Q&A: Anna Brockway

Anna Brockway
Oct 11, 2018

Anna Brockway co-founded Charish in 2013. This online source was one of the first to bring one-of-a-kind items to the world of home design. Chairish provides a place for design lovers to buy and sell stylish home furnishings. Anna used to be a vice president at Levi Strauss. She is known for her tastemaking style and loves fleamarkets, Delft blue and white planters and Vladimir Kagan mohair sofas. She knows a lot about what vintage and antique pieces are in demand by what people are buying and selling on her site.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 15 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

We welcome Anna Brockway to the chat today. Anna co-founded the online marketplace Charish in 2013. This source was one of the first to bring one-of-a-kind items to the world of online home design. Chairish provides a place for design lovers to buy and sell stylish home furnishings and art. Anna used to be a vice president at Levi Strauss. She is known for her tastemaking style and loves flea markets, Delft blue and white planters, David Webb and Vladimir Kagan mohair sofas. She knows a lot about what vintage and antique pieces are in demand by what people are buying and selling on her site. Ask her about your stuff or things you are looking for. Let's chat.

What's trending in art right now? Is the gallery wall over?

Art is such a big part of Chairish and one of my favorite categories to spend time on!

Right now we are seeing lots of interest in Pop Art. Think large scale, bright colors and ironic takes on commercial themes. Here are some ideas: https://www.chairish.com/product/1041656/kiss-me-red-by-angela-blehm-37-x-43 

https://www.chairish.com/product/1324933/richard-bernstein-ruby-silkscreen 

On your second question: Long Live The Gallery Wall!  We do see interest in a new take on it though - more like a  tiled look where pieces by the same artist in a similar theme, shape and frame are used in large grid configurations. It's a more sophisticated - and maybe a little calmer - take on the gallery wall approach.

A few examples are:

https://www.chairish.com/product/1231354/xl-compositions-in-blue-set-of-4-print-by-jason-trotter-60-x-48

https://www.chairish.com/product/1226693/medium-summer-forevers-set-of-4-print-by-stephanie-henderson-32-x-40

We live in a mid-century home and own almost exclusively pre-1970 furniture/decor. Our family room sofa has seen better days and we'd like to replace it with something kid-friendly, durable and easy to clean, probably new rather than true vintage given reupholstery costs. I'm jealous of friends who have sofas with washable slip covers but I've never seen one in a style that fits somewhere between MCM and Brady Bunch. Does such a thing exist or do you have any suggestions on brands?

I would recommend a simple lawson (or square) arm sofa with a very tailored slipcover. Look for a low profile to match the rest of your MCM look.

Hello my name is Carmen I am a beginner in the world of vintage and antique hunting for my home. What are some staples that you would suggest starting with for current trends in vintage home decor?

Hi Carmen! I would recommend starting with vintage rugs, lighting (like table lamps) and occasional pieces (ottomans and small side tables). These will add personal style to your space as you start to develop your own vintage aesthetic and usually aren't big financial and space commitments.  

I love the sturdiness and quality of older furniture. I am not a modernist and not an Uber traditionalist. How do you make these pieces more transitional? I see “ just slap some white paint on it” all over Pinterest (ugh!) There must be something to respect the piece and give it a new home.

GREAT question! Making traditional brown furniture relevant is all about context.  Two tips! I like it when a traditional piece is used in a highly edited room with lots of negative space around the piece. In other words, get rid of the clutter! This allows the beauty, solidity and character of the traditional piece to really be appreciated.  

Secondly, surround the piece with a light color.  The main thing that you want to avoid is the heavy, all dark look and that can be accomplished through the thoughtful use of color. 

Thanks so much for having me Jura and hello everybody! I am excited to talk about my favorite thing: decorating with vintage!

Sooooo many questions: What’s the trend in vintage metals? Brass still hot? Is vintage moving to a post modern phase? Are the 1990s back? What’s your favorite mix — which periods, textures, colors?

Wow! For metals we see sustained interest in brass but I will say I love it when folks fearlessly mix metal types for a more eclectic look. It's tricky though and sort of "advanced decorating".  Safest move is to pick a lane and stay there.

Regarding post modern, we do see a growing following for Memphis inspired design. This often comes across in motifs - like this ribbon one - and in lighting like this adorable lamp. I happen to love post modern accents and think they are especially chic when partnered with traditional French pieces.  A very sophisticated juxtaposition.

I still love my Oak china cabinet (it's square, no curved glass, arts-and-crafts-ish, raised up a bit on legs, not frou-frou) but it seems that antique/vintage Oak furniture is "out." Oak doesn't seem much in demand or highly valued. Is that what you've seen too? Why do you think that is? And are there any types of Oak antique furniture that are in demand? Just curious. Like I said, I'm keeping the cabinet.

I grew up in California where for a long time Oak furniture was a thang!  You are right that in it's original form, oak is not super happening right now but we do see designers using cerused finishes to update these pieces. If you are unfamiliar, here is an example. It really takes the yellow out and puts an emphasis on the texture of the oak.

I've been seeing lots of lacquered furniture and the vintage Chinoiserie used by designers for the past 6 years or so. Do you see this lasting?

I do.  Lacquered pieces are a sure fire way to bring color and sparkle into a space.  And chinoiserie is just a chic classic that pairs well with so many styles. I love it mixed with Mid Century styles especially.

Hi. I am trying to sell some of my parents' Danish contemporary rosewood furniture. Someone from a local mid-century modern store is interested in the dining room chairs, but not the table. Am I going to have trouble selling the table without the matching chairs? (The table has heat damage on the top and the guy said it would cost more to fix than the table is worth.) I'd welcome any advice about this. Thanks much.

I would sell the chairs .  The trend is toward mixing tables and chairs types for an eclectic look so I would let your chairs move on their own and, if your resource is correct about the cost to repair the table, consider donating or recycling it.

Post Point Code  HF5952

What fashion trends are you seeing translate into the home?

It's really fun to watch how fashion trends influence the home. Animal prints have been all over the catwalk, sidewalk and are now really a staple in home decorating. You can see animal prints in seating, rugs (my favorite), pillows and even lampshades (patterned and pleated lampshades are a whole other trend we are digging!). 

What do you see as the glaring trends on each coast? Is it boho on the west and industrial on the east as I suspect? Would love your thoughts on digging a bit deeper... thanks!

I LOVE THIS QUESTION. One of my favorite parts of my job is seeing local differences in style and taste.  Fascinating. My experience is that it's not really a regional difference but actually varies city by city, or even neighborhood by neighborhood!  For example in LA (especially neighborhoods like Silver Lake) you can see more of a boho vibe, but I also see lots of Santa Barbara style Andalusian looks in Pasadena, Modern Farmhouse in the Palisades, Art Deco glam in parts of Beverly Hills and unabashed sleek MCM in the Hollywood Hills. Texas also intrigues me.  Houston homes often feature LOTS of smashing French antiques where as Dallas always surprises me for its embrace of contemporary art and MCM.  More generally though if pushed I would say the East Coast runs more traditional (and loves a window treatment!) while the West Coast leans toward a more casual vibe.

I inherited lots of furniture from my family. How do I figure out what’s valuable? How can I sell what I don’t like?

I get asked this question a lot. One of the challenges for folks in your spot is appraising worth.  Chairish has this great feature called The Pink Book.  Think of it as the Kelly Blue Book for vintage furniture.  Simply describe your item and we will provide you with the final selling price of similar items we've sold.  We are the only folks I know of offering this visibility for buyers and sellers.

As for where to sell you stuff, try us! Private owners sell with us everyday. Simply click on the consign with us button in the upper right hand corner of our home page to get started.  We do pre-approve every item on our site for style, quality and condition so not every single piece may be a fit but its a good place to start and listing is free.

I keep seeing rattan, bamboo and wicker all the time in interiors now. Is it ok to use it in places other than the porch or sunroom

Yes please!  We see wicker, bamboo and rattan appearing indoors regularly and we love the whimsy, lightness and freshness it brings to a space. Chic!

I am young and pretty new to having anything other than a dorm to decorate, so please bear with me. I see all this talk about trends, what's in or out, etc, in home decorating and design, but I don't understand how people decorating their own houses are supposed to respond to that. Is there some They who expect people to actually redecorate their houses to reflect what's currently "in"? Are people secretly judging my sofa for being so last year, the way I will secretly judge their shoulder ruffles in a year or two (please, God, let the shoulder ruffles be out in a year or two)? Or are home design trends gentler, or on a longer rhythm, or what? Thank you!

ha! This is a fun question. Like any style related category, trends come and go but good, classic basics remain (like Levi's!).  Most folks today think of their home as an expression of their personal style - much like their clothes - and so want to change things up regularly. My recommendation is to start with seating and table pieces that you love (I'll call these commitment pieces) and look to art, lighting, rugs and occasional tables and chairs for freshness.  How often the refreshing happens is really up to you.  I will admit to be a serial re-decorator - hence starting Chairish! But that's my thing.

Bar Carts - Are they too overdone at this point? What would you do instead?

I happen to find bar carts really useful for entertaining. They have gotten a lot of attention lately but I remain a fan! That said, nothing is prettier for a party than a gorgeously abundant bar laid out atop a buffet or console table. A classic good look and equally practical.

What’s your favorite item in your home?

I have a MASSIVE clear Murano chandelier in my oval dining room that was a wedding gift from my mom and stepdad - purchased while traveling in Venice. It's never going for sale on Chairish!

I don’t like a formal dining room. My husband is threatening to put a ping pong table in there. Help! What to do?

Formal dining rooms are often under used so I appreciate your question.  I am not sure you will want to tell your husband this but I have seen ping pong tables that transform into dining tables. Just sayin'.  Because most dining rooms are adjacent to the kitchen, modern families often repurpose their dining rooms into family rooms while perhaps including a smaller table for intimate dining.  It's a practical choice that presents a host of fun decorating options!

Thanks much for your advice. That sets my mind at ease. And Jura will be very glad when I get this house cleared out; I think I've posted some question or other about the furniture on almost every chat for the past few months. ;)

Getting a house cleared out is huge. And just when do you know you are done? I'm currently on a hunt for lost documents somewhere in the attic. Wish me luck as I look for them and dump dump dump stuff.

I’m 25 and just setting up my First apartment. What’s the one thing I should spend money on?

Because you likely have a few moves ahead of you, I would recommend you invest in art you love!  This is easy to transport to a new space and your ability to incorporate these pieces in future homes won't be constrained by floorplans etc. My two cents.

It breaks my heart that I see fine China, silver and Crystal going for pennies on the dollar in consignment stores. Do you see the younger generation ever loving these items like we more mature folks do?

Me too. The good news is that Chairish shoppers love tableware!  Tureens, platters, cake plates, pitchers and even punch bowls are big sellers. I am a tabletop optimist!

Oh shoot! Times up. Thanks to everyone and sorry I didn't get to every question. This was really fun! Happy hunting from everyone at Chairish! XO ab

Thank you Anna. It was great to learn more about Chairish and what's going on in the vintage world. Next week join me for a chat with Pum Lefebure, who is Design Army's chief creative director. Pum and her husband Jake's fab house in Brookland will be the cover story in next week's Local Living. She's got amazing taste and lovers Paris flea markets, modern furniture and black and white... See you then.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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