feeling about it, and signed a lease straight away.
What genre is White Flower Farmhouse? It’s more of an aesthetic sensibility than a genre. I want to engage all of the senses when visitors stop by—there’s the smell of potted lavender, the sound of vintage jazz playing in the background, light streaming through the windows, the soft touch of natural linens. Sometimes people pop in just to feel the space without purchasing anything, just to get their fix. For me, it’s about neutral, earth tones; shades of white; natural wood; the simple and the utilitarian.
Why did you choose the name? I once saw the most beautiful, old farmhouse in the middle of a meadow filled with white flowers. The light was perfect and the image always stayed with me. As it happens, the original White Flower Farmhouse was in an old farmhouse and I filled the planters out front with white flowers, which have always been my favorite. Farmhouse is also the word I use most to describe my sense of style and I liked, too, that Farmhouse evokes the masculine, while flowers are most often associated with feminine, so I’d like to think that I’m appealing to as wide an audience as possible.
Who designed the shop? It’s designed by me, of course! Lori G! It’s a process, though. I think of the space as ever evolving.
What are you famous for ? I’m obsessed with European linens so there’s an abundance of those. But I’m probably most well known for my farm tables which are made locally from repurposed planked doors and old wood.
Where are products sourced and made? All of the farm tables are sourced locally on the North Fork using reclaimed wood. They’re also made nearby, just one town over, in a workshop in Peconic. I’ve known the carpenter for more than twenty years. Our daughters have been friends since first grade. After much tinkering and testing, we settled on the perfect design. The signature table is simple. The tops are often planked doors and we use repurposed wood for the bases. The finishes are custom, according to the client’s wants—painted, stained, natural, waxed, patina, distressed, etc.
What makes your shop unique? In terms of look, I’d have to say it’s the monochromatic tones. But the real secret is rotating inventory. I’m constantly on the lookout, so much so that the items in the shop probably change on a weekly basis. My goal is to keep it fresh and to continue to inspire every time someone walks in the door. The space itself aims to provide decorating ideas. I want you to be able to see things as you would in your own home, so that you can easily make that design leap of faith and have a similar vision for your personal space. Naturally, I’d love to see you fill vases with white flowers, too, but that’s optional!
Who are your customers? First and foremost, my customers are loyal. They return regularly because there are always new treasures. And my customers are also varied. From year-round locals to summer residents with beach and vacation homes. There’s also healthy foot traffic, tourists wandering in from Main Street. I get a lot of interior designers, for sure but, regardless, my clients tend to have a good design sensibility, and they are shopping for homes both in the city and in the country.
How has the internet impacted your business? I actually found it necessary to take down my website. I just couldn’t keep up with the email requests; it was all-consuming. Ultimately, I realized that I prefer to communicate in person. Eventually, I even discontinued my blog because I needed to further simplify. I find Instagram and Facebook to be more manageable. One post daily is enough to keep my followers informed and inspired. And that exposure is certainly valuable. Three years ago I decided to document the renovation of the historic home that we had just recently purchased in the town of Greenport. My stable of blog followers found me and I managed to gather close to 30,000 followers on Instagram quite quickly. After the renovations were completed, I continued to use the Instagram account to post design ideas from the store. I think of it more as a place to share inspiration, and I like that. It’s fun, rather than overwhelming.
Lori Guyer, shopkeeper at White Flower Farmhouse, Southold, with Otto.
Who inspires you? Hands down, Tricia Foley. She’s my idol. I love her simple, utilitarian perspective. Oh, and my miniature Schnauzer, Otto!
What inspires you? Honestly, I’m inspired by a lot of things. Art. Nature. Living by the sea. The beauty of the North Fork. Books. Photography. Paint. Texture. Wood. I’m a very visual person.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. studied graphic design and became a graphic designer and art director for a small local newspaper. Periodically I would also have booths at antique shows, but more as a hobby. Preparing for those shows made me realize how much I enjoyed the hunt for the perfect find.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? They say that imitation is the best form of flattery but I had to learn to adapt quickly to others modifying variations on my theme. Still, I do my best not to look at the competition and to stay true to myself and my own creative vision. I’m, therefore, constantly on the lookout for new treasures and put an emphasis on changing the offerings at the store.
What task do you like to delegate? As much as I love connecting with people, I find I’m more successful delegating the manning of the stores to my most trusted employees. This way, I can focus on the hunt and have the requisite time for research and finding inventory that keeps the store feeling new.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? The commitment to the process of the vision, one that continues to evolve, so that customers continue to find the unexpected and keep coming back.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? I’d say that it’s important to have that passion. And to be true to yourself. Make an inspiration board. Revisit it always, and remain true to that vision. Above all else, be original.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? The Dalai Lama. I’m inspired by his teachings. And not at all impressed by celebrity. A number of celebrities have visited the shop and I’ve hardly noticed. Although, admittedly, I was flattered to have Martha Stewart stop by on more than one occasion and complimented me for having a good eye!
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? I’d teach art for children and adults with special needs.
What is your perfect day off? The simple things. A yoga class. Lunch with friends. Spending time with Otto. And spending time with my family, too, of course! Not cooking. Not cleaning. Sailing. My husband loves to sail.
Can you share your five favorite shops? All of my favorites are on the East End of Long Island, NY. Beall & Bell, Greenport. Orient Linen Company, Orient. Summer Girl, New Suffolk. Marika’s Antiques, Shelter Island. Bloom, Sag Harbor.
What is your favorite neighborhood coffee shop and restaurant? North Fork Roasting Company, Southold, for the best coffee on the North Fork. Lucharitos, Greenport, for the best Mexican food on the North Fork.
I wish I could… have more time to do more interior design projects. I’ve done a few side projects during the off-season winter months when the shop is slow and I’ve really enjoyed those. In particular, I love reinventing commercial spaces like the Greenport Harbor Brewing tasting room in Peconic and the Bedell Cellars tasting room at Corey Creek.
On the Future of Retail
“Amidst the chaos of all that’s available to us, I think that people will want to return to simpler times. I believe that the more digital we become, the more that becomes available on line, the more that we will crave the tactile and the personal connection. We’re already seeing a return to the mom and pop stores, the bespoke, the boutique, the artisan craft. I believe in the return to the intimate, personal touch that small spaces provide. And I believe in the return to the stimulation of the senses.”
White Flower Farmhouse
53995 Main Rd, Southold, New York