trade tales | May 24, 2019 |
The thrill of the hunt: Designers share their most unlikely sources

Every designer has a roster of go-to places for interesting products, from dusty vintage stores to a fabulously curated local furniture shop. We asked four designers — Robin Henry, Max Humphrey, Maud Maciak and Pamela O’Brien — to share the most surprising places they’ve made a great find.

Max Humphrey
Max HumphreyCourtesy of Max Humphrey

LOCAL TREASURES

I’ve bought a lot of mid century furniture from weirdos on Craigslist. I don’t want to get murdered, so, if possible I try to arrange to meet them in a grocery store parking lot or somewhere public, but I realize a lot of times it can look like a drug deal, especially when I’m handing over cash in a bag in the dark. Designers make a big fuss about shopping in fancy, far-flung locations, but for me the most interesting stories can come from just getting in the car and driving through town.” —Max Humphrey, Portland, OR

Maud Maciak
Maud MaciakCourtesy of Magnifique Homes

DON’T FORGET ETSY

My favorite source is Etsy! I love working with women and moms who handcraft things and work hard on their business. Every chance I get, I source special items and have created partnerships with lots of vendors on there, like this mother of two in Texas who worked on several reclaimed wood pieces for me.” —Maud Maciak, Magnifique Homes, Vermont

Pamela O'Brien
Pamela O’BrienCourtesy of Pamela Hope Designs

JUNK PILE GEMS

“I had this client who was a big hunter (it’s Texas, what can you do?) and he had a collection of taxidermy. I remembered that he had this stuffed porcupine and it was really quite cool to me. I’d never seen anything like it. I was doing a beach house for him and there was this really interesting ledge in the living room and I just knew the porcupine would be perfect there. So I called him and he told me he was actually getting ready to throw the piece away. It was in a pile of junk in his garage. So I went to his house and rummaged through the junk pile to rescue the porcupine. It ended up being everyone’s favorite piece in the house. I borrowed it for a tabletop competition a few years later and people were offering to buy it all day long. A client’s ‘throwaway’ pile is definitely the funniest place I’ve ever sourced something.” —Pamela O’Brien, Pamela Hope Designs, Houston

Robin Henry
Robin HenryCourtesy of Robin Henry Studio

GOOGLING OFF THE BEATEN PATH

It is a major triumph to hold your nose and shimmy through some random garage and emerge with one amazing find, but to do that, you have to be willing to travel far and wide! Or at least, surf there on the web! I once Googled ‘round rattan sofa’ and ended up custom ordering a great piece from a small company in the Philippines. The sofa they made was absolutely darling and for a great price, but the drama occurred during the shipping process. The piece was lost. Poof, gone! I never saw it in person. I tracked it as far as a warehouse in Kansas, but then the trail went cold. A month later, my client googled ‘round rattan sofa’ and the company that made it, and they found it on eBay—the piece had been listed the week before, and sold for $125! I often think of whomever bought this awesome thing and how they proudly show it off to their friends. ‘Can you believe it? $125 on eBay?!’” —Robin Henry, Robin Henry Studio, New York

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