Design

Designer Michael Bargo Is a Renaissance Man

Jillian Choi

Photography by Matthew Morrocco

Michael Bargo
Michael Bargo in his shop.

If you look carefully, Michael Bargo’s Instagram feed tells you almost everything you need to know about him. It reads like a mood board for his inspirations and visual references and as a catalogue of his personal joys.

A highlight reel would include: Diane von Furstenberg’s bedroom from 1980; Pablo Picasso reading naked in his studio; the Shah of Iran’s 1958 summer garden, designed by Jean Royère; the latest Acne ad campaign and of course, his beloved cats, Ossie and Scotty. With Galerie Michael Bargo, a by-appointment Chinatown gallery opened in July, the New York-based interior designer/dealer/stylist adds yet another slash to his title. As a gallerist, Bargo is anything but conventional, “I want the space to be an extension of my apartment and Instagram, a way for people to experience my aesthetic and way of approaching design,” he says. “I don’t want to take it too seriously. I want it to feel easy and unpretentious, the way I hope my style and aesthetic is perceived.”

Instagram seems to have been a harbinger for Bargo, like many in the new creative class who use social media to their greatest advantage. “It’s changed my career dramatically,” explains Bargo. “It has opened so many doors and I’ve met so many incredible people that I never would have otherwise. I was so, reluctant at first but now I’ve realized what an amazing tool it truly is.”

In real life, easy and unpretentious is exactly what you get upon first meeting Bargo. But the more you get to know him, the more he feels like a well-kept secret, revealing more and more about his encyclopedic knowledge of art, design and fashion history, his projects with clients too private to name and his many varied interests—including his love of horseback riding, jumping and dressage, in particular. “I’m the happiest riding,” he says.

“There’s nothing greater than connecting with an animal on that level.” It very soon becomes clear that Bargo embraces both the quotidian and the extraordinary, all the while maintaining a keen eye for unexpected elegance.

With a new exhibition of Hungarian-French designer Mathieu Matégot shown alongside African and Oceanic objects and contemporary ceramics, Bargo plans to change the installation’s objects over the course of the show, which runs through January 1. “I want it to be an evolving show, Matégot sort of coming and going.” This is a natural evolution for Bargo, who formerly sold his collection directly from his Brooklyn Heights apartment, living with pieces until they found their new homes—adapting and rearranging the constant roving cast of objects, furniture and textiles.

Bargo’s Brooklyn Heights apartment features a 20th century French writing table, Isamu Noguchi lamp and a chair by Robert Mallet Stevens.

Bargo’s taste has no bounds. Mixing an Art Deco console with a Gaetano Pesce resin vase and a lamp by contemporary designer Joseph Algieri is par for the course. “My aesthetic is emotional. It’s greatly varied. It changes constantly,” says Bargo. “I always have an emotional reaction to things I love, regardless of provenance or price. Those factors are the least interesting to me.”

For Bargo, his intuition has led the way from the beginning. “I knew from a very early age this would be my career,” he explains, “I was always naturally drawn to design. I would pore over my mother’s magazines and when she worked with an interior designer, I was certain.”

As unconventional as Bargo is, he is an old soul—a collector of beautiful objects, a lover of horses, a romantic follower of dreams. When asked about the future, he answers not with plans of world domination or digital revolution, but instead of organic growth. “I’d like to develop the same network and opportunities in Europe,” he opines. “Preferably Paris or Rome.”