Go Away With … Keith Johnson

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
July 13, 2010

Though Keith Johnson splits his residence between homes in Philadelphia and New York City, he spends most of the year overseas searching for unique items for Anthropologie, where he is the buyer-at-large. He also is the star of Sundance Channel’s series “Man Shops Globe,” which documents Johnson’s trips to different countries each week.

You’d think the 53-year-old — who spent his early years traveling around Europe with his art dealer father — would want to spend all his free time exploring boutiques and museums. “No,” he says. “I surprisingly am not a big shopper or museumgoer. New York fills my need for constant visual stimulation. I love the variety of sights and sounds. It also reminds me how big the world is and how I need to get out and see it.”

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. My favorite vacation spot has always been Italy. Italian is my absolute favorite cuisine. You can’t beat shopping in the Italian markets. They have the freshest, best ingredients. We love to rent a house in Tuscany, cook and just enjoy the wineries and small villages dotting the countryside.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. There are great weekend options from the city: The Hamptons on Long Island for great beaches and sophisticated shops and restaurants and Litchfield County, Conn., for amazing antique shops and beautiful countryside.

Q. What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
A. In London my new favorite hotel is the Dean Street Townhouse (www.deanstreettownhouse.com). I admire the perfection of the Hotel la Mirande (www.la-mirande.fr) in Avignon in the South of France. It has the best Provencal decor without being too sweet or old-fashioned. Having dinner cooked for you in their antique kitchen while you watch the chef is a truly special experience. I love the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain (www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com) in Paris for its location. The restaurant around the corner from the hotel, La Cremerie (www.lacremerie.fr/index2.html), is one of my favorite places to eat in Paris. It’s just simply prepared salads and charcuterie served in an old cheese shop. Great organic wines, also.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. My favorite cities include London, because it is a place that I lived for a couple of years and it always feels like home. I also love Paris because of the flea markets and amazing parks and museums and Barcelona for its Antoni Gaudi architecture and amazing food. In the United States, it’s Chicago and San Francisco.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I try not to over plan a new visit to a city. My ideal is to have a like-minded friend who has spent time in a place and can make just a few suggestions. I use that as a beginning for my own explorations. I love discovering things on my own. I try to trust my nose.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I never leave home without a stack of New Yorker magazines, my iPhone, a notebook, my camera and an empty suitcase to carry home my finds.

Q. How do you try to fit in when you’re a tourist?
A. I never worry about appearing like a tourist. I think if you’re respectful and truly interested in learning about other cultures, people will respond in a great way and make your trip much richer.

Q. Where have you found some of the most unique items?
A. Thailand. I was thrilled to find great crafts and art in an unexpected place. The big flea market in Bangkok, surprisingly, has some terrific art galleries.

© 2010 JAE-HA KIM
(Photo Courtesy of the Sundance Channel)


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