Off The Cuff: A Conversation on Design with 1stdibs’ Founder Michael Bruno

Former Southampton Home | Photo by Melanie Acevedo

Design aficionado, entrepreneur, and a leader in tech, Michael Bruno is a man of many talents. Known for blending his expertise in tech with his knowledge of design, he has founded a number of successful businesses including the luxury online marketplace, 1stdibs. As someone who loves scouring flea markets around the globe, Bruno sought to find a way to make shopping for antiques more accessible, and with that dream, 1stdibs was born. From furniture to fashion, art and jewelry, his site makes it easy for vendors to connect directly with customers. Perhaps part of what makes his business so successful is his genuine passion for design. We connected with the entrepreneur to find out more about the origins of 1stdibs and what in the world of design has his attention at the moment.

Tuxedo Park Residence (built by the renowned architect, John Russell Pope in 1901) | Photo by Deena Feinberg Photography

As is often the case with those who are undeniably successful, their love of, and interest in their future area of business began early. “I grew up in Larchmont NY, and this area has many beautiful historic homes. I always loved architecture first and then the things you need to live in the home second. I could live in a great old house with orange crates for bedside tables if the house has good bones.”

Tuxedo Park Residence (built by the renowned architect, John Russell Pope in 1901) | Photo by Melanie Acevedo

While the love of design started out as merely a childhood daydream, Bruno would learn that with determination, he was capable of turning his dreams into a reality. “I first recall thinking about houses when I was 8 or 9 years old. I would think about the house that I wanted to live in when I was a grown up at my swim practice – I would visualize it while doing my laps. It may be hard to believe however it’s true, the house I live in today is nearly identical to the house I used to imagine in the swimming pool.”

Tuxedo Park Residence (built by the renowned architect, John Russell Pope in 1901) | Photo by Melanie Acevedo

One book in particular was instrumental in turning him from a dreamer into a doer. “The writer, Olivier Napoleon Hill, best known for his book, Think and Grow Rich taught me how to turn my thoughts into things. He was long gone by the time I read his book in my early 20’s, but it changed my life forever. I credit his writing with having had a tremendous impact that continues today. It’s a book that I return to every year and re-read it.”

Tuxedo Park Residence (built by the renowned architect, John Russell Pope in 1901) | Photo by Melanie Acevedo

It wasn’t until he found himself living in Paris taking one of his many strolls through the beloved Clignancourt flea market that inspiration struck him. From that day forward he began building 1stdibs as a premiere online destination for the types of treasures previously only available to those making in person trips to flea markets and antique shops.

Tuxedo Park Residence (built by the renowned architect, John Russell Pope in 1901) | Photo by Melanie Acevedo

Years of working with beautiful things has given Bruno an extremely strong eye for design, one that he enjoys making use of in his own home. “Our home definitely has a collected look. It is filled with works and pieces we love.  There is not an overall style or period, we mix everything together from an 18th century English table and etagere paired with mid-century lighting and seating to Jean Michel Frank furniture with antique Swedish chairs, for us, if it feels good, it usually looks good.  When I see some of my designer friends’ homes I am often quite jealous of how polished and put together all their rooms look.”

Entrance of Valley Rock Inn (A fitness and outdoor focused hospitality property he built from the ground up in Sloatsburg, NY.) | Photo Courtesy of Valley Rock Inn & Mountain Club

Despite his occasional envy of a polished look, his love of antiques has far stronger a pull. “For me I love pieces with some history and vibe. Sometimes it’s just the patina a piece has developed over time that makes an item even better.  I enjoy just walking by them. We also have some brand new pieces that were made by artists and we love them too.  There is something about these handmade pieces that just makes us light up. It’s hard to think of one antique that I purchased that I didn’t love or still do. “

Guest House – Valley Rock Inn  (An urban oasis for people to escape to from the NYC area) | Photo by Luxproductions

5 Quick Questions with Michael Bruno


TLV: What tips would you offer our readers for vintage shopping for the home?

MB: Make sure it fits! Measuring is key! And that you love it. You want to live with your purchases for years.

Living Room Guest House – Valley Rock Inn (The property is furnished with pieces from his personal collection of antiques, 20th century design and art – great examples from his collections purchased from trips the globe,  meeting dealers to invite to join 1stdibs.) | Photo by Jean Francois Jaussaud


TLV: Favorite travel destination for design inspiration?

MB: Italy for architecture and gardens and France for furniture

Valley Rock Inn Rose Garden | Photo by Luxproductions


TLV: What is next on the horizon for you?

MB: Spending the whole Summer in Maine


Guest House Living Room  -Valley Rock Inn | Photo by Luxproductions

TLV: Favorite era for design?

MB: At the moment I am in Maine so I am into Americana

Reception Area of The Lodge Valley Rock Inn |Photo by Jean Francois-Jaussaud

TLV: How would you describe your style in three words

MB: Off the cuff

Guest House Bedroom – Valley Rock Inn | Photo by Luxproductions


Photos Courtesy of Michael Bruno / Portrait by Sally Bruno / Text by Liana Hayles Newton

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