New York, let us introduce you to your favorite vintage shop.
MOST’s striking digital staging draws you in, uniquely elevating the act of curating vintage furniture and home decor to an art form, in this case a one-woman show. Founder Mandi Lynn expresses her self-assured eclecticism and a penchant for texture in this art direction. These are product photos you want to hang on your wall, across from the actual object, which is a rare feat for even the most distinguished store. But this vivid beauty isn’t 2D: Her catalogue brims with statement pieces both fantastical and solid, with an emphasis on natural elements (especially earth and water, which feels not unrelated to her birth chart). MOST is an experience, capable of transporting you to a fantasy beachside escape.
We spoke to Mandi Lynn about the furniture features and designers that draw her eye, the character of vintage home decor, and pathways to more ethical, intentional consumption. Read on for our conversation, or scroll to the bottom to read Mandi’s REM Round.
Dendwell: First things first, we’d love to hear a brief history of your shop— When did MOST open? What was the context in which MOST was born?
Mandi Lynn: Most was born in Brooklyn in July of 2020 out of an amalgamation of circumstances: uncertainty about the future, unemployment anxiety, an insane amount of free time, boredom. Pre-pandemic I was working and going to school full time studying Sustainable Landscape Design and Horticultural Therapy, preparing to start internships in the Spring, and then at the beginning of March all of that ground to a complete standstill. For the first time in the six years that I had lived in Brooklyn I wasn't moving a million miles a minute and I suddenly had all of this time to consider what I actually wanted my life to look like and my career trajectory to be.
DD: It’s amazing your response to this generation-defining virus was so grounded, to draw from a moment of parallel chaos and stillness some real possibility. How did you get started? What has been the journey of your shop from a business standpoint, from July 2020 to now?
ML: During this time there was this mass exodus out of New York and you'd go on walks through the neighborhood and there were entire apartments worth of the most incredible furniture just out on the street waiting for trash collection. My partner and I had just moved in together and so I would pick things up and fix them up in our backyard, cleaning them and mending a broken drawer or a wobbly leg and then I would resell what we didn't want on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. It was really comforting to do something so labor intensive when there wasn't much else going on. I got really excited about the prospect of learning to reupholster and restore, I spent too much money on tools, I was drunk on the thrill of a new hobby, I was overly ambitious and made a lot of mistakes, but I found that I genuinely enjoyed every aspect of the process so when it was time to go back to work I made a hard pivot and stuck with it. I started to curate collections of smaller vintage items at first, because it was all I had room for, but have since acquired some more storage space and have been slowly adding larger pieces to the shop.
“I want every single item in my space, from the couch I nap on with my dog to the spatula I stir my eggs with to have some character,”
DD: I love hearing about the enjoyment that underpins your work and how your business developed organically from that delight. Why vintage? Why furniture and home decor?
ML: I have always been a serious nester, and when it comes to furniture and home decor, intentionality is paramount for me. I’ve never really been able to just pop into an Ikea or a West Elm and pick up a bookshelf, I crave objects with history and some personality, pieces that I can’t put together with an allen wrench and won’t fall apart in two years. I want every single item in my space, from the couch I nap on with my dog to the spatula I stir my eggs with to have some character, and to resonate with me and to make me feel calm, cozy, and very much at home. Vintage is the obvious answer to those requirements, and I deeply enjoy the thrill of the hunt. For as long as I can remember I've been drawn to the dusty thrift store or the maze-like antique mall... I grew up in a small town in Arizona where there wasn't much to do, so as soon as I was driving I was spending my weekends on the antique shop circuit and at flea markets and thrift stores and haven't looked back since. It’s a way of life!
DD: And for some nice continuity, your weekends are still spent antiquing and thrifting! But now we all reap the benefits. Are there certain features you’re drawn to when sourcing vintage furniture and decor?
ML: The absolute most important quality I look for in a piece is the way it feels. I am an incredibly tactile person so even the most mundane object has to have the right weight and balance, the right curvature to fit in my hand, the right texture. It's always about feeling for me, which I think is most evident in the glassware I source for the shop. Pieces will either be extremely delicate and sharp, or thick, heavy, and substantial.
DD: What makes you ultimately buy a piece for your collection?
ML: I spent a lot of time and energy in the beginning worrying about what was trending and what I thought people wanted to buy and I sourced a lot of things that weren’t necessarily my taste, and in the end found them to be extremely difficult to sell. Now I buy what I like, my customers follow me because they like what I buy, and then they buy what they like. And the best part about it is that if something doesn’t sell then I get to keep it, and that always makes my boyfriend happy.
DD: There’s a confidence to selling only what you yourself love, plus it means the branding flows naturally from your interior style. How would you describe your style? What are some of your influences?
ML: Decidedly eclectic, maybe a little cabinet of curiosities; I’m most inspired by nature and my travels to Mexico, Southeast Asia, Greece, and Spain and am really drawn to natural elements.
DD: I can absolutely see that reflected in your catalogue, which is one of my personal favorites. What has been your favorite find that you've sold in your shop?
ML: My favorite find is actually still available! One of the first things I ever bought for the shop was this incredible one-off rug from the 80s by Israeli artist Ruth Zarfati. I did some serious deep diving to find more information about it because I couldn’t find another one anywhere on the internet and ended up chatting with her sister on Facebook. She was an illustrator and sculptor and the only female artist in the New Horizon movement in Israel. Her work is all at once abstract and organic and the rug is reminiscent of Matisse’s cutouts. It's a really stunning piece and I can’t wait for the right person to fall in love with it.
DD: Mine is the onyx coffee table— The inlay is unbelievable. How about something you kept for your personal collection that you’d never get rid of?
ML: Very early on I sourced a Paul Bellardo sun face sculpture for the shop but the second I got it home I couldn’t part with it. She lives in my kitchen now.
"I can't wait for the right person to fall in love with [this vintage piece]."
DD: That’s the beauty of being a vintage seller and a primary source of these incredible artifacts, you have first pick. Why should everyone shop vintage furniture and home decor?
ML: Sustainability is the buzzword of course, but also quality! Craftmanship! History! Uniqueness! Vintage pieces are so much more rich and substantial than their new counterparts, especially if your budget leans towards the lower end of the spectrum. It makes so much more sense to stretch your hard earned dollars on well made pieces that could last you a lifetime than to purchase something fleeting that will ultimately end up on the curb.
DD: Ugh, that’s the most tragic thing. What do you think the future of this category is? What does the vintage community need?
ML: I think we are already starting to see a movement towards less waste, a kind of cyclical transference of objects, quality over quantity, etc. and in general I just hope to see more of that in the future. I think it is so important to be thoughtful about when, why, and how we consume.
DD: Yes! Vintage, even when it’s a higher price point, is a method to step outside of today’s mass-produced, hastily-made things to access those home things that will live with us for a long time, rather than ending up on the curb as you say. Thank you, Mandi Lynn.
Favorite designer right now: Gabriella Crespi
Favorite object right now: vintage French plate racks
Your astrological sign: Virgo sun, Capricorn rising, Scorpio moon
Texture your eye is drawn to: Wood
Color your eye is drawn to: Burnt Sienna
When I'm not collecting, curating, and selling vintage wares I am reading cookbooks cover to cover, enjoying the outdoors, yawning and stretching, loving on my loved ones
My estate sale strategy: dig through the linens and the art
First song on the estate sale getaway car playlist: Right Down the Line - Gerry Rafferty
When I say chair, you think: Thonet
When I say light, you think: Dan Flavin
When I say bend, you think: Break
When I say table, you think: Linens
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