Interior Design

How to Make Vintage Shopping Work for Your Home

Portland interior designer Max Humphrey's new book, Modern Americana, shows how the old can be new.

By Reina Harwood April 13, 2021

Portland interior designer Max Humphrey has a special eye when it comes to thrifting. He plays around with funky vintage patterns and shapes from subway tiles to brick & mortar styles. To him, vintage shopping is all about a "thrill of the hunt" mindset.

On April 20, Humphrey—along with author Chase Reynolds Ewald and photographer (and frequent PoMo contributor) Christopher Dibble—are releasing Modern Americana (Gibbs Smith, 2021), a new design book highlighting Humphrey's interior design projects from Bend to the Oregon Coast. Ahead of the book's launch, we talked to Humphrey and mined his brain for design tips. When it comes to incorporating style and shopping vintage, he says it's 99% about "confidence.”  

What can readers take away from Modern Americana? A big part of my design viewpoint is shopping locally and buying vintage. Its the most sustainable. Theres a lot of rifted vintage and dumpster diving stuff in my book that I've up-cycled or used in an interesting way. One goal with the book is that people read half of it, and then get inspired to go shopping and be like, ‘I want to go vintage shopping.’ Its also the community. I shop online too, but I get particularly inspired when I shop in person, locally. 

What are some local vintage stores you enjoy shopping at? The vintage shops I love are Aurora Mills, which is an architectural salvage in Aurora, and going through Urbanite. They're a vintage sort-of mall with different booths in Southeast. Across the street is Rejuvenation, and they've got an amazing vintage department. The rest of my favorites are all secrets. 

What can you tell us when it comes to shopping vintage for your home? The thing about vintage shopping is if you are looking for something specific, you'll never find it. I go in, and I like emptying my mind. If I know I need a lamp for a specific spot, I have to tell myself, I'm not looking for a lamp, and I'm never going to find the lamp,’ or Ill never find it. I trick myself, because it's the thrill of the hunt. I never know what I need. I just know that once I see something, I go with my gut.

Could you share an at-home DIY tip with us? Paint is probably your best friend when you want to do a little refresh at your own house. It's inexpensive, you can do it yourself, and you don't have to be a professional. There are things that I've tried to do, like DIYs I'm halfway through, and Im like, ‘This was over my head, I dont even have the tools for this,’ but anybody can paint. If you don't like the outcome, you can just paint over it. That's another way of how I taught myself design. 

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