Kate Pearce’s Guide to Designing with Vintage Finds, Modern Furniture, and SmithHönig Fabric
Some kids grow up playing sports, or with dolls or playing video games. Kate Pearce grew up playing treasure hunter. Pearce spent her childhood tagging along with her mother, whose house is almost entirely thrifted (of course), scoring cool finds from estate sales and thrift shops across the New York area. After getting her masters in Art History – and a brief fling with Columbia University’s Pre-Med program — Pearce took her honed eye for design and her love for the hunt to the next level and became a vintage dealer. Since 2015 she’s been the one-woman show behind Kate Pearce Vintage, which features her eclectic mix of unique vintage pieces and maxed out color and prints.
“My education definitely informs what I’m doing now in a huge way,” says Pearce. “When I first started out, I found this authentic Fernand Leger plate buried in the bottom of a kids’ playroom. And I would have never known that if I hadn’t studied art history. The estate sale company had no idea and was like “Here you go!” I paid $1 for it and I was able to resell it for like $850.”
Her knowledgeable eye and eclectic style quickly attracted an engaged Instagram following (27,000 and counting), drawn to her unique ability to layer neutral backgrounds with pieces in vibrant colors and patterns, and her ability to seamlessly style together new and vintage pieces. Pearce’s home is the backdrop for these vintage finds, which are featured as quickly as this busy mother of two can post them.
Even for a vintage dealer, sometimes new is the right choice. Here SmithHönig’s luxurious velvet pillows sit atop a Lulu & Georgia couch.
“One thing that I am really big about, even though I sell vintage — and I’m very committed to vintage — is that I think it’s really important to mix authentically old pieces with newer pieces,” says Pearce. “I think if you have a room that’s just entirely vintage it can look dated a bit. I’m always very careful about that. In pretty much every room of my house you’ll see a combination of old and new.”
For designer Kate Pearce, mixing vintage pieces with newer items makes spaces timely and relevant.
Upholstered pieces are where Pearce usually recommends buying new.
“Most vintage upholstered pieces you see need some love,” says Pearce. “I mean, I have found pieces I have left alone, but it’s rare and most of the time it’s cheaper honestly to just buy the pieces new. The green couch in my living room is from Lulu & Georgia, and the throw pillows are from SmithHönig.” Pearce also added SmithHönig’s Violet Cowrie Shell Tassels to her decor as a unique accent of colors, beads and pom-poms.
“The barstools in my kitchen are vintage, but I just couldn’t resist buying them. Having them reupholstered was more expensive than it would have been to buy them new,” added Pearce.
Pearce’s beloved reupholstered bar stools take center stage in her newly renovated kitchen, which also features custom roman shades made with SmithHönig’s Moroccan Knot / Asilah fabric.
These bar stools are front in center in Pearce’s recently renovated kitchen. For her first One Room Challenge in the spring, Pearce went big, gutting her kitchen and bringing an inspired mix of high and low and new and vintage. The reupholstered vintage cantilever bar stools sit alongside Ikea cabinets, quartz countertops and custom roman shades made with SmithHönig Moroccan knot / Asilah fabric. She brought in additional vintage touches with reclaimed wood shelves and a Boujad runner.
Moroccan Knot fabric, available by the yard, is perfect for large and small DIY and design projects, including pillows, table linens, bedding and roman shades.
Like her living room or kitchen, any space that Pearce designs features a lot of color, pattern, and texture, hand in hand with her signature vintage vibes. And one of her favorite ways to bring that color and pattern into a room is through wallpaper.
“Most of my permanent fixtures are neutral, but I love using wallpaper, especially with all of these new peel and stick lines,” says Pearce. “I think wallpaper has really evolved. I mean wallpaper itself was out for so long, and now that it’s back in style there’s this fresh modern take on it, even if it’s vintage inspired. It’s a great way to bring something fresh and modern into a space that you have a lot of vintage in.”
“Plus, it’s very easy to swap out. It’s kind of game-changing,” added Pearce.
And change is the name of the game for Pearce. After all, she has built her business and brand on constant evolution. Just about every vintage piece featured on her Instagram feed is for sale in her Etsy shop (and if it’s not, just reach out and ask).
Any space that Pearce designs is high on color, pattern, texture, and of course, her signature vintage finds.
“I always tell this story about how I went to this sale early and I waited in line in 10-degree weather for two-and-a-half hours to get this plycraft lounger. There were a few other dealers surrounding it when I got in, but I didn’t waste any time. I did not wait in that line for no reason, I was getting that chair,” says Pearce with a laugh. “And I did. And I was sure I was NEVER going to get rid of it. But here I am, 8 months later, having sold it.”
Pearce is working on another One Room Challenge and even though she loves the vintage pieces she acquired specifically for it, she also knows that she might be ready to part with them in a couple of months. Which only makes sense: Pearce is a treasure hunter at heart, and the thrill is in discovering rare and wonderful finds. She is happy to give these treasures a temporary safe haven while she finds their next owner. And then the pieces and Pearce are both ready to embark on their next adventure.
Embark on your own adventure by adding SmithHönig to your home.