Cindy Ngo’s current rental changed her life. She was working long shifts as a nurse in San Francisco, until she moved with her partner into a one-bedroom, three-story “party house” in Oakland that she had found on Craigslist. Once she began to decorate her new space, it became clear to her that it was time to trade the “syringe and stethoscope” for “Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator” and pursue a career in design. Since, Ngo has launched design hub and site Ink + Porcelain, a labor of love and collaboration. “I walked away from a career that's all that I've known and when I think about the pandemic and how difficult it was for everyone. I am grateful for the fact that it put my values into perspective,” Ngo says. “ I really think that I ended up designing my life the way that I wanted to.”
"Okay, I want to share this. How do I share this?"
The life she wanted looks like floor to ceiling windows, travertine tables, long drives to estate sales, and the constant pursuit to connect with other creatives. Ngo wakes up at 5 am daily to scroll through the “estate emails in the neighborhood” that come out (oddly) at 3 a.m. She scans through the images debating whether or not any item is worth a lengthy drive for pick-up. The rest of the day is dedicated to content creation, photography, and reaching out to brands and potential collaborators. “There's a definite learning curve as a small business owner and someone who just literally learned how to photoshop stuff,” Ngo says. She’s learning as she goes and makes it a priority to reach out to new people every couple of days. “I did this because I didn't believe in myself at the beginning.” Ngo explains, “So I reached out to other people, I started taking notes about their insights, their recommendations, advice and I was like, okay, I want to share this. How do I share this?”
With her new company, Ngo also wants to provide tips on how to find quality pieces that are also affordable. “This whole platform is how can I help you?,” Ngo says. “It started with helping friends out, designing their homes during the pandemic where everyone was moving and like, ‘Okay, I want your couch. When should I buy it?’” Ngo learned to scope out valuable pieces for modest prices through hawk-eyed experience. Her prized travertine table that anchors her living room was purchased for a steal, only $200 compared to the $5,000 price tag on 1stDibs. “There's no way the owner knew what this table was valued because he posted it as ‘stone table,’” Ngo says, laughing. “I was working as a nurse at the time and I got a notification from Marketplace that said, ‘Stone table’ just listed, December 23rd and so I remember on Christmas Eve, it was so special to me that my partner went and drove like an hour to make sure it was a legit, it wasn't broken or anything and that was my Christmas Eve gift. I was working a 12-hour shift at the hospital, Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and I remember coming home and seeing this table here.” Ngo wants people who spend time on her site to have that feeling of the perfect find and the personal connection to a cherished object.
Ngo has refined her style through referencing coffee table books such as AD100, Case Study Houses The Complete CSH Program and Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone, visiting museums and following Instagram accounts she admires like Loft and Thought and @figandoak. “My style has always been minimal and classic and that's what I wanted in my home,” Ngo says. “The same way I like to share stories is the same way I try to design my house because when someone asks about a certain piece, I want to be able to share that story and that's why I think it's so important to incorporate vintage pieces into your home, you know, share those conversation starters.” Ngo’s home is definitely starting a conversation. She was recently featured on Apartment Therapy, a site she’s spent hours reading and her hustle is paying off. “Every day I get closer to what Ink + Porcelain will eventually be,” she says. “But it is a design platform for females, for people who want to read about taking the leap.”
What's your vintage holy grail item? What I'd add to cart immediately if I had an unlimited budget: 40s Otto Schulz Easy Chairs for Boet, a Gae Aulenti Carrara Marble Coffee Table, Pierre Jeanneret Easy Chairs, a Drexel Burlwood Pedestal, a Claude Conover "Vabal" Vessel.
What makes the best vintage gift? Any kind of book would be the best vintage gift to give and receive because it's thoughtful and it comes with a history.
What's your best tip for vintage shoppers? The best tip for vintage buyers would be to stay patient until you find the piece you've been longing for. But if you find a piece that speaks to you, I recommend listening to your gut and buying it quickly so you don't lose nights of sleep for missing out on that rare item! I've been there and it's painful. No matter how long it may have taken to track down, you'll bring that meaningful piece into your home and have a story to share.