Christopher Spitzmiller’s name has become synonymous with his now-iconic ceramic lamps, which burst on to the design scene just over 20 years ago and have since been featured everywhere from the Oval Office to Architectural Digest. And since 2015, his creative collaborations with Visual Comfort and Circa Lighting have only expanded his brand’s wide-ranging reach.
Beyond his uber-successful product creations, Christopher is also known to be a consummate host and designer, having restored a historic farm in Millbrook, New York, for incredible entertaining (count us in for a weekend away). We chatted with him about that experience, along with his tips for stress-free entertaining and decorating. See what he had to say below, and shop his exquisite personal Chairish selections for a taste of his style.
How did you become interested in ceramics and how has your passion for that evolved over the years?
I love that I make pieces that enrich peoples’ lives—that’s why I started out making things and why I keep doing it every day that I can. I like to say we make jewelry for your whole house—finely crafted pieces that will be antiques for future generations. My work speaks for itself.
You are known for your one-of-kind lamps that come in a wide range of colors and designs. What was your inspiration behind these pieces?
My favorite inspiration is old Asian shapes that I mainly see at auctions. I am an auction house junkie! I’m always scouring online and in person to see shapes that catch my eye and that I can make into my own version.
Aside from being a ceramicist and designer, we know you love to entertain and your restored home, Clove Brook Farm, is an incredible place to host guests. Did you do any renovations that opened up areas for entertaining? Tell us a bit about that process.
I worked for six years tirelessly getting the bones right at Clove Brook Farm, reconfiguring rooms to make them work for today’s living. For example, there was a small bookroom at the end of the dining room that was too small to use. I pushed the dining room down into this area and at the other end created a hallway. This hallway allows access to the kitchen, dining room, powder room, and basement (where I keep most of my vast dish and entertaining collection), so that these spaces aren’t solely accessible through the dining room.
What are some of your go to entertaining tips and what kinds of things do you do before guests arrive?
Be ready! Do as much as you can ahead of time. Set your table a few nights ahead. Cook food that you can make without a recipe or make stews that get better with time. Don’t be rushed and if you are, there is no sin in ordering in. In New York, I set the table the night before and order dinner from a favorite restaurant. Be calm and welcoming. Albert Hadley would always be standing in the front doorway of his apartment every time I went to see him. This is the kind of welcome you want to give your guests.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to explore table decorating?
Be adventurous. I mix patterns and colors all the time. Use small vases with single flowers—like my friend Cathy Graham does—in addition to a big center piece. I often use glass Christmas ornament ladybugs and other friendly animals on the table. Layering is key. A little too much is just enough for me!
Of the Christopher Spitzmiller pieces available on Chairish, do you have any favorites? Is there anything you’re excited to be launching soon?
My lamps are always show-stoppers and they add a lot to all rooms. My tableware is a fun way to collect a set over time that can and should be used every day and not just saved for special celebrations.
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
Chairish is a fun resource for finding unusual antiques. I like to shop in bed before I go to sleep, buying some pieces or flagging them for further consideration and dreaming!
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
Antiques are the ultimate in sustainability. They have survived at least one owner and hopefully will go on to another person after me. We are only the caretakers of our houses and pieces.
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?
I’m always on the hunt for all kinds of pieces, adding to my collection of Dodie Thayer, Spode Greek, or some garden accessory.
What are three of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
Put an animal sculpture in at least one room of your house. I have ceramic chickens, turtles, cats and dogs in all rooms of my house. I have a whole wall of Mario Buatta’s spaniel paintings… they make a statement!
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
I like to use outdoor faux sisal inside. It’s dog-proof and lasts so much longer than the real stuff.
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Anything and everything faux bois. Martha Stewart and I have that in common.
Favorite paint color:
Benjamin Moore Maritime Blue, or a good purple or lavender
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
The Frances Elkins white painted oval back chairs in my dining room, inspired by Nancy Lancaster’s black Japanese oval back chairs. Good upholstery… don’t cheap out! Comfort is key.
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
A Van Day Truex owl painting hangs over my library fireplace. I smile every time I see it.
Favorite style icon:
Albert Hadley and William Hodgins: Both were mentors, friends, and clients
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
Visit as many local museum houses and gardens as you can. In Millbrook, we have two open gardens: Wethersfield and Innisfree. In Newport, I love to visit the mansions. Every city has at least a handful of these that will enrich your life.
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
“Bite off more than you can chew, and chew like hell!” And, “No more than two pieces of brown furniture in a room!” Both are by Albert Hadley.
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination:
St. Barts, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles
Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:
Favorite small museum:
Boscobel in the Hudson Valley is a favorite of mine.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
A jar of jam, honey, or eggs from my farm
Peonies, sweet peas, lilies, and dahlias
Favorite adult beverage:
Green tea or a cranberry spritzer… I’m a teetotaler.
Favorite way to unwind at home:
An hour or more in the garden
Favorite entertaining essential:
Good tablecloths and napkins. No paper, please!
All photos by Andrew Ingalls. Courtesy of Christopher Spitzmiller.