6 Design Tips From The Woman Making Over Chicago
How to shop for vintage pieces with designer Michael Del Piero.
Published Nov 23, 2016 6:00 AM
Grandmas, guard your attics—what’s old is new again. Vintage décor is in, and we hope it’s here to stay because nothing says sophistication like a well-traveled home. To learn how to layer antiques and vintage textiles with more modern pieces, or what you already have in your home, we tapped Chicago designerMichael Del Piero
Her latest project is moving her eponymous design shop inside an 1800s warehouse in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. It’s there that she hawks the one-of-a-kind finds she gathers during her travels: think an 18th century studded trunk from Avignon, France, an early Bavarian hunting lodge chandelier from Buhlenhausen, and a French drapers table from LʼIsle-sur-la-Sorgue, alongside art pieces by the likes of Willem de Kooning, Jacques Herold, and Robert Motherwell. Del Piero’s cultured aesthetic—a distinctive blend of rough-hewn and luxurious, heirloom and modern—creates worldly and collected spaces, with plenty of patina. Her style is a marriage of clean lines, earthy palettes, and statement pieces. Here, Del Piero offers tips on how to get the look inside your own home.
Forget the list.
When vintage shopping, I always have the best results when I put my list away and go into the process without too many specific ideas about what I’m looking for. When I’m open to finding unexpected items that speak to me, those are usually the pieces that end up completing a space. For example, I found a giant wire sculpture that makes a great statement on the wall at my store. I apply the same philosophy for my clients, and often help them build their spaces around the art and objects that resonate most with them.
Skip the trends.
I’m typically on the hunt for items that are both unique and timeless. Not only will you love living with unusual items that inspire you, but they’re also great conversation pieces when entertaining. Unique items typically aren’t trendy and therefore won’t become dated too quickly. If they truly speak to you then you’ll want to live with them forever.
Collect outside of the box.
If you’d like to build a specific collection over time, I always suggest sticking to a tight color range. Amonochromatic palette
is easy to coordinate and the subtlety will draw viewers in to explore the texture and details. Another foolproof approach is to choose simple objects and displaying them in mass quantities. This collection of hundreds of Chinese mortars adds structure and dimension to the living space.
Don’t overlook fabrics.
When shopping abroad, textiles are a great option as they are easy to transport in a suitcase and they can completely transform a space when used as upholstery. Here the textiles are applied to two headboards, and they can easily be used to reupholster other items in your home as well.
Don’t get wrapped up in names.
When buying art and objects, it’s ok to ignore the provenance. I’ve found many beautiful items that were technically made by “amateurs” but they were gorgeous, and they were easily mixed with higher-end items as well. I believe that artistry comes in many forms.
Use color sparsely.
If you’re nervous about mixing and matching vintage items of different styles and periods, I recommend sticking to a limited color palette in a space, whether that be a neutral palette or a specific color or two.