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Purveyor of the Practical and the Timeless


Purveyor of the Practical and the Timeless

July 3, 2014

We have a long history with Ancient Industries, one of our favorite online haunts for housewares. Owner Megan Wilson specializes in hard-to-find British and European goods of “humble purpose, elegant form.” For many months we’d been admiring her selections–enamelware porridge pots, Ian Mankin striped dishtowels, and knobbed wooden doorstops (and the “potted histories” she writes about them)–when we decided to track her down. That was back in 2011, just as were beginning to work on the Remodelista book; we liked her so much that we invited her to write the Remodelista 100, a chapter devoted to our favorite everyday things.

She now contributes our weekly Tuesday Object Lessons column, and, in addition to working as the design director of Vintage and Anchor Books (did we mention that she’s also a star graphic designer?), she’s just opened a brick-and-mortar rendition of Ancient Industries. It’s located above the post office in the idyllic old Connecticut village of West Cornwall, where Megan and her husband, painter Duncan Hannah, have a country place (featured in the Remodelista book). Now debuting, the shop is open on Saturdays only, from 10 am to 12:30 pm, hours (by town ordinance) that coincide with the town farmer’s market across the street. Here’s a first look:

Photographs by Megan Wilson.

Above: The shop’s enamelware sign was custom-made by Riess of Austria (upstairs, Riess’s enamelware pots are on display). The light is the Original Warehouse Gooseneck Light from Barn Light Electric.

Above: Ancient Industries’ wares range from Tea Cosies hand knit in Devon, $45, to classic Stoke-on-Trent creamware Hunslet Jugs, $45, and Mochaware Mugs, $32. The Dandelion Cushion Covers, $50, are from British textile collaborative St. Jude’s.

Above: Trestle tables (sourced from Ikea and customized) are used for display. Sheila Maid hanging laundry dryers, $135–one of Ancient Industries’ bestsellers–are draped with Cote Bastide French Linen Tea Towels, $28, and Turkish hammam towels (not yet available online). Megan made the window shades from Merchant & Mills’ oil cloth and hardware store parts. “The building is about a century old, so it seemed fitting to give it a World War I look,” she says.

Above: Shaker pegs, custom-made for the shop by Megan’s cabinetmaker neighbor, Ian Ingersoll, wrap around the walls of one of the shop’s three rooms. The Yellow Omelette Pan, $50, and Indigo Frying Pan, $65, are enamelware by Riess. (Contemplating your own Shaker pegs? Read Christine’s report, How Shaker Pegs Saved My Summer Sanity.)

Above: From Sweden, Iris Handwerk Black and White Dustpan Brushes, $32, are paired with German-made Child-Size Dustpans and Brushes, $22 (which work well for sweeping crumbs off tables).

Above: Megan swears by Ian Mankin striped cotton yardage and tablecloths for curtains, pillows, and chair upholstery. The Empire Tablecloth, 79 inches by 51 inches, is $65.

Above: Avarcas sandals, $35 (kid’s sizes, $25) hail from the Spanish island of Menorca, where Megan spent childhood summers. “They were originally worn by farmers in the field but are now worn by elegant ladies by the pool,” she writes. The schooner painting is by Duncan Hannah.

Above: The black Sewing Kit by Merchant & Mills comes packaged in a canvas tailor’s roll; $65.

Above: Made of galvanized steel, the two-gallon Haws Watering Can, $100, is “all about balance and ease of pouring,” notes Megan. It’s a Remodelista 100 selection. The green Haws one-gallon Long Reach Watering Can is a design that dates to 1886, $145.

Above: Balls of Nutscene Twine from Scotland, $8, are lined up on beachwood Twine Stands, $30 (with “thistle-shaped tops that conceal a cutter, so no trudging about the garden looking for scissors”). For the surprising story behind the jute, read Megan’s Potted History No. 6. The red-tipped tools are Burgon and Ball carbon steel Sheep Shears, $55, useful for trimming hedges and edging lawns.

Above: Made in Morocco, Esparto Grass Baskets, $60, are sized for carrying laundry and firewood.

Above: In the stairwell, farmer’s market purchases are stowed on newly built shelves that make use of scrap wood and the old building’s exposed vertical beams.

Above: The packing room/office has a Canvas Hamper from Steele Canvas (another design spotlighted in the Remodelista 100, and a nod to the working post office downstairs). The triangular shelf is Ancient Industries’ wall-mounted Beech Plate Rack, available in three sizes, $145 to $165. The clock is the Schoolhouse Electric Wall Clock.

Above: Megan’s pinboard and desk accessories; note the candlestick phone.

The Ancient Industries shop is at 408 Sharon Goshen Turnpike, West Cornwall, Connecticut.

Tour Megan and Duncan’s Cornwall house (which looks much like the shop) in the first chapter of the Remodelista book. Watch for her Object Lessons posts every Tuesday, and read UK horticultural reports by her twin sister, Kendra, on Gardenista.

Product summary  

Hartley Greens / Leeds Pottery

Hunslet Jug

$45.00 USD from Ancient Industries
Ironing Boards & Laundry Care

Sheila Maid

$135.00 USD from Ancient Industries
Beach Towels

Linen Towel

$28.00 USD from Ancient Industries
Shoes & Socks


$35.00 USD from Ancient Industries
Merchant and Mills

Sewing Kits

$65.00 USD from Ancient Industries
Ribbon, String, & Twine

Twine Stand

$30.00 USD from Ancient Industries

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