Maggie Holladay is Designing a World of Balance

Maggie Holladay, the design breakout star behind the wildly influential Claude Home vintage furniture showroom, is experiencing incredible success during this mid-quarantine furniture boom. But the 24-year-old is also learning how to slow down and create boundaries.
Maggie Holladay is Designing a World of Balance

“New York lifestyle is so fast. You overwork yourself so much, and that's normal to do. I think I just needed a slower pace with things.” Maggie Holladay's voice is crackling in over the phone receiver from Los Angeles, where the 24-year-old New York-based vintage furniture impresario behind Claude Home has decamped for the foreseeable future.

She sounds like much of New York’s creative class who have found solace in the West (Best?) Coast since the devastation of COVID hit the city hard last year. While incredibly successful in their respective fields, creatives have been seeking balance in the face of the ceaseless grind culture that fuels the city and gradually takes its toll on the inhabitants. Already L.A.’s leisurely workflow is treating Holladay well. “It's 4 p.m., and people are like, ‘All right, the day's over.’ And it's 4 a.m. in New York, and they're like, ‘Okay, you can go home now,’” she says with a laugh.

And while no one can blame Holladay for wanting to take a winter sabbatical in the Southern California sunshine, it’s wildly refreshing to learn that the furniture collecting wunderkind has begun privileging her wellbeing and slowed down despite the meteoric rise of her career in the past year. In just a short amount of time, the former styling assistant has captured the city’s design zeitgeist, alighting the hearts (and living rooms) of New York’s furniture-obsessed (an obsession that a year spent quarantining within our homes has only ramped up more).

Maggie wears the Plunge in Salt.

As the story goes, Claude Home was formed on a whim after Holladay had accumulated a dizzying number of marble ashtrays and eclectic menagerie in her apartment she shared with her then-boyfriend. He wanted them gone and suggested Holladay set up an Instagram account to sell them. Using his nickname “Claude” to flesh out the account’s trademark tag, Holladay’s vintage furniture business was born.

With no technical design background, Holladay managed to drum up an online community of 116,000, all besotted with her well-gleaned eye and jaw-dropping selection of mid-century gems that she restores to perfection in her East Village-based studio. Supermodel Elsa Hosk famously showed off the Bernhardt couch she purchased from Holladay's studio in an Architectural Digest spread last year. The buttery bouclé couch was an “impulse purchase” that Hosk made right off Instagram and proof of Holladay’s growing influence in the cut-throat world of interiors.

Soon thereafter, it became normal to amass hundreds of email inquiries in a day for Holladay and manage the logistics of furniture orders from overseas, all amidst living through an international pandemic. “Logistics and numbers-wise, honestly, I think it was like a 500-percent climb since the beginning of COVID in customers.”

MAGGIE WEARS the Balconette in Black and the Highwaist in Black.

And despite COVID being a professionally abundant time for Holladay, the uptick was overwhelming. “I wasn't prepared for this weird jump that I had overnight of receiving 300 emails a day.” The fallout of the racial pandemic that we are also currently enduring compounded Holladay’s growing workload and visibility. “During Black Lives Matter [protests], I grew a lot. But then every day I was like, ‘I want to protest and be active,’ and my body... I actually ended up in the hospital. I physically broke down. That's when I really realized that I have to figure out a work balance.”

Holladay’s honesty recalls the quote, “Your body will tell you what you need, you just have to listen”--a new-age wellness adage that suggests that if we don’t take the break, our bodies will do it for us. After hitting her breaking point, Holladay began reassessing her approach to work. “The last six months were absolutely mental, and I was so overworked, and I was crashing. The last month and a half, I've honestly responded to four emails a day, and then I'm like, ‘Alright.’ I'll maybe post on Instagram, and that takes a whole day's work of me mentally trying to do that,” she explains. “So I'm having ‘me time’ right now.”

The ability to create boundaries within her professional career is one that didn’t come naturally to Holladay, though. After leaving her native San Diego, California, at the age of 18 to strike out on her own, she landed in New York’s West Village and began hustling in the neck-breaking world of fashion. “I dropped out of high school because I couldn't do it, and I moved to New York a few days after I turned 18. My mom and I had an agreement [that] she was going to help me pay for rent for two months, and then after that, I was completely on my own. I think she was hoping for me to fail because she wanted me to come back home. But I ended up staying there for seven years--it kind of blew me away.”

Maggie wears the Plunge in Salt.

A boyfriend suggested she try her hand at styling. Soon, Holladay was assisting Mel Ottenberg and eventually the editor-in-chief of i-D, where she got an education in the no-holds-barred nature of fashion. “There was no, ‘Take your time. Respond to me tomorrow.’ It was, ‘Respond to me in three minutes. Leave the office at four am when you're done.’ There was no ‘Thank you’ at the end of the day, which I [understood] was kind of how the industry works,” she explains. Seeing other assistants around her buckle under the pressure of the all-consuming role, however, made her prioritize her health and become clearer about what brought her joy.

Hitting her breaking point, she left and launched what would become Claude Home. “Now I know the importance of being organized and, honestly, common sense, which I think is so rare. I feel like I learned those things, but then I also learned to kick back, relax, and everything's going to be fine. And if shit hits the fan, then figure it out from there.”

Maggie wears the Plunge in Salt.

While now working from a zen place, she has also begun moving with much more intention and creating a space within the furniture industry that meets a specific unmet need of accessibility and originality. “I'm trying to fill this weird void in the world of furniture. I'm always the one that likes to be one step ahead of everything. And there's nowhere to shop for furniture besides First Dibs, which we can’t afford, or CB2, which is basic design, and everybody has it. So I'm just working on designing things that…just fill that missing void in this furniture industry that's kind of taken over the world.” 

This aim has materialized itself into collaborations with artists she’s found through the internet, like Chandler McLellan. “I messaged him, and I was so nervous: ‘I don't know if you want me to sell your things, but I think they're cool, and I think people would like them.’ And so he just sent me one, and then it was sold right away. He's from Wyoming, and he had like 10-dollars in his bank account when I first met him, and now he quit his job and is doing this full time.”

The response to McLellan’s freeform woodwork sculptures was immediate and attracted the attention of designer Jonathan Simkhai. He featured the craftsman’s pieces in a fashion editorial for his collection, and the placement later evolved into a collaboration with Simkhai and McLellan for the holiday season.

Maggie wears the Plunge in Salt.

“It makes me really happy that I have a platform that connects [McKellan] to buyers...He was like, ‘I don't know if I want to do these sculptures anymore. I want to move on to bigger things because I can afford better supplies and all these tools.’ His creativity makes me super happy to see,” says Holladay. “I have a platform and use it to help other people. Some people just aren't good at Instagram but have amazing art, and they can't sell things because they don't have a following, and I'm like, ‘Let me help you.’ It's a small world, and being together is better than being separate.”

Building community and helping launch others’ careers is what motivates Holladay today, along with of course, creating time for herself. “Fun is balance. Fun is getting the stress out of my life for that day and then going to lunch; having a cocktail at 5:30. Getting through the week is really exciting for me.” 

Maggie wears the Balconette in Black.

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