The Art Of Vintage's Katie Saro On The New Season And Designing For Your Personality - Exclusive Interview

Vintage interior design is far more than a trend — for many people, it's a way of life. Whether you have a few antique heirlooms displayed in your home or a house fully furnished by vintage finds, everyone can benefit from incorporating some unique antiques in their home.

When it comes to vintage interior design, look no further than Katie Saro. Saro is known for her unique sense of personal design that is accomplished using one-of-a-kind antique finds, which she showcases in the popular Magnolia Network show "The Art of Vintage." The show follows Saro as she redesigns her own home, sources gorgeous antique pieces, and helps her clients realize their unique design goals using vintage furniture and decor. In an exclusive interview with House Digest in anticipation of the new season, Katie Saro told us all about the show, her approach to vintage shopping and creating her designs, and more.

Finding vintage items and sustainability in sourcing

What inspired you to get into vintage interior design specifically?

I like designing with vintage because designing a home is an art form, and if you're using vintage in your art form, it's like you're taking things from the past and connecting them to the future. It's a way of using things from the past and bringing them into the present so that your space feels more connected to the world around you instead of something that exists in a vacuum.

What is your favorite way to acquire antique and vintage pieces? Antique malls, vintage stores, thrift shops, flea markets, online ... ?

There are a lot of different places to find vintage. It's fun to go to antique stores because it's already curated for you, and you know you're going to find good things. But going to thrift stores and flea markets will always be the most fun because it's the thrill of the hunt. You have to sort through a lot of junk, but you might be able to find treasure.

How important is sustainability in your love of vintage?

It's important. I don't want to say that other design with new furniture is bad, but there's so much furniture in the world, and we live in a throwaway culture. If you can take the extra time to use the materials that we already have on hand that exist in other people's homes and exist in stores, we can creatively find a way to make less waste.

Find things that make you gasp

Do you prefer to center room designs around one specific, eye-catching piece or plan out the design and then fit in unique items?

When you design with vintage, you have to start with the vintage, because that is harder to find and you don't know what you're going to find. Every piece is unique and a different size. If you start with your favorite vintage piece and build out from there, then you can build a room around something that nobody else has.

How can people ease themselves into the sometimes overwhelming world of vintage and second-hand home design, especially when transitioning from new and modern design?

One, start at thrift stores or flea markets where things are going to be cheaper. Avoid upholstery at first, because that takes a little bit more know-how and it's heavier. Buy accessories and decor items that are vintage, because those have a lot of impact without a lot of commitment. Only buy things that really make you excited, because that's how you find out what your personal style is — when you buy things that make you gasp and then bring it into your house and then look around at all the things that are in your house and your house will tell you what your style is.

What advice do you have for people who want to add more personality and color into a room but feel overwhelmed by the process? Or for those wanting to identify and develop their own personalized sense of style?

You don't need to worry about adding personality to a room, because you are the personality. All you have to do is pick things that make you gasp when you see them. Bring them into your house, and you'll love them every day. Everybody who comes and visits your house will be able to see your personality and those things that you love.

Loving people and loving furniture

When you're working on a client's home, how do you identify that unique vision for them? Do you see what makes them gasp?

Yes. I try to spend time with them and get to know who they are and what they love. There's a famous quote that's like, "Show me what you eat and I'll show you who you are." I like that quote, but I use it for vintage and I say, "Show me what you are drawn to at an antique store and I'll show you who you are."

If I have the time, I love to go shopping with clients and see what they're drawn to at antique stores. Even in that short time, I can see what their personality is and what their style is. Then I build a room from there. It could be that they pick out one bowl, and from that one bowl, I could pick out what their style is and build an entire room around that one bowl.

Is that a skill you've acquired over time, or is that something that you have an innate knowledge of?

I have no idea. I don't know. I just love people and love furniture. I love furniture because it exists for people and it is made by people. The best kind of furniture is furniture that personifies the person that made it. It points to the human being who it's made for or the human being who designed it.

That's why commercial furniture that's mass-produced seems to have less of that personality than vintage does, because there's no one person in the world that's mass-produced. People aren't mass-produced; people are unique. When I find a piece of unique vintage furniture or unique handmade furniture, that makes me think about the person who made it, which makes me love it even more. Loving people and loving furniture go hand in hand.

Vintage is practical

How do you design a space that visually reflects your personality and that love for the furniture, but is also practical for daily life, both for yourself and clients?

Practical ... I hate that word. What would be impractical? Uncomfortable furniture, too much furniture. Vintage is inherently practical because it's already lasted 50-plus years. It's going to last you another decade or two, which you can't say of newly made furniture. It's especially practical for people who have kids or pets, because they know that they paid a lot less for it, and they're not worried about it being ruined because it's already been made with quality materials.

Vintage is practical — that's the main thing. Then, personality-wise, some people have more flair in their personality than others. Some people can have a giant ostrich hanging on their wall, and some people wouldn't like to live with that. It depends on the person.

Personality doesn't have to be a giant elephant in their living room like I have or an ostrich on the wall. Bringing personality into a room can be very subtle things like painting a window frame a different color than white, or putting all the books you love on a shelf instead of buying an assortment of books for what color they are and putting it on the shelf. The way that you arrange the trinkets on your coffee table says a lot about who you are. Personality can be big, and personality can be little — with rooms and with people.

Creativity is self care

What is one renovation, either for yourself or a client, that you're most proud of or most sticks out in your memory?

The kitchen I remodeled during COVID, during the pandemic, was a big feat for me because it was both a form of therapy and taught me that creative expression is necessary to combat the stresses of everyday life. When you're stressed, you [think you] don't have time for creativity and you don't have time for art. It's actually the opposite. When your life is hard, you need more creativity and more art in your life. That kitchen renovation that I did was always a reminder to me that art and creativity is self-care for yourself, and for the whole world, really.

Do you have any fun stories you can share about the new season, and is there anything you're excited for returning viewers to see?

I'm excited to see these new episodes. As the episodes went on, I got more comfortable with designing for TV, because it was my first season. I didn't really know what I was doing at first — I'd never been on a TV show before. In the next episodes, I'm having more fun and I'm more comfortable designing for people on TV, and that shows in the room and in the design.

What is that difference for you, having your process be publicized?

Oh my gosh, it's so different. It's weird, to tell you the truth. I do consider interior design — when done right — [to be] an art form, and it seems almost unnatural to create art for TV, if that makes sense. At first, that made me shy away from some creativity and creative ideas. But as we kept filming, I saw that it was such a great honor to be able to share my art with that many people.

Even thinking [about] ... In Michelangelo's day, he didn't get to put his stuff on Instagram and share it instantly with 40,000 people. On one hand, it's scary to think about sharing something so personal with so many people, and on the other hand, it's such a great honor. Once I leaned into the fact that it was an honor, it made me comfortable in doing it and excited to be able to do it for so many people and share it with so many people.

All episodes of "The Art of Vintage" premiere on discovery+ and the Magnolia app on January 20, 2023.

This interview has been edited for clarity.