Local plastic surgeon, Chris Knotts leaves his roots in small town New Mexico for city living and an eclectic, vintage-filled loft in NoDa.
interview + photographs by amy herman
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Clean, industrial and practical. I don’t care much for knick-knacks or clutter. I look for pieces that are beautifully functional, preferably with vintage modern flair, and always on a budget. If I can’t find a piece to meet my needs, or think it’s too pricy, I’ll just build it.
You built some of your furniture? My bed frame and dining room table are two pieces I wanted to be low and unique, but had trouble finding in stores. I’m tall and my mattress is custom-made, so I was basically forced to build the bed to fit my mattress. For the dining room table, I was inspired during a trip to Thailand and wanted a table that was super low and that you could kneel at or use a small stool. We ate at those little tables for a month straight, and I guess I wanted to have something to remind me of that trip. It was hard to find a low table with clean lines and no ornate carvings. So, when a neighbor was building onto his house, I asked if I could use the scrap dumpster to salvage wood. It probably took me a year to finally finish it.
Much of your décor can be described as Mid-Century Modern, when did you first get into that style? I grew up collecting antiques with my mother, but it was usually Arts and Crafts early American stuff, which I never really got into. Don’t get me wrong, I still love hunting for antiques, but when I started decorating for myself in my 20s, I was immediately drawn to Mid-Century and retro furniture. Lots of pieces from the 50s and 60s are well built and made to last – or at least they are easy to refinish. Designers from that era are still being imitated today.
Your collection is really eclectic and some of your pieces are considered hard to find. Where do you usually find your pieces? I just love finding a bargain! If it’s not a good deal, I don’t want it, which means I find most of my pieces at garage sales, estate sales and the like. Unfortunately, with the popularity of shows like Mad Men and everyone knowing how to use the internet, it’s getting harder and harder to find cheap Mid-Century décor. It used to be a lot easier to find people who didn’t know what they had!
There are a few designers I will seek out, but rather than paying extra for the sticker that says George Nelson, I’d prefer to get a good deal on a similar piece from that era that might not be as collected. A lot of the sought after modular pieces were originally sold as office furnishings anyway!
Every now and then, just keeping your eyes open will pay off. I came across a Vladimir Kagan coffee table at a thrift store in Portales, NM. That was a good find. Paintings are a little easier to find. Two of the tall paintings of vases I have were actually painted by high school students from Oklahoma. Every year, the University of Oklahoma has a painting class for art students. Ever so often, they have an art sale, and you can find huge framed originals for like $10. Some of the stuff is really good.
You wear a lot of vintage too—tell us a little about that. As soon as I was buying my own clothes, I started shopping at thrift stores and pawnshops. Again, I love a good deal, and just don’t think it makes sense to buy new clothes at the mall when there are so many cool old ones out there. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about someone having your same outfit! I used to just wear vintage clothes for being casual, but now I’m getting quite the collection of waistcoats, suits, ties and boots that I wear as work clothes or use to accessorize. I get that a well-tailored suit from a high-end clothier says something about a man, but a well-tailored suit paired with a funky wool waistcoat and a Valentino tie from 1970 just seems more fun.
This interview was conducted early 2013.