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Designer Sarah Sherman Samuel is known for her ability to combine different styles to create distinctive spaces. This year, she was part of the team that completed a top-to-bottom renovation of a mid-century house for actress/singer Mandy Moore. The project was the perfect example of Sarah’s ability to infuse vintage pieces into a space while maintaining a fresh, modern vibe. Although Sarah makes it seem effortless, finding just the vintage piece is certainly more of a challenge than wandering the aisles of a local box store.
So we picked her brain for some tips and tricks to level up our vintage shopping game.
When vintage shopping, Sarah is always on the look-out for classic casegoods like dressers and bookcases. “These types of vintage pieces were made well, with beautiful wood detail and they typically age well,” she said. When designing her bathroom in LA, she wanted to create a space that blended modern and vintage (even in the bathroom!). She balanced all the new bathroom finishes with a vintage walnut credenza that she retrofitted into a floating bathroom vanity.
If that sounds like a stretch for your DIY skills but you still want a vintage feel, Sarah recommends framing vintage textiles like scarves or even clothing.
Sometimes Sarah finds that a vintage piece can inspire a whole room. For her son’s nursery, the paint-by-numbers landscape was the jumping off point for the design. When choosing art for a space, Sarah takes into consideration the color palette, the subject and the emotional feeling that the piece evokes. “If it has the vibe you are going for you know instantly. When it comes to building a space around it you can easily pull from the color palette to extend that into the room and find pieces that support it rather than compete with it,” explained Sarah. “In other words if the art piece is really busy and bold you can balance that out in the space with other bold choices but if it is a quiet monochromatic piece it might fit better in a cleaner, neutral environment. That is the dance of designing a space.”
Vintage rugs are also a favorite score. Sarah is a self-proclaimed rug hoarder. Rugs can be tricky to find so Sarah suggests that if you don’t have a trained eye, to find someone who does. For example, the vintage Navajo double-sided rug (above) is from Pasadena rug dealer Jon Erin, searching the dealer leads to a collection of similar rugs. When Sarah is rug shopping, she is usually on the lookout for specific colorways. “The color red is VERY prevalent in vintage rugs so I am always drawn to the ones that do not have red. I search for pink or coral or blues,” said Sarah.
Sarah’s Online Vintage Shopping Keyword Cheat Sheet
- Materials – Sarah uses words like “rattan” or “burl” to uncover hidden treasures.
- Favorite designers – Sarah’s favorite is “Milo” for Milo Baughman.
- Styles – Sarah might play with words like “danish” and “mid-century.”But always keep your mind open for the unexpected. “Sometimes people miscategorize things and you can find some surprising pieces from sellers who may not realize what they have and that is always exciting,” said Sarah.
Are you ready to take Sarah tips and go on a vintage hunt? Head over to Sotheby’s Home, where you can begin searching for your own vintage treasures.