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Treasures in Time: Interview with an Arts Collector

Renowned aesthete and antiques aficionado Michael Diaz-Griffith reveals his inspired tips on starting a collection and creating beautiful interiors

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Erudite, eloquent, and beaming with passion, Michael Diaz-Griffith leaves one glowing with an appreciation for antiques. As one of America’s most exciting young curators, designers, and collectors, Diaz-Griffith integrates encyclopedic knowledge of the decorative arts with impeccable taste. With such an avowed affinity for all things beautiful, it’s a genuine surprise to discover that the aesthete first ventured into the world of antiques because he didn’t have a chance to experience this beauty as a child.

Michael Diaz-Griffith. Photo by Lia Clay Miller

“I actually grew up with very little exposure to decorative arts and historical architecture,” he says. “Rather than preserving the built environments of the past, my parents rejected antiques for modern furnishings and décor. My passion for preservation actually comes from a degree of guilt.”

Refusing to accept a life of uninspiring surroundings, Diaz-Griffith embraced a new path through “the lens of design.” He spent his formative years immersed in everything from heritage buildings and art history to a spectrum of decorative mediums. Having honed his aesthetic sensibilities, he became a master of unearthing treasures in places high and low, from prized antique fairs to flea markets.

“I was incited by a lack of exposure, which made me curious,” he says. “Because I don’t come from a collecting background, I had to find the pieces of the puzzle myself.”

These days, U.S.-based Michael Diaz-Griffith is fully immersed in the world of antiques and decorative arts. In addition to being the executive director & COO of Design Leadership Network, he is also a contributing editor to The Magazine Antiques, as well as the founder of the Material Cult creative consultancy firm.


Top left: A portrait miniature from Michael Diaz-Griffith’s collection depicting a gentleman wearing a turban and banyan (loose dressing gown). In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, both garments were fashionable for at-home wear among men of an intellectual or philosophical bent. Top right: Of all the spaces in Emily and Aaron’s apartment, the bathroom feels the most transportive, perhaps because it was the only room to be conceived entirely from scratch. There is also something thrilling about finding collections where you least expect them. Here you find dried plants, antique Indian figurines, a headless stone sculpture, and a collection of Raja Ravi Varma prints. Bottom: Mementoes from Alex Tieghi-Walker’s travels fill his Los Angeles bedroom. He bought the Andean hat hanging on the wall in Salta, Argentina when he was 18. The blanket covering the bed gestures to Alex’s Welsh roots.

Now, fresh from authoring The New Antiquarians: At Home with Young Collectors, a veritable style bible showcasing 22 notable connoisseurs from the U.S. and the U.K., Diaz-Griffith is cementing his status at the forefront of this exciting new generation. Charting the who’s who of tastemaker talent, his Phaidon-published compendium includes gorgeous photography of idiosyncratic, highly enviable interiors. Proof that collecting can be open to anyone, the book celebrates the enduring appeal of antiques within the frame of newer, more unorthodox tastes.

In the pages that follow, Diaz-Griffith shares his insights into the fascinating world of collecting, decorating, and curating one-of-a-kind interiors.

“Young collectors do indeed, despite fears to the contrary, exist, and this book is evidence of their existence.”

Though antiques were once highly rarefied, Diaz-Griffith believes that aged objects are experiencing a new lease of life through younger collectors, often in refreshing and unexpected ways. “Millennials have an eclectic sensibility that embraces colour, pattern, and complexity; they create playful juxtapositions.”

His book, The New Antiquarians, highlighting 22 leading collecting talents spanning London to Los Angeles, dives into the personal environments of a new wave of young people that Diaz-Griffith says are “following in the long eccentric tradition of treating the practice of contour as a serious vocation.”


Top left: A Victorian papier-mâché table sports a harbour scene, while an antique teapot restates the seashell theme visible throughout Adam Charlap Hyman’s apartment. Top right: Charlap Hyman in his New York City apartment. Bottom right: A mideighteenth-century English corner cabinet topped by a broken swan’s-neck pediment displays Pablo Bronstein’s museum-quality collection of antique silver sugar casters—and, surmounting the mahogany cabinet, is a Kangxi blanc-de-chine libation cup. Bottom left: An inglenook off of the living room is its own little world. Aesthetic Movement armchairs covered in a fabric by Décors Barbares evoke Eastern European associations, while antique Baroque lamps retrofitted with clamshell shades suggest a Latin atmosphere. The figure of the shell, Charlap Hyman’s talismanic sigil, reappears in a hanging light of his own design.

Within its pages, we’re shown inside the homes of bright young artists like designer-artist Adam Charlap Hyman, who popularized tapestries within contemporary U.S. interiors, and design writer Camille Okhio, who possesses an exceptional assortment of Venetian glass miniatures.

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 122

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Inspired for a Beautiful Life

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