Vintage Fans, Rejoice! Emily Henderson Is Auctioning Off Her Room
Scoring amazing vintage is a hunter’s sport, one interior designer and blogger Emily Henderson knows well. The tastemaker is currently partnering with online vintage décor and furniture mecca Chairish for her first-ever auction, and the launch (live today) features a curated selection of 50 items from Henderson’s personal collection. Full of spirited finds plucked straight from her living room, the eclectic offering includes vintage paintings, textiles, rugs, décor, and furniture—all priced with a starting bid of $1. We caught up with Henderson to tap her for expert tips on taking home the best secondhand finds. She’s got notes.
MYDOMAINE: What is your number one "do" for shopping vintage?
EMILY HENDERSON: I would say my main rule is that you need to love the shape and not necessarily the finish. I think people often gravitate toward a fun finish, which isn’t a bad idea necessarily, but if the shape isn’t good, that’s not something you can change. There have been times that I have passed something up because of the color, and that’s something that’s easily altered. If it’s a sofa, you can recover it. If it’s a table, you can refinish it or paint it. Always go for shape first, finish second.
MD: Where do you splurge, and where do you save?
EH: I always say if it’s not really unique, it better be affordable. The whole point of buying vintage is to get something distinctive or affordable. One of the highlights of going to flea markets is splurging on really interesting conversation pieces for your home that are high quality and special. Don’t splurge on something that’s mediocre or standard. It won’t have the same impact in your space. You can find great deals on the basics. That simple midcentury chair might be nice, but if you’re going to throw down the cash, make sure it’s got a unique personality.
MD: Describe your style in five words or fewer.
EH: Happy, vintage-inspired, eclectic, ever-changing.
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MD: What’s your all-time favorite piece of vintage in your own home?
EH: It’s got to be my safari chairs in my living room. I got them in Utah six years ago. They were $900 for the pair, and I remember thinking that was a huge splurge. Turns out it was a fantastic deal, as they are worth closer to $7000. They were an impulse buy, and somehow my gut just said to take the leap. There have been a couple times where I almost got rid of them. I would get in the mood to get something new. I stored them in the garage at one point and called up a few dealers. I got great offers immediately; then I thought, Hold on. They are really comfortable. They are this beautiful caramel leather. My husband loves them. There are not that many of them in the world. Before I sold them to the dealer, I took a moment and put them back into my living room, and I fell in love all over again.
MD: Is there anything you have had to really barter for?
EH: I have a huge blimp drawing in my living room that I bought in New York when I was 24. I found it at a flea market, and I had no money. It was there three weeks in a row. It started out at $400, and by the third week, I got him down to $200. It’s massive. I schlepped it on the subway all the way home. I couldn’t afford to frame it for years. It was sitting in a closet for nearly 10 years. Framing is not an inexpensive thing to do. I finally invested in framing it about two and a half years ago. It took a minute to get the guts. I kept thinking, Do I love it this much? Once in the frame, however, it makes the living room. It’s also sentimental to me. It was an emotional investment on top of the financial commitment.
MD: What do you collect?
EH: I apparently hoard nightstand sets! I think I’m selling four or five pairs. I had a bit of a moment parting with the Milo Baughman burl wood pair. While I’m excited to try something new, I stare at them and they are so awesome. I have these vintage arrows. They sound silly, but they are so unique. I’ve seen some reproductions in contemporary stores lately. These just have so much more soul. They’re just this awesome collection of colorful sculptural accessories.
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MD: How did you go about making selections for the sale?
EH: Honestly, I just really love these pieces. Most of them are things that if you had not caught me on the right day, I would not have given them up. In fact, when we were pulling everything together, my first thought was there’s no way I can part with this many pieces. Then I started getting the purging bug. It feels good. I shop a lot. I can handle it. I will buy more things. I’m excited to see how fast they go. This auction format is extremely exciting.
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MD: Can you call out any favorites?
EH: There’s a huge head sculpture that I love that’s super weird. I hope it goes to a good home. There’s an industrial drawer dresser I bought that is pretty awesome. I bought it for our guest suite, and it didn’t end up fitting in the space. It’s very pretty. It’s also super functional and the modern farmhouse look that everybody is going for right now. I don’t buy to sell for profit. I buy to use in a project or a photo shoot. As a buyer, the hunt and the big score is exciting.
MD: What’s the best part about buying vintage?
EH: Generally it’s a higher quality, more unique, and at a better price. It’s also better for the environment!
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What do you think of Henderson’s vintage tips? Which items are you bidding for?