Why Kalyn of Gallivanting Girls Is The Queen of Vintage Decor
Kalyn McCutcheon of Gallivanting Girls capitalizes on her love for used “junk.” You know what they say, one person’s trash is another one’s treasure, and that idiom has never rung more true that to this online shop owner and vintage hunter.
Kalyn’s strong design sensibility and eye for detail are what make her Brooklyn-based Etsy shop, Gallivanting Girls, so successful. The curated shop features beautiful retro items like colorful maps, oriental rugs, sunburst mirrors, brass pieces and mid century furniture that make it easy to bring a vintage vibe into a modern home. We were lucky enough to take a peek into her storage space and chat with Kalyn about her favorite pieces, her no-fail decorating tips and what the future holds for her. And meet her adorable rescue dog, Ellie.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get your start?
I grew up in a small coastal town in Connecticut. I went to school in paradise, at University of California Santa Barbara and completed a double major in both Design and English Literature. I spent my days biking to class, drawing and reading up a storm. I got my bug of treasure hunting in CT, though, always searching the beach for sea glass and shells.
How do you find the pieces you sell on your store, Gallivanting Girls?
Everywhere I go, I’m always on the hunt. Taking a vacation in Tulum – I’ll find some amazing vintage embroidered pillows. A weekend in Montauk – the neighbors are having an awesome yard sale. Always being prepared with a wallet of cash and some extra room in my car is the key.
What is your most favorite piece that you’ve ever found?
Ooh my favorite? It’s hard to say. I try not to get attached to particular pieces and it certainly helps that I have New York City apartment size constraints. It’s always hard to let go of those pieces you know you’ll never find again – a bundle of handmade straw poppies, a needlepoint of a bouquet of flowers wrapped in the New York Times, a carved wooden owl with the perfect lines or an epic handmade wall weaving.
Clearly, you have an eye for interior design. For those who are not so great, can you give us a few tips for designing the perfect vintage-inspired room?
My #1 tip is to NEVER buy anything brown (unless it’s teak!). People tend to buy a brown couch or paint the walls beige because they think it will match with everything, but nothing really goes great with brown except more brown… your room can quickly turn into brown town I’m all for keeping the basics neutral (white, blue, grey) and letting the accessories be your pops of color – just NO brown! My #2 tip is to mix, mix, mix. When everything is in one particular style or era, rooms can look dated very fast. I have stuff from the ’60s, I have some stuff from the ’20s and I have a stuff from Ikea. It all works because the colors compliment each other.
Is there a piece that you wish you held on to but sold?
I’ve got a little stash in storage that I keep for my “one day” home, but every now and then I pull something from it. I’m still missing this incredible brass peacock lamp designed by the Marboro Lamp Company in the ’50s.
Do you have a favorite era, designer or style?
I do gravitate towards mid century modern designs because they still feel fresh. I like warm woods, like teak, but I also love some iron and chippy painted wood with a more industrial look.
What is one vintage item that you think everyone should own?
I think everyone should own a piece of original art that speaks to them. Whether it’s your grandmothers Hermes scarf framed, an old school map of an area you’ve traveled to or an antique oil portrait that looks like someone you would want to know — it really puts your point of view into your home. I find art to be very personal — try to stay away from the Ikea prints. Art doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Find some of your mom’s old sketches and blow them up large. Dig through family photos or even clothing! I found my great grandmothers ’20s pink bathing suit that looks like a piece of art once it’s framed.
Describe your favorite piece of furniture in your apartment.
I love my bar. It’s by Arthur Umanoff and I got it on Craigslist for $40!
Have you ever thought about designing your own home decor line?
All the time. Right now I’m really having fun creating my crazy cuckoo clocks. I find them, take them apart, paint the pieces and put them back together. They are my mini works of art that are totally functional.
Vintage stuff is pretty trendy right now, but do you think it’s a fad?
I think everything repeats itself over and over. If you go into West Elm right now, for example, nearly every piece is a copy or an influence from a vintage piece. People feel good about repurposing vintage pieces or having something very unique so I think the trend will be here for quite some time.
What do you like to do on your day off?
I love going on hikes with my dog. I truly never really have a day off, though – once you’re up in those Catksills, there are some good junk shops to swing by on the way home!
Where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to interior decorating?
I’m always rearranging or selling off something. I’m on my 6th coffee table! When you see something you like, you just know it. I’ll either hold on to it or I’ll work it into my space right away. Sometimes you have to get rid of something less important.
What is your favorite restaurant in New York?
What is your guilty pleasure?
Vintage shopping! Thankfully I figured out how to make a career of it or I may have ended up on the show Hoarders… which come to think of it is another guilty pleasure…
photos by Jake Benrubi