In Business of Home’s series Shop Talk, we chat with owners of home furnishings stores across the country to hear about their hard-won lessons and their challenges, big and small—and to ask what they see for the future of small industry businesses like theirs.
This week, designer Michael Del Piero discusses the oasis of neutral furnishings she maintains in Wainscott, New York, a hamlet next to East Hampton. Opened in 2018, the store, Michael Del Piero Good Design, is stocked with her own merchandise as well as finds from all over the world. How does Del Piero, who also runs a design firm with locations in Wainscott and Chicago, balance it all? With a good team and loads of texture, she explains.
What led you to the design world?
I started out in nursing and quickly realized that was not for me. I went back and took some postgraduate courses and then started an executive coaching business, which I did for almost 20 years. During that time, I had a friend who moved to the Netherlands. I had an interest in cool objects and antiques, and she and I went all over Europe, buying really great things for our own homes. I had this idea that I would love to have an empty home and style it up full of things that I bought and then have a sale, so I bought a container full of lighting, rugs, furniture and accessories, and I got a [real estate agent] to let me use a home. Three days later, I had sold all of it.
I did it again, and on the second or third time, I got a request to do an interior design project, which I declined because I’m not formally trained. I didn’t feel comfortable. But I continued to sell art and antiques and then eventually that became my full-time job. This woman who had bought many things from me continued to pursue me to design her home, so I finally did and it got published, which led to an interior design business. My studio started in Chicago, and then I opened a second location—the shop and another design studio—in the Hamptons.
How do you split the work?
We have an incredible Frenchman who runs the shop. He’s an unbelievable salesperson. But I do all the buying and the styling, and come up with the schemes for each season and that sort of thing. Then [with] my interior design business, I have a team of designers, and I guess at this point, I’m a business manager. …….