Known for a richly restrained sense of minimalism, Shawn Henderson‘s work serves up an inviting blend of tactile energy and effortless creativity. The AD100 designer tends to draw the eye with an eye-catching accent or a unique piece of art, rather than overwhelming with a too-much-is-never-enough approach. This subtle sensibility has served the New York-based designer well — he’s earned his place on the AD100 and was recently featured in Phaidon’s By Design, a compendium of the best contemporary designers working today.

We spoke with the in-demand creative about his unique approach to minimalism and how he warms up a style that’s traditionally been known for being more stark than it deserves. Read on for his tips for making it work, along with photos from his chic new book, Interiors in Context, which was just released. And be sure to shop his curation of Chairish favorites to bring a piece of his unique approach home with you.

Shawn Henderson

First and foremost, how would you describe your personal style? How does it reveal itself in the projects you work on?

Good question! I would say that I am classic but with a modern twist. I think that is evident in almost all of my projects, through my use of color and combination of furniture pieces. 

You’re a big believer in working with vintage and antique pieces, as well as sustainable materials. Tell us a bit about your ethos around designing in an eco-conscious way.

It is always important to use natural materials but I also try to pare down the elements of a room—to simplify the space to only what is needed and essential to make it feel warm and inviting, and not overly done. 

How do you maintain the balance between vintage items and contemporary spaces? What can you do to make it cohesive?

Use fabrics and color palette to unify a space—of course scale and proportion are important key factors as well.

The pieces you design yourself have a more pared down, minimalist aesthetic. How do you do that in a way that feels contemporary but not cold?

Minimalist designs can feel warm through the use of material and detailing. It is important that there is a “softness” to things. The days of boxy, hard-lined furniture are over.

Shawn Henderson

Your palette tends to be restrained, with a few bold elements of color for visual interest. What are some of your favorite color combinations for accomplishing that? And what are some colors you think we’ll be seeing more of in the near future?

I love muted oranges and blue-greens together. I also love Yves Klein Blue and mustard yellows. I am currently loving warmer color tones—I can’t get enough red into my projects!

You were recently profiled in Phaidon’s By Design book, which features the best contemporary designers working in the world today. Tell us about that experience.

It was a total and complete honor to be recognized by my peers—and to be included amongst so many talented people. 

What do you find most compelling about Chairish? And are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? 

I enjoy the variety of things and the immediacy of the transaction! And I’d like to have another Bentwood table by Giovanni Offredi. I have two but I would love a third.

Shawn Henderson

Some Design Favorites…

Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:

By not making one!

Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”

Fringe of any kind

Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:

Papa Bear Chair

Favorite paint color:

Pratt+Lambert China White

Favorite piece of decor in your home:

Plate by ceramicist Makoto Kagoshima

Shawn Henderson

Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:

Jean Royere

Favorite style icon: 

Yves St Laurent

Design destination every creative should visit at least once:

Chandigarh, India

Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received: 

As it pertained to dealing with difficult vendors, my old boss used to say, “The carrot and the stick, Shawn… Lure them with a carrot and beat ’em with a stick.” Hilarious. 

Some Lifestyle Favorites…

Favorite vacation destination (the next time travel becomes an option):

Lake Como, Italy

Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:


Favorite restaurant:


Favorite small museum:

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris

Shawn Henderson book
Shawn Henderson’s new book, Interiors in Context

Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:

Amy Sedaris, The Dodo

Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:

Hermes drawer liners

Favorite flower:

Parrot tulips

Favorite adult beverage:


All images by Stephen Kent Johnson


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November 12, 2021

Dennis Sarlo is the executive editor of Chairish and a lover of all things design-related. Prior to joining the team, he served as the executive editor of Dering Hall and was the first site director of Architectural Digest. He was also part of the founding team of travel startup Jetsetter. He lives in New York.