If you’ve ever wondered where designers like Kelly Wearstler and Cortney Bishop scoop up their fabulous finds, meet Stephanie Schofield, the dealer behind 214 Modern Vintage. Recently dubbed part of the “New Vintage Vanguard” by Domino magazine, Stephanie and her collective have earned a reputation as a go-to source for edgy, sculptural design pieces hailing from the ’70s and ’80s. Operating out of High Point, North Carolina (aka: home to the world’s biggest and baddest furniture market), Stephanie consistently has her thumb on the design world’s pulse. To capitalize on her expertise, we asked Stephanie to give us the DL on how she got her start, what trends she’s feeling for fall, and her all-time best tips for collecting ’70s and ’80s vintage.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I think my aesthetic is sort of hard to pin down. I look for strong silhouettes, graphic lines, texture. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to how I buy—it’s just an instinct.
Your store, 214 Modern, is must-visit for designers who come to High Point twice a year for market. What are you sourcing for your clients now?
In the market there’s a strong move towards ’80s and postmodern ’90s shapes and colors. Between all nine of us, we have a pretty good mix, from early to late 20th century. Really, our goal is to curate pieces that we know designers NEED for their clients and jobs, but also show them things they’ve never seen before.
What trends do you see becoming important in the upcoming year?
I knew the ’90s were back the minute I saw girls wearing baby tees under slip dresses with Doc Martens. All the furniture is curvy again—so much Kagan. Post mod and Memphis colors. Italian design, marble and natural stone will continue.
You draw heavily from the ’70s and ’80s. What speaks to you about those decades design-wise?
It’s probably got something to do with the fact that that’s the time period I grew up in. But truthfully I like all eras. Pieces from the ’70s and ’80s, and now ’90s, is what’s out there for people to buy. During the ’80s design got pretty wacky and exaggerated, overstuffed and oversized. A little bit of that in a room can lighten the mood, so maybe I respond a little to the outrageousness of it?
What’s one vintage piece that always makes a room sing?
Art, of course, is the thing that can really make a room. And vintage lighting. Always vintage; never new. I don’t have any lighting in my home that is younger than me.
214 Modern is a multi-dealer showroom. What do you look for when inviting dealers to sell along with you in your space?
When 214 started it was a leap of faith between a handful of friends. In its way, it’s like a little family. It’s a very cooperative environment, and we all help each other through the long week that is High Point Market. With our three new dealers, we tried to bring in a little more diversity of style. You’ll see more traditional and industrial and one-of-a kind custom pieces in the 314 W Russell location.
You and many of 214 Modern dealers sell (and shop) on Chairish. What are you loving on our site right now?
Chairish has such diversity in its offerings. That’s what I respond to, more than any one piece. Likewise, that’s what I am hearing from my designer clients, too. They like the approachability—being able to see the dealers’ names makes everyone more at ease.
With showrooms in Chicago and High Point, NC, you are well established in this business. What guides your eye as you buy?
I’m trying to move away from most of the trends. I’m instead focusing on strange, one-off custom pieces attributed to no one, glass, and tiled pieces. Handmade things… anything I haven’t seen before.
214 has been a passion project for you. Do you have plans to duplicate that sort of venue in other markets?
If I could clone myself a few times over, I would. But at the moment, one location in High Point is all I can handle! Maybe in the future…
What do you consider your favorite score?
Last year I found a Gae Aulenti Jumbo table. I never thought I’d find that table, ever, but I feel like I willed it into my life with some straight up Oprah-style best life visualization techniques. The other two great finds of the last year are an 11′ welded steel wall sculpture by late artist George Jolley and a 9′ redwood burl cabinet. Both headed to the new Austin Proper Hotel, which is still under construction.
Who are the interior designers that influence your eye, your style, your buying?
I try not to think about these things, haha. I am more inspired by what’s happening in the world of design and art as a whole as opposed to what a single designer is up to. Truth be told, that’s what the best of them are doing. So, maybe I’m just trying to meet them where they are?
Steph’s Top Tips for Buying Vintage
No. 1: Pay Heed to Trends—But Don’t Marry Them
When it comes to vintage scouting, trends factor into Stephanie’s decision making process, but they’re not makers or breakers. “We think about the trends,” she admits, “but it’s not our main focus. Good design and interesting pieces is the goal.” If you are tempted to dabble in trends, try sticking to pieces that run more neutral than eccentric. For instance, if you’re feeling the current Memphis trend, consider collecting a few accessories in a primary palette, rather than opting for a one-of-a-kind Ettore Sottsass credenza which may fall out of favor in a season’s time.
No. 2: Buy What You Like
Follow Stephanie’s lead and purchase only what speaks to you, regardless of the designer name stamped on it. “I buy what I like,” she says. “I would never buy something just because it was made by so-and-so. In fact, I just purchased a set of four Paul Laszlo chairs made by Pacific Iron in the 1950s. Not my ‘typical’ look but you can’t deny the genius of the design; the simple and succinct curve of the stretcher on the back, the perfect splay of the legs. I just love them. But I didn’t buy them because of a name.”
No. 3: Be Flux
If you’re on the fence about a vintage piece, don’t get too caught up in the debate, since as Stephanie reminds us, almost everything can be re-sold if needed. “I sell almost everything,” she says. “In my permanent collection are small things: Fontana Arte glass, Bruno Gambone and Beatrice Wood pottery, a Lois Foley abstract I can’t part with. Everything else gets sold.” Being flux with your vintage inventory means that you needn’t ever take official leave from vintage hunting—even once your house is fully decorated.
No. 4: Focus on What’s Available
Stephanie got her start in vintage dealing by snagging a killer lot of ’70s and ’80s decorative pieces. Even if you’re not planning on dealing, Stephanie’s first find underscores an important tip: focus on what’s available. “People who had great taste in the ’70s and ’80s are the ones who are downsizing and cleaning house right now,” says Stephanie,” So pieces from the ’70s and ’80s, and now ’90s, are what’s out there for people to buy.” Focusing on pieces that are available in surplus means lower prices and more variety. In a few years’ time, these finds will be just as valuable as their Mid-Century counterparts.
Lead photo by Jon Carter