Interior Designer Keren Richter’s Tips for Scoring—and Styling—Vintage Furniture

Interior Designer Keren Richter’s Tips for Scoring—and Styling—Vintage Furniture

By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
The cofounder of White Arrow teaches us how to put together an inspired space that balances classic and contemporary.

Artist and interior designer Keren Richter, who founded the Brooklyn-based studio White Arrow with her husband, Thomas, creates polished, distinctive spaces that have an element of surprise. She’s fueled by a love of vintage furniture and the indie design scene, often pairing pieces like a ’70s chrome dining table by Willy Rizzo with, say, an opalescent pendant light from Berlin’s cutting-edge NEO/CRAFT. 

"We like to have an eclectic mix in all the interiors we design—combing eras, vendors, and styles keeps things fresh," she explains. "I like utilizing a mix of bespoke, contemporary, and vintage to keep things dynamic and so that each home tells a distinct and artful story."

For each of the five apartments White Arrow designed at Brooklyn Point, a mixed-used condominium tower in Downtown Brooklyn, the designers "created five distinctive schemes and thought through how these fictitious individuals would live—where would they work, what stores would they shop at, what music would they listen to, how would they entertain," explains Keren. "We had fun imagining the small details, and those informed wall treatments, custom furniture, lighting, and all the styling details to support each character." This eat-in kitchen features a pendant light from Neo/Craft, a vintage dining table by Willy Rizzo, Gubi Beetle chairs, and a vase from Object and Totem.

White Arrow recently decorated five model units at Brooklyn Point, a new mixed-use condominium tower in Downtown Brooklyn by Extell Development with interior design by Katherine Newman. The duo brought their signature approach to each unit, sourcing pieces from New York–based designers such as Bower, Calico, Moving Mountains, Sun at Six, and Cold Picnic, and adding vintage furniture and lighting into the mix. "We wanted to support what is happening in Brooklyn and the greater New York area," says Keren. "This was the developer’s first foray into the borough, and we wanted to connect the interiors to the surrounding community."

On the heels of the project, we asked Keren for her advice about how to source and incorporate vintage pieces in a cohesive, compelling way.

1. Begin With a Conversation Starter 

"Key pieces can become the jumping-off point for the entire room," says Keren. For this living room, White Arrow imagined a fashion-forward client, bringing in a vintage metal palm tree sculpture from Mario Schifano to preside over the space. Other vintage pieces include an Adrian Pearsall sofa with custom reupholstery, a Curtis Jere coffee table, and an Artemide lamp. The burl wood credenza is from ModShop, and the Upstate armchair features custom, tie-dye upholstery.

2. Use Similar Tones to Create Cohesion

While mixing furniture and decor from different eras is often part of a room’s charm, it’s important to maintain a cohesive look. In this dining nook, Keren pairs matte black and warm, wood tones to create a conversation between vintage and contemporary pieces. The understated pendant by Rich Brilliant Willing presides over a custom table with vintage Borge Mogenson dining chairs; a vintage Gio Ponti mirror picks up the metallic note of Crate & Barrel candlesticks.

3. Do Your Research to Find Designs That Resonate

Even if you don’t have the budget to invest in vintage furniture, Keren recommends researching designers and styles at your local library, or an online resource like 1stDibs. "You may not be able to afford a Jean-Michel Frank, but you can understand what makes it special and find vintage pieces that speaks to the design language, material, or aesthetics within your budget," she says. In this vignette, a PH 5 pendant by Louis Poulsen hangs above Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Table. 

4. Don’t Overthink It

If you trust your gut and go for pieces that you love, says Keren, things will fall into place. "It’s okay to buy what you love, have fun, and let spaces evolve as you do," she assures us. "If you worry too much about things being ‘timeless,’ they won’t be interesting now." Having a mix of design classics and contemporary designs from a variety of vendors and makers will keep a room from feeling stale. In this space, geometric shapes and sculptural curves create a rich living room. A curvilinear Arc Lounge Chair by Moving Mountains sits next to a custom coffee table topped with Rejuvenation’s Whitney Wide Mouth Vase. The muted rug is from Restoration Hardware, and the Linden Table Lamp in cream linen is from Studio Dunn. 

5.  When It Comes to Art, Think Outside the Box 

"Until there are books, plants, ceramics, and art to tie the spaces together, a house doesn’t feel like a home," proclaims Keren. "For those just starting a collection, contemporary, open-edition photography, posters, rent-to-own options, vintage photos, memorabilia, silkscreens, and antique oil paintings go a long way, especially if you’re working on a limited budget." She also advises us to rethink what constitutes art: "We often source non-traditional works—a cool vintage book or pack of matches, a cheeky porn pic, a fiber work, fake food, or a child’s artwork. When custom framed or placed on a pedestal, it’s a great way to elevate the chosen item." In this bedroom designed for empty nesters in mind, a fiber-and-ceramic work by California artist Karen Gayle Tinney hangs above a wood platform bed and matching nightstands from Ethnicraft.

6. Keep Up the Hunt 

The key to scoring great vintage pieces is to check multiple sources. "We use auctions frequently—for this project, we ended up buying a great number of pieces and shipping a container over by boat!" says Keren. She suggests supporting local vendors as well as sourcing online through sites like Chairish, Etsy, eBay, Pamono, and 1stDibs, as well as more obscure auction sites, Instagram accounts, and online classifieds. "Find vintage furniture made from real wood, quality joinery, and natural materials that age well or are worth repairing," she says. "I reupholster, repaint, refinish, repurpose. Design intent is everything, and fashioning a room just right is it’s own work of art." Here, a vintage table lamp by Archille Castiglioni and the Whitney Gourd Vase from Rejuvenation adorn a vintage Cees Braakmaan credenza. A framed John Baldessari poster brings the perfectly styled vignette together.


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