TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANIELLE SYKES
When Jessica Stetson and her husband purchased their Fairfield place in 2018, she decorated it like a certain television influencer. “It was very much the Joanna Gaines farmhouse,” Stetson says, referring to the star of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, known for her rustic, neutral schemes. “I even had a sign on my wall that said ‘Farmhouse.’ It was lovely, but I need more excitement.” Then one day she parked a 1980s mustard-yellow, microfiber swivel chair in the living room. Now it’s paired with an arched wicker bookshelf loaded with plants and retro knickknacks; more plants dangle in macramé hangers in the windows. “I found my style,” Stetson says.
ABOVE Jessica Stetson, pictured in her Waterville thrift shop, traces her kitchen-sink style to her grandmother, who took her antiquing as a child. “She’d have rusty old Mobil signs and retro Pyrex bowls, and some primitive stuff too. I admired that about her, that she didn’t follow strict rules.”
The discovery process happened during thrifting trips with her friend Annie Russell. “I said, ‘I’m going to start buying things I love,’ and they always ended up being vintage pieces, cool, bright, weird things,” Stetson says. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the two began selling their finds on Instagram under the moniker Old Soul Collective. A little over a year later, Stetson gave up her job as a portrait photographer and turned her Skowhegan studio into Old Soul’s first store. Last summer, their inventory was overflowing into her basement and garage. So when a 3,300-square-foot space, formerly occupied by beloved boho shop Sign of the Sun, in Waterville, became available, she jumped.
Today, Old Soul Collective brims with 70s-era wicker peacock chairs, bookshelves, and trendy basket light fixtures — “which, yeah, you can get at Target or IKEA, but how cool to say you got a vintage piece,” Stetson says — mid-century case goods, gilded mirrors, old-school Pyrex dishes, and plants with dramatically trailing vines culled by Stetson and nearly two dozen vendors, including Russell, who has stepped away from running the store. Perched on a lime-colored sofa beneath a rainbow mural painted on the shop’s brick wall, Stetson says the best part of her new gig is what led her here: the thrill of the hunt. “Only now, it’s like, I’m not crazy for liking this set of avocado-green Fire-King mugs. There’s validation.”