Lesley Unruh
Mackenzie Schmidt
September 26, 2016 12:04 PM

Ever dreamed of having a fashion designer to decorate your home?

While we hear Karl and Marc, aren’t taking commissions at the moment, Chairish is giving you the next best thing: a designer-curated sale of glorious vintage furniture finds. Chris Benz — the guy New York magazine last year said was the one designer who could “reinvent American fashion,” and who admirably has a cheeseburger on his inspiration board —  has teamed up with the online vintage furniture mecca to collect his favorite finds. His sale is live right now and includes everything from the patterned sofa you’ve always wanted to be brave enough to buy to an incredible driftwood lamp that will take your beach-y decor to the next level. Before you add anything to your cart, brush up on Chris’s tips for buying vintage like a pro, shared exclusively with PEOPLE.

PEOPLE: Are there certain furniture styles or periods that are more of a sure thing than others? 

Chris Benz: For vintage furniture, I love mixing all sorts of periods together to create energy and interest. My category is primarily anything older than I am (pre-1980s) … There are loads of interesting pieces from the 1980s and ’90s but not many are as well-made as those from the ’70s and earlier. I sometimes think 1982 must have been when pressboard was invented. I often look for pieces that are quite old and rustic to partner alongside mid-century pieces with a bit more pop.

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P: What’s the smartest way to buying vintage online? Committing without seeing can be scary! 

CB: eCommerce is where it’s at — if you have reservations about it, it’s time to get over them! We live in an age where geography shouldn’t hinder your ability to design a fantastic-looking environment for yourself. It takes some practice, but before long, shopping online for furniture and décor will be just as instinctual as being in a store. I’m an huge fan of asking questions of sellers, and really getting to understand the item beyond just the pictures. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make a new friend! For larger pieces, make cardboard cutouts of the size of the item and place it on the floor in your room to see if it will fit. I’ve even made cutouts of hanging light fixtures to assess whether they will fit into a space. Also a Virgo thing, I think.

Chris Benz
Chris Benz

P: How do you decorate with vintage furniture without making your home look like a time capsule? 

CB: I feel strongly that if you just trust yourself to only pick out things that you really love, your spaces will always be a beautiful reflection of your personality. It takes some imagination, but even the most period-devout people can’t be museum-level perfect all of the time. Try creating visual groupings of like-colored pieces … some turquoise pottery with a few blue books, a navy chair, et cetera. This keeps the mix-and-match aesthetic organized in a way that doesn’t become too cuckoo crazy or messy.  

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P: What’s one expert-level decorating move everyone should try? 

CB: Don’t be afraid of oversized pieces, or having objects just for the sake of drama. Anything can become sculptural art if you mount it on the wall in a confident way. There are so many examples of antique factory machine parts, organic wood pieces or unusual found objects taking the place of honor above a mantel. My best advice is, ‘why not!  just give it a try!’

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