Chris Benz, the star designer and Creative Director of Bill Blass, hosts a sale of treasures from his personal collection, exclusively on Chairish. Chris is the visionary designer tapped to redefine the classic and tailored brand of Bill Blass. We love Chris for his ability to infuse a preppy angle with a sunny, unexpected aesthetic (Bill Blass includes a fried egg sticker in their online orders, because why not?).
We sat down with Chris to talk shop. He tells us about his favorite pieces in his Chairish collection, why he loves vintage, and how his easy-yet-luxe style plays out in both decor and in fashion.
Tell us about three of your favorite pieces in your Chairish collection.
1. Glazed Vintage Italian Box: the crackled dimensional quality to the turquoise glaze is so chic, and the shape itself feels like a perfect blend of vintage cool and handcrafted soul.
2. Hand-Painted African Stool: I sourced this unique, sweet little stool with exuberant hand-painted details from an antiques dealer at the old Chelsea flea market in NYC.
3. Ugo Zaccagnini Vintage Foo Dog: Most foo dogs are just so serious! I’ve always loved this guy – the color, the hilarious expression. Quite rare, actually, as I have never come across another quite like it!
What draws you to vintage pieces?
I am at heart a collector – I really can’t help myself. When I was a kid it was shells, and ever since I have been quite the magpie feathering my nest. I’m drawn to tactile pieces, bold color, but nothing too fancy. I have all sorts of color palettes going that I find pieces to fit into.
How would you describe your home design aesthetic?
I have always dreamed of living in a hotel, and the concept is always top-of-mind for me when renovating and decorating. My aesthetic is sort of East Coast/international with a West Coast/American spirit. I like antiques, but they only work for me next to something unrefined and casual. Everything I do really works into this formula. And, of course, I love a bright touch of color!
What’s your favorite vintage find?
Ages ago I bought a suite of Milo Baughman burlwood pieces – two love seats and a cocktail table – on Craigslist for very little money. I still own them and they look better than ever – as if they were kept in a time-capsule.
What is the role of vintage in fashion versus home?
Vintage plays as much of a central role in home versus fashion – often times when someone is wearing a vintage dress, it just looks sad or dated. It’s much more integral to bring vintage furnishings into decorating, as they have a much greater staying power. Antiques are a perfect example of how relevant a very old piece can be to a modern room, whereas people aren’t really wearing antique clothing in a similar way. But – vintage pieces can be used to balance environments that feel too precious. A tattered old rug is like a vintage t-shirt for your room.
What are you most inspired by right now? How did it influence this season’s designs?
I’m really into Asian antiques which is a category that has never been top-of-mind. I recently spent a great deal of time in China, and fell in love with jade, imari porcelain, sancai pottery…anything that feels distressed and casual.
Best way to add drama to a room? And, an outfit?
Room: Paint it! Outfit: Add an oversized piece of jewelry or a bold lipstick color.
What’s your design signature?
Casual, cool, colorful.
If you could pick any designer – living or dead – to redo your home, who would you choose?
Describe the relationship between how you would dress a person versus a room. Do your same rules apply for both?
Dressing up a room and styling clothes on a person is exactly the same – it’s all about color balance, proportion, and an attitude. And – in both cases its about highlighting the great features and downplaying the aspects you want to hide.
Most important article of clothing? And most important room in the house?
My navy blazers are my most important article of clothing, but in general it is all about your jeans. Even the most elegant people I know dress down their fancy bits with great jeans. It’s just the most modern way to be. Similarly, I love the flow of my kitchen/dining room. The casual attitude of the kitchen flows perfectly into the dining room which can host elegant 12-person dinners easily – the room equivalents to jeans and t-shirt with diamond jewelry.
Photography by Lesley Unruh