Known for his inventive and inspiring use of color — and we dare you not to feel a dose of joy when admiring some of his spaces below — Nick Olsen is a designer who continues to push boundaries. Mentored by color maestro Miles Redd himself, Olsen struck out on his own over a decade ago and has found a plethora of success since. He’s been a member of Elle Decor‘s coveted A-List for several years and has been featured in Architectural Digest, Veranda, House Beautiful, and every other prestigious design mag on our shelves.
One of our favorite things about Olsen is the way he loves to juxtapose old with new, incorporating vintage pieces seamlessly into more modern work. We spoke with him about how he accomplishes it, the colors that are catching his eye right now, and the one current trend he’d love to see disappear. Read on to learn more, and be sure to shop his curation of Chairish favorites as well.
Tell us a bit about how you like to use antiques alongside new pieces. How do they play in your spaces?
I actually tend toward furniture with clean lines and strong proportions, but a delicate 19th-century armchair or curvy antique console will bring necessary tension to a modern room. Also classics like Saarinen tulip tables and Florence Knoll sofas never get old to me and look fantastic next to antiques.
What are some of your favorite types of antiques and vintage pieces? Are there any go-to periods you like pulling from or specific searches you tend to use?
Right now I’m drawn to French 1940’s-1950’s, like sets of oak chairs with rush seats or monolithic cabinets. Or 1960s Italian lighting with metal shades in primary colors. Or chairs with trompe l’oeil tassels or some kooky detail that makes me smile. In terms of searching, I’m the type to enter “sconces” and scroll through 2,000 options!
What are the design trends that are exciting you most right now? And are there any that you’d like to see disappear?
It sounds a little woo-woo but I like seeing the design world celebrating very personal, idiosyncratic interiors. On the other hand, I recently saw a meme saying, “cover the world in ivory bouclé.” I still love bouclé, but I also get the joke. It’s everywhere!
You’re of course known for your creative color combinations, often with unexpected hues. Which colors are you loving right now and why?
Right now I’m loving cinnabar and melon orange together, and oddly enough, beige and camel.
Are there any dream projects you’d love to have some day? What’s something you haven’t done that you’d love to try?
If anyone out there’s building a neo-Regency villa on Barbados, I’m available to decorate it.
As a New York designer, how have the last two years impacted work in the city? Has it changed the types of designs or projects clients are looking for?
It’s wild to see our business thrive during a global crisis when so many are hurting, but we are beyond grateful. Many longtime clients re-shuffled their real estate portfolio, not abandoning New York altogether but buying places with more outdoor space or moving to be closer to extended family. And most of them are aware of the supply chain debacles and are happy for me to source pieces on Chairish or elsewhere. Who wants to wait nine months for a sofa???
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping…
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
The snappy layout and limitless options!
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
I can’t bear to think about anything of quality going to a landfill. Everytime a client moves I encourage them to sell or donate pieces that I can’t re-use, and I will reupholster a well-made sofa three or four times. The old adage “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to” certainly applies to furniture from cheap home retail sites that shall not be named.
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?
There’s a specific type of Louis XVI armchair I covet … I won’t describe it here though for fear of competition! Also a vintage Alfa Romeo convertible would make the perfect lawn ornament.
What are three of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
A massive mirror over a fireplace or sofa.
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Impossible to pick just one but the classic Billy Baldwin slipper chair ranks high.
Favorite paint color:
Currently, Farrow & Ball St. Giles Blue
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
A French slipper chair my boyfriend found for me at auction
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Favorite style icon:
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
Never sell a client anything you wouldn’t want for yourself.
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination:
Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:
El Fenn in Marrakesh
MIMI in New York
Favorite small museum:
Villa Vizcaya in Miami
Liz Lange’s “The Just Enough Family” — it’s like one extended Vanity Fair article.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
For my upstate neighbors who have everything, I started painting little watercolors of their farm to take to dinner parties.
Favorite adult beverage:
I’m bringing back the Cosmopolitan!
Favorite way to unwind at home:
Watching any documentary about the Mafia; it soothes me.
Favorite entertaining essential:
Five-watt lighting and endless buckets of party ice
Photos by Reid Rolls