Design expert Mike Strohl offers insights into furnishing your dream home — one step at a time.
The process of furnishing a dream home is not much different from putting together your dream wardrobe, according to Mike Strohl, who has learned plenty on the subject during his decades representing designers and architects. “The thing is: you don’t have to spend a mountain of money in order to have a terrific home that reflects your tastes,” he says. “I’m very happy with the way my place turned out, and it’s the result of many long years of shopping at a variety of spots.”
Just as you don’t want to buy a low-end tuxedo or suit, there are pieces that deserve extra time, care and expense when you’re picking them out, says Strohl. “You really want to start with the basics,” he explains. “We’re talking about a good sofa that should be as sturdy and beautiful as your budget will allow, and that same principle holds true for a dining room table and chairs. From there, you want a bed you’re happy to get into at night and a nice dresser.”
But when it came to seating, he had considerations beyond his personal taste. “The sofa is a Jennifer Convertible; like many New Yorkers, my living room doubles as a guest bedroom, and as someone who wants to be a good host, it had to be something that was both pleasing to the eye and comfortable enough to sleep on.”
Beyond that, Strohl says, it would be hard for an undiscerning eye to pick out precisely where the remainder of his furnishings come from. “Some of it does come from leading designers,” he admits. “But some of it comes from Crate & Barrel, some of it comes from flea markets I’ve visited over the years, and if you look at the rocking chair in my living room, . . . I was walking my dog one day and I saw it sitting there on the street. So I rescued it.”
“I’m a big fan of flea markets,” Strohl says. “There are some in Midtown — say around 25th between 6th Avenue and Broadway — that you can get lost in; but I’ve gotten so good at it over the years that I can get in and out in a half an hour because I know my way around and have a general idea of what I’m looking for.”
A little imagination never hurts, either, he adds: A stack of mismatched suitcases from the 1940s and ‘50s (before today’s more practical plastic and cloth roller bags replaced them) can become an eye-catchingly kitschy end table. “I mean, what kinds of limits should you have on imagination, really?” he asks. “I brought home an ugly brown cabinet that I found for $35 and repainted it in green with white trim and now it looks terrific.”
Strohl also advises not to be afraid to barter. He’s been known to exchange his services as a publicist for pieces, and you never know whether you can offer a skill or bit of expertise in trade for something you love unless you offer.
And don’t forget to consider if you want to go through all this by yourself, with friends or with the aid of professionals before you get to hunting. “Start with a discussion of budget and what’s realistic,” says Strohl. “You can do all the steps — including that one — by yourself or with the help of a team.”
Last modified: April 29, 2018