“The devil is in the details” is a quip you’ll often hear from designer Sarah Vaile, and for good reason. This Chicago-based pro doesn’t skimp on the deets—or the vintage for that matter. Schooled at Parsons School of Design and trained up at Celerie Kemble Interiors, Sarah knows how to bring a sensational room (read: posh and funky) to life. A vintage Chippendale secretary desk playing opposite a 1970s-style acrylic coffee table? Yes, please! Having curated a collection of Chairish favorites every bit as smashing as the rooms she designs, we asked Sarah to give us the goods on all her design favorites, including her Chicago hot list and the newest local attraction she can’t get enough of!
What do you love about shopping on Chairish?
It makes so many vintage pieces immediately accessible and it spans the full range of value. Not every vintage piece needs to be precious.
Is there any particular product category where Chairish is your go-to?
For mirrors, art, and cocktail tables we almost always start on Chairish for truly unique pieces.
Favorite 3 items on Chairish right now:
The pair of Piero Fornasetti Italian Keyhole Lamps, Wrought Iron Palmette Chairs, and Casa Cosima Turkish Ottoman in Olive Velvet.
Favorite thing about designing with vintage pieces:
They allow you to create a unique space that is truly personal to the owner.
Favorite way to add drama to a room:
We can’t get enough of animals. They just add such whimsy and personality to a room, whether as a table base, accessory, or pattern on a pillow.
Favorite source for design inspiration:
The world around us. I am constantly photographing anything beautiful I come across, from a stunning flower bed to random architectural detail at a friend’s house. I really have no shame with pulling out the iPhone to capture something.
Favorite paint color:
Well, my entire foyer and upstairs hall is Benjamin Moore’s Wythe Blue.
Favorite pattern (and how you love to use it):
I love a bold black and white pattern. I am dying to incorporate one on the windows in my bright yellow living room.
Favorite design rule to break:
We are definitely guilty of not starting with the rug. We tend to kick off a project with whatever piece pulls us into their hemisphere, whether it be a textile, wall covering or beautifully shaped sofa. I am a huge believer that the design process needs to happen organically doing whatever method you find works for you.
Favorite color combo:
Black and white.
Favorite way to mix high and low:
I always ask our client what they are most likely to destroy in their house and go low there. For us, with two children, a baby on the way, and a dog, it is hands-down the rug. They just don’t make it long in our house.
Favorite way to work a bit of vintage into a room:
It is my favorite part of any project. Oftentimes we lead with vintage, centering the design around a bold cocktail table or Art Deco chair. At the very least, we use vintage for the finishing accents, such as side tables and benches, to factor in some personality.
Can you share with us any big projects you’re working on in 2019?
We have spent the last year and a half designing a stunning single family in Lincoln Park—groin ceilings, octagonal master bath, stucco walls and all— that is finally slated to be finished this fall. I like to joke with our clients that I will have created a life faster than we have built this house.
You live in Chicago and were schooled in NY. Do you seen any differences between design style in the two cities?
Well, I didn’t mind New York budgets. I find that Midwesterners tend to gravitate towards more soothing colors like blues and grays and more transitional furniture, which definitely makes us stand out a bit. We love introducing unexpected hues and traditional pieces into the mix, so I guess you could say are bringing a little bit of New York to the midwest.
Favorite travel destination to relax:
Nothing will ever top a spot under the cabana on our beach at the La Coquille Club.
Favorite travel destination for design inspiration:
I love to just go for drives. Always have. My mind just starts racing when I’m on the move.
Favorite hotel to check in to:
Le Sirenuse in Positano. It sits on a cliff in one of the most enchanting Italian coastal towns I’ve seen.
I spend way too much time on Words with Friends.
Favorite morning beverage (and how you take it):
An iced latte, whether it’s zero or 90 degrees out.
Favorite thank you/hostess gift:
I get really into my gift buying. Someone once told me if you love it, the recipient will too. So really, whatever catches my fancy.
Favorite adult beverage:
It’s been so long since I’ve had one of those, I think I forget…
I am pretty basic here—I am kind of a golden rule person: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It is just such a great litmus test for almost every human behavior.
Favorite entertaining essential:
Well, alcohol, of course.
Favorite musical artist:
When I just need a good pick me up, I will always turn to the Zac Brown Band. That is 100% my husband’s influence.
Favorite thing to collect:
I have this thing for benches. There is always a spot in a room just calling for a noncommittal “not-quite-a-chair-but-go-ahead-and-sit-on-it” piece.
Your City: Chicago
I love Gemini in our old neighborhood in the city, Lincoln Park. You know you will always run into someone you know there and can always grab a last minute seat at their big central bar.
Favorite hotel to recommend to visiting friends:
One of my best friends is an incredible travel advisor so I know I can count on wherever she stays as being the most noteworthy hotel of the moment. As of late, it’s The Hoxton in West Loop.
Favorite local culture hub:
I’m kind of a club girl—the kind that serves gin and tonics, not DJs. We do spend a lot of time as a team at Soho House.
Favorite local attraction:
One of the coolest additions to the city as of late is wndr, the experiential museum that my sister-in-law helped kickstart.
Favorite local flea market/vintage hunting ground:
Randolph Street Market.
Lead photo by Aimée Mazzenga