Design on a Dime: Interview with David Cafiero


Particularly relevant in the current economic climate, Housing Works Thrift Shops' fifth annual Design on a Dime benefit takes more than 40 of the world's top interior designers and challenges them to create inspiring room vignettes using only donated materials. (Sills Huniford's 2008 vignette pictured at right.) Visitors can then choose to buy the merchandise at 60 to 80 percent off the retail price. As with all the city’s Housing Works locations, all proceeds go toward healthcare, housing and other services for homeless and low-income people living with HIV and AIDS.

This year's event kicks off tomorrow at the Metropolitan Pavilion with an opening-night reception with actress Parker Posey. Guests will get a first look at the rooms over cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and live entertainment. (Tickets are still available.) For everyone else, the free public sale goes from 10 am to 6 pm on Friday and Saturday.

The crop of this year’s designers spans the globe as well as the style spectrum. One of 2009's first-time participants is David Cafiero of Cafiero Select design firm and antique shop. His mix of eclectic vintage and contemporary elements crosses decades and can be seen everywhere from rustic beach homes to Chloë Sevigny's East Village apartment (pictured). We were able to talk to David about about his ongoing partnership with Miss Sevigny, tips for decorating on a budget and his previous life as a scallop fisherman.


You've been designing professionally for five years but this is your first time participating in the Design on a Dime benefit. How did you first get connected with Housing Works?

Well, I've always gone there to shop for myself. I just love the turnover, so for years I always went to Housing Works first. Back then, we weren't far from the 17th street one, so I'd go almost every day.

What was the thinking behind your Design on a Dime vignette?

We're doing a psychiatrist's room.

How’d you settle on that?

Some of the things we have were donated from a psychiatrist, so I started thinking about the first psychiatrist's office I started going to as a kid, which was actually in my grandfather's house. He had sold the house and then my shrink bought it, so I ended up going back to my grandfather's house for treatment. Basically, I just recreated that shrink's office from when I was 10.

What are some tricks you use to do interiors on a budget?


You should always move things around. You should never be married to one furniture plan or one set-up because you can freshen things up by just pushing the furniture around. Another thing I find useful is swapping out art work all the time, and having a reserve of different art works. Mirrors, of course, are a big trick. And I love small rugs. I love putting rugs on top of rugs on top of rugs. You can really create an alternating cold weather look and warm weather look that way.

In your design work, what makes a great client?

Someone who comes to the table knowing what they want. But also being flexible enough to understand that maybe we need to steer it in that direction, but bring other things to the table as well.

You designed Chloë Sevigny's apartment, was that particularly memorable?

Well, she was our first published client. It was a great experience, and we're continuing to work with her. You never really finish a project. We're constantly going back there and adding new things and taking things out, switching stuff around. It's an on-going process. An evolution.

Before interior design, you worked as a commercial scallop fisherman. Which do you find more challenging, catching scallops or designing an interior?

They both have their challenges, believe me. They're equally challenging. The great thing is, the boating aesthetic is actually a great influence on what I do now with interiors.

Design on a Dime Opening Night Reception
Thursday 7 May 2009
6:00 PM
The Metropolitan Pavilion
125 West 18th Street
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