Spruce it up at Curated Home & Living, eat it up at Van Hook Cheese & Grocery (Robin’s Nest)

Danielle Zinn, proprietor of Curated Home & Living on Walnut Street: “Styling is a skill that people can learn, and how to mix modern and contemporary items together.” (NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL)

For Montclair Local

The year’s gone by in the blink of an eye, and festive holiday celebrations are on the horizon. If you’re planning on having friends and family over for Thanksgiving or Hanukkah dinners this month, you’re most likely looking around your home, thinking, “I need to do something to make my living space look great.”

Head over to Curated Home & Living to meet proprietor Danielle Zinn and walk around her shop to find decorating and design elements for your home. After a soft opening of the shop on May 1, it was fully open for business in June. A Montclair resident for 17 years, Danielle earned an interior design degree from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and was a product librarian at an architectural firm.

I assumed that Danielle had a fabulously decorated and furnished bedroom in her childhood home, since she has such a strong passion for design. Surprisingly, she said, “I did not live with good design, and my mom shopped at Sears. My mom is into crafts and sews. That’s how she shows her artistic side. I want my children to appreciate the pieces that they’re sleeping in.”

Don’t think that you must completely refurnish your home, since you can just change your bed linens or add colorful throws to your sofas and chairs to brighten up and refresh a room. Danielle keeps the store décor neutral, since some clients like a lot of color and some don’t. She likes and appreciates Indian and Japanese design, as well as the work of German industrial designer Dieter Rams, who created consumer products for Braun and Vitsoe for many years until his retirement in 1997.

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While we chatted about our likes and dislikes in furnishing and accent pieces, Danielle said, “Storytelling is a very big part of sales, as is learning more about my customers. Styling is a skill that people can learn, and how to mix modern and contemporary items together and edit what’s in the room. Pair everything in threes, placing different objects and books on shelves or tables.

“Flowers are an integral part of decorating, and I like the ikebana aesthetic (the Japanese art of flower-arranging) and tablescapes created by Amy Gofton from Studio Nectar on Bellevue Avenue. It makes things a little more special.”

Curated Home & Living also features handmade jewelry designs by Sarah Macfadden, a New York City-based artisan. Macfadden creates bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings in sterling silver and 14K gold, adding faceted diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires in one-of-a-kind modern designs. An Artisan Evening with Macfadden designs was held at her shop on Nov. 5. Dazzle, decorate and shine from now through the New Year.

Robin Woods speaks with Carl Chastain, owner of Van Hook Cheese & Grocery on Grove Street. “I taste everything that we sell, and know all the flavor profiles,” Chastain says.

Planning on food to serve guests or to nibble on by ourselves is on our To Do lists. If you’re a grazer like me, appetizers and small plates call my name. It’s a short trip from Curated Home & Living to Van Hook Cheese & Grocery on Grove Street. Owner Carl Chastain opened his first shop in Jersey City in 2016, with the Montclair location opening this July 26. Residing in  Montclair since 2019, Carl came into the cheese world through wholesale food distribution of local farm-to-table goods.

I shared my vegan and dairy-free diet needs with Carl, one by choice and the other due to severe allergies. I know that I’m not his dream customer, since I can’t eat much of what he sells, but I feed my family and entertain as often as I can, even within my small pod. Carl was up to the challenge, since he sells more than meats and cheeses.

With help from my loyal tasters, who eat just about anything, I found almost a hundred types of cheese available at VHC&G, along with sliced cured meats, dried fruit, nuts, oils, preserves and chutney. 

Carl considers himself to be a cheesemonger, and said, “We specialize in small batches and make our own mozzarella in-house. Ask about cheeses that you might not find in grocery stores, and sample a few varieties. Fall cheeses are just being released, with higher milk fat content, such as Rush Creek Reserve. 

“I taste everything that we sell, and know all the flavor profiles. There’s something for everyone, families and kids. Our focus is on local products and domestic artisan products. For the past two years, charcuterie, which usually consists of cold cooked meats, has exploded.”

You can order premade charcuterie platters a day ahead, choosing from tiny cheese platters serving four to six people with no meat, which include crackers, dried fruit, nuts, cornichons, grapes and olives. Nut-free platters can be made up as well. 

Put together a grand-size cheese and charcuterie platter serving 16 to 20 and including a wooden board. Bring your own board if you wish to, and VHC&G employees will fill it up for you. I might just eschew the vegan way one day over charcuterie, which tempts and fascinates me.

Did someone say grilled cheese? Yes, please. Served on sourdough Pullman bread. Just call a few minutes ahead to pick up classic Prairie Breeze cheddar with fig spread, hot honey, ham or French soppressata, French onion with Gruyere and shallot confit, or truffle, Gouda and honey. 

Nibble on a fresh baguette supplied by Le French Dad Boulangerie, and top it with a new cheese discovery for an impromptu car picnic on your way home. We’re hungry and we’re ready for company, and for all the delights of the fall and winter season.

In this article:


Robin Woods is a local girl-about town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award of the Essex County Legacies essay contest. 


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