Antiques dealer Humberto Alvarez’s career hasn’t followed a traditional path: His studies in film and television production led him to become a sought-after fashion and prop stylist for many years before he landed a gallery director position at an established New York shop. One thing, however, has remained a constant. “My love of aesthetics has carried me through all the different facets of my life,” he says. “I grew up in Miami, and I was amazed by Coral Gables—all of the structures and architecture were from a different time. That appreciation for the old stayed with me.” In his new venture, Rearview Modern, Alvarez explores his fascination daily with an ever-evolving inventory of eclectic mid-century wares.
I wanted my shop to offer sexy, chic modern furniture—things that have been painstakingly restored and reupholstered so that they translate into the way people live today. It’s not a large showroom, but I’ve thought a lot about each and every vignette. I’m very visual, and it was important to me to create little stories in different areas of the store that also communicate with one another for a cohesive experience. I like continuity, and I’m a perfectionist almost to a fault, so I spend a lot of time styling the store.
How do you decide which products to offer?
The thing that most draws me to furniture is its structure and lines. Of course, I’m always interested if it’s something by a noted designer or an otherwise important piece, but that’s not my number one priority. I’m also never thrown off by its condition. When one acquires something that’s 60 or 70 years old, it can be in deplorable shape, but restoration is one of my favorite parts of what I do. I’m good at envisioning what something is going to look like in the end after I’ve brought it back to life.
What’s the most vital element of a successful restoration?
It’s twofold, really. When you’re restoring a piece that’s historically significant, you need to take pains to consider what it looked like originally so that you can try to find a similar fabric and recreate the finish on the wood. For many of the pieces that I work on, however, duplicating it perfectly is less important. I’m more interested in establishing things within today’s vernacular by interpreting them with an eye to what’s happening trend-wise as far as colors and patterns go.
Why has the mid-century movement been making such a comeback?
Good design is always relevant no matter in which era it originated. It’s all down to the silhouettes of the furniture and lighting, I think. With mid-century modern, the forms tend to transcend their origins—they will always feel modern and timeless. You can take a mid-century piece and pair it next to its contemporary counterparts, and they remain as fresh today as when they came out in the 1950s.
Right now, I’m loving my pair of Hollywood Regency occasional chairs from the 1960s, my incredible Sputnik chandelier fitted with Swarovski crystals, and these hand-blown Murano glass table lamps by La Murrina. They’re exceptional.
You’re hosting a dinner party for your favorite designers, alive or dead. Who makes the guest list?
Mies van der Rohe, Billy Haines, and Coco Chanel for sure. I love Mies because he was one of the pioneers of the minimalist and modernist designs in both architecture and furniture to which I have an overwhelming appreciation for. I admire Billy Haines—a former actor turned interior designer—for overcoming great odds. Although he was blackballed by Hollywood in the 1930s for being gay, his spaces evoke the very best of that glamorous era. And, finally, Coco Chanel was by far one of the most influential people of the 20th century. You know she would bring good conversation to a dinner party!
1. Rectangular Suspended Ice Glass Chandelier | 2. Side Table in Python Embossed Garnet Leather
3. Set of Four Modernist Luxe Bar Stools | 4. Limed Oak Coffee Table
5. Pair of Gilt Chinoiserie Lamps | 6. 1940s Hollywood Venetian Style Mirror
Photography by: Harrison Steg