Time, Place, and Tradition Brilliantly Converge at Galerie Half

After twelve years, one of the most in-demand vintage design galleries in Los Angeles publishes a tome that illustrates founder Cameron Smith’s refreshingly simple vision.

Galerie Half at 6911 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles. Photography by Shade Degges

When Cameron Smith first shared the idea of a vintage design gallery with his backer, he was met with incredulity. “He was like, ‘I believe in you, but I’m gonna give it three months,’” the Galerie Half founder tells Surface. Fortunately, Smith likes a challenge. He launched with the vision of curating a stylish blend of 20th-century furniture, European antiques, and eclectic rarities imbued with a sense of timelessness that converge within a single place. In one corner, a Roman statue flanks a bleached Gustavian daybed; a nearby vignette’s Venetian mirror reflects African masks. The seductive curve of Carlo Mollino’s Suora lamp mimics a marble stool by Rick Owens; the timeworn patina of a glazed terracotta planter nods to the softened leather of an Advocate and Press Chair by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. 

By artfully placing objects with disparate design traditions next to each other, uncharted avenues of beauty emerge. That may not register as quite a radical proposition in the age of Instagram, where an endless scroll of pristine interiors inevitably awaits. The alchemy that Smith has mastered, though, predates the feed and eschews any sort of algorithm. His curatorial eye developed at a young age, by accompanying his mother to flea markets and being instructed to pick out objects that spoke to him. Decades later, he wields that approach with ease when traveling the world to source his next find. What he picks is deceptively simple: “What would go in my house is what’s out on the floor,” he says. “I’ve never swayed from that.”

Cameron Smith and his husband, PJ Faulstick, at their Pasadena home. Photography by Billal Taright

It’s an approach that has served him well. Over the past decade, Galerie Half has emerged as one of the premier vintage design galleries in Los Angeles. Its Melrose Arts District storefront regularly attracts such high-profile clients as Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who have leaned on his expertise to help furnish The Row’s boutiques with rare, timeworn furnishings that impart a restrained elegance in dialogue with the garments. The mélange of luxurious and humble touches is palpable in the gallery, where a home-like ethos pervades for both himself and his tight-knit team of nine. 

While no two visits to Galerie Half are the same, Smith has spent the past four years documenting the hundreds of pieces that have cycled through the gallery for his first-ever book. Galerie Half: Selected Works/Spaces, out through Flammarion this month, journeys through the world’s design traditions from the eyes of a seasoned curator who seems to make them all coexist harmoniously. In an interview with Surface, he talks about the pitfalls of sourcing vintage online, the emotions of publishing a book, and why he’ll never be an interior designer.


You’ve said that curating antiques and design objects is innate and that your mother helped you develop a keen aesthetic eye. Do you recall your first memory of design?

In the mid-’70s, my mother had two friends in Denver who owned an antique store. It was everything about American Gigolo, but crustier. They were the first two gay men that I met and had incredible taste. To this day, I can see all of it in my head. It was so far ahead of exactly what’s happening right now. I took in a lot of things —not only the objects, but the sexuality and the freedom. It was all really important to me as a kid. I’ve always known my gallery was going to exist, but it was just a matter of pieces being put together to make it happen.

When do you think you first developed a true passion for vintage design?

It was a realization that around 12 to 15 years ago, there wasn’t necessarily a place [like Galerie Half]. I remember helping friends buy stuff for their house. I didn’t want to be an interior designer and still say no to people who ask. They didn’t want one either, so I was the perfect pawn to help them find objects. I kept buying things from the Netherlands, Africa, Japan, Connecticut, Scandinavia. It just seemed so simple to me. We weren’t the first, but our approach and how we came together didn’t exist in this manner. That sounds very braggy because I didn’t invent furniture, but we did come up with a specific concept on our own.

My backer said “good luck” because [Galerie Half launched] in the middle of the recession. He was like, “I believe in you, but I’m gonna give it three months.” Like, come on, tell me I can’t do something. I will figure it out. But he was just being a realist, and he had the checkbook. I don’t like letting people down. To me, this never seemed like a complicated idea. 

The gallery’s success over time has proven the staying power of that vision. What’s one of the most important qualities when you source new pieces? 

I don’t know if there is one. I’ve never bought off the premise of “this is going to sell”—it’s never been about that. What would go in my house is what’s out on the floor. I’ve never swayed from that. And this place is a monster! If you don’t mark it, it’s usually gone pretty quickly, which is great. Making those choices for other people’s houses is kind of fantastic.

In your Financial Times home tour, you noted that you buy online but can detect red flags from afar. What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while sourcing?

It’s simple and almost embarrassing: learning centimeters and the metric system. Measuring is massive! I’ve expected big, beautiful pairs of salon chairs to arrive and my little Brussels Griffon couldn’t sit in them. It sounds silly, but I swear I’ve done it so many times. 

There is a market for miniatures, I suppose!

Also, when you think you’re buying a marble bath only to get a prototype. It’s tricky. But those are good mistakes, plus all those pieces sold. I don’t like buying online, though. There’s nothing like the luxury of being in Europe. There’s a big difference between touch versus raw vision.

You’ve cultivated an avid following among L.A.’s design cognoscenti during your 12 years in business. What has been your most memorable experience during that time? 

Meeting people who’ve inspired me, like Vincent Van Duysen. Those are my celebrities. But the passion of Mary-Kate and Ashley, Ellen… Julianne Moore should really teach classes on beauty and design. Those conversations are refreshing, intuitive, and real, and it’s so special. 

I covered Ellen’s Next Great Designer a few years ago, and you could sense her enthusiasm through the screen. 

She’s one of my closest friends and a huge supporter. She’s taught me so much about edit and seeing things before others, like walking into a 5,000-square-foot showroom and finding that one thing. She’s really good and continuously changes her environment because it’s inspiring to her. She embraces it. A lot of people don’t like change, but it’s an inspiration to her. When we opened, we answered questions for her. What we offered just wasn’t around. There was a little bit here, a little bit there, but she was happy because it was all in one place here. We still might have to drive a couple miles to go look at a stone vase or something, but she comes here and it answers a lot of intimate interior questions for her. Plus, she likes hanging out and having lunch.

I imagine the book has sparked reflection for you. What are you proudest of?

Where we are now. Getting to this point wasn’t easy, but we did it. The book has been massive, too. It was a tiny idea at first and I didn’t know what it meant. What we put together over these four years is huge. I’m very private, but being proud of this result is a very pointed emotion. 

How has your relationship with design evolved over the past decade?

I don’t think it’s necessarily evolved, but solidified. My instinct when we opened hasn’t changed. It validated itself—it’s never intrusive or abusive. We’re just lucky. Design is a companion to me. 

All photography by Shade Degges from “Galerie Half: Selected Works/Spaces” (Flammarion) unless otherwise noted.

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