Through the winter and into the early spring mud season, it is even
more imperative. It is then that their indoor space most requires an
abundance of green — living things that will bask in their less-than-perfect growing environment with severely minimal care. Such green
applicants also should possess the right physical profile. “The plant
material has to feel appropriate to the local vernacular,” says Whitman. It is a tall order filled by nearly indestructible plants with an
emphasis on peperomias, ferns, and similarly unassuming little plants
that don’t look flashy and don’t feel foreign, even though they are
natives of tropical climates. They possess a simplicity that works with
the interiors Whitman and Stiglin created in the Massachusetts Berkshires house they loved, and hated, when they purchased it in 1999.
They were irresistibly drawn to the rural beauty of the area. “
Something about the web of pastures, fields, and wetlands with very few
houses felt right,” says Whitman. So when they got the inside track
on a little bungalow not yet on the market, they nabbed it. Built in the
late 1980s, it wasn’t really their type of house. They preferred old; they
wanted patina; it had issues. But it boasted wide-board cherry floors
of wood milled from trees on the property and a fireplace wrought from
stone found on the land. The attraction wasn’t the house, but its property: 4 acres of a one-time orchard. Outside their door is untamed
nature, and civilization is held at arm’s length. Conservation land is
their neighbor. For a couple of guys who spend all their time in the woods,
it was perfect. “It felt like where we wanted to be,” says Whitman.
A few years later, Whitman and Stiglin opened Pergola, their destination shop in nearby New Preston, Connecticut. Its stock-in-trade
is a combination of artisan-forged pieces and antiques and nature’s
flotsam that the two have foraged from the woods. Toward their goal
of bringing people together with botany, they have filled the shop with
houseplants, each displayed reverently and thoughtfully, their compositions echoing the native woods and nature’s own art.
a mix of peperomias in a whimsical frog vessel (above) dwell beside Ficus
elastica ‘ Tineke,’ a variegated rubber tree. facing page, clockwise from top
left: Dinny, a pit bull mix rescue dog, lounges beside a banana tree. David
Whitman (left) and Peter Stiglin relax with Dinny. Birch branches accented
with budding magnolia twigs set off potted peperomia. Various peperomias in
matte-finish pots sit on soapstone bed warmers in front of a Hungarian
David Whitman and Peter Stiglin have a need for nature that is not negotiable.