When asked about how he cues up the stunning vintage vignettes his creative firm and lifestyle brand Zio and Sons is known for, design virtuoso Anthony D’Argenzio chalks it up to being an old soul. “I have been drawn to Old World objects all my life,” he says. “I suspect that’s why I might see beauty where someone else would see what they consider to be a flaw.” This is especially true when it comes to vintage art, which Anthony has a particular knack for spotting and styling. To celebrate the debut of Anthony’s vintage art shop on Chairish, we asked the tastemaker to share some of his juiciest intel for both collecting and displaying vintage art with verve.
Wait For Something That Speaks to You
If you’re just dipping a toe into the vintage art pool, all the options can leave your head spinning. An easy-peasy hack to make it all more manageable? Anthony recommends only considering pieces that speak to you—or even better, serenade you. “My motto is: shop with purpose,” says Anthony. “A piece doesn’t necessarily need to be signed or by a famous artist; it does need to be unique.” Which is to say: hold out for those pieces that truly knock you out, and move on from those that are simply “good enough.”
Mind Your Space’s Style (Not Locale)
Think the only apropos setting for an ocean painting is a beach bungalow? Or a country landscape is destined for a house upstate? No way, says Anthony. As he points out, “a piece that might work in a beautiful home in Santa Barbara might also be perfect for a New England cottage.” So what’s the magic mix? According to Anthony, it’s all about your art complementing the individual style of your space, rather than your home’s locale. “I tend to gravitate toward texture and subject matters that are in conversation with the space where the work might hang,” Anthony says.
Develop a Theme (But Keep It Flexy)
If you’re worried about your collection of vintage art looking like a bit of a hodgepodge, Anthony advises adopting a theme. Whether you opt for a theme like portraits, landscapes, or nudes, a common thread will keep things feeling cohesive. Anthony’s one disclaimer? “Keep the interpretation of what’s on theme nice and wide,” he says. “For example, I have been collecting vintage portraits for literally fifteen years and while the subject matter is consistent, the paintings themselves are wonderfully variant.” Another thematic idea: “Stick to a particular era or style you like—like pre-war or oil painting, for example—and then showcase those pieces together,” says Anthony.
Keep an Eye Out For Frames
One element you should be paying attention to when vintage art shopping, but you’re likely not? Frames. Just like a piece of jewelry can buck up an outfit, a gorgeous vintage frame can take a painting from subpar to sublime. In fact, frames are so imperative that Anthony shops for them just like art. “If you see a beautiful old frame, just buy it,” he says. “Eventually you’ll find the perfect piece to put inside.” Anthony also notes that matching frames can be a smashing way to align disparate paintings. “For example, going all in on gilded gold. In the right space, that can be super chic,” he says.
If you’re looking for perfection when it comes to vintage art, you’re likely to come away empty handed. Instead of demanding mint condition, Anthony recommends embracing vintage art’s itty bitty imperfections, whether it be a small hole in the canvas, a smushed corner, or a bit of sun discoloration. Anthony personally loves all manner of imperfections at home, including a rustic touch of painted mill work, Venetian plaster, un-lacquered brass, and antique furniture. “I like materials that age and change with time,” he explains.
Display in Unique Ways
Since vintage art is handmade, much of it tends to be small in scale. To make vintage art pop despite its lack of heft, Anthony recommends finding a supremely special way to display it. “There is a big difference between clutter and a collection, and finding ways to showcase your special pieces can really make a space sing,” says Anthony. “My signature move is to prop a piece on a bookshelf (any ledge or nook will do!) or let it lean against a wall in a vignette.” Other nifty tricks Anthony’s been known to pull include hanging a painting on a wall coat rack and popping a painting on the back of a door. “One thing I always tell my clients: There is no right or wrong way to display art and it’s totally fine to try out a bunch of different options, or shift things when you feel like it.”
All images courtesy of Anthony D’Argenzio