Photos by Wing Ta
The moment Singapore-native, vintage dealer, and social media maven Gladys Tay picks up her camera, her “little monsters”—three miniature schnauzers and one Pekingese—know it’s time to strike a pose. When scrolling her Instagram feed, you might miss them tucked among the vintage statues, furniture, and décor pieces in her 1984 Shoreview split-level. Whether they’re hiding behind a paint tube pillow, tucked under a hot-pink lounge chair, or snuggled in a larger-than-life vintage Mountain Dew can, both the dogs and her eclectic design style make every shot a captivatingly cool version of search-and-find.
“It’s a routine,” says Tay, laughing, who often encourages her followers to spot her dogs in the styled vignettes she posts. “I had to feed them a lot of berry-flavored Cheerios, and it required tons of repetition,” she adds. “But now, they always know when it’s picture time.” These photos fill the feeds of thousands of followers, all of whom love food, fashion, and the mix of modern and traditional furnishings that comprises every inch of Tay’s 1,800-square-foot abode.
Design excellence is the name of her game, and the influencer’s casual, let’s-see-how-it-fits method (largely informed by her Eastern upbringing) trends toward curvy sculptures, compelling wall art, maximalist décor, and—at least for now—all things European. “I’m in this British phase,” she says, laughing. “I just want all the British things!”
This approach comes full circle when you consider her perspective on fashion: “When I look at a skirt, it doesn’t really have to be a skirt,” explains Tay. “I can belt it, or I can pull it up and turn it into a dress. This translates into my designs and the way I look at furniture. A hand chair is a chair, but to me, it’s art. I play with it in different ways.”
Perhaps that’s why half her pieces are on display and half are in storage—always at the ready for monthly rotations sure to create a new blend of recent finds and existing staples. Although spontaneous in appearance, each piece’s thoughtful location maximizes its impact without overwhelming the eye. To create a steady connection and cohesion between the spaces, she relies on a neutral color scheme. “Sometimes I drag pieces in from other rooms to support the look of whatever I’m working on,” explains Tay, who often considers an item’s vibe, look, and size to dictate its placement.
An essence of timelessness, though—Tay’s top design value—is what brings it all together. Her art collection, for example, which encompasses everything from portraits to neutral and abstract works, blends eras and styles seamlessly. “It doesn’t matter when it was made,” she says. “If it can stand the test of time and it’s well-designed, it’s great design. There’s nothing I would say no to. If it’s good art, I’ll buy it.”
Finding that good art, especially as a vintage dealer, is crucial. Scoring time-worn pieces (at least 20 years old, she says) regularly tops her “must-find” list when scouring Minneapolis stores like Covet Consign, Bauer Brothers Salvage, and Hunt & Gather. Aesthetics, purpose, and function are also priorities when perusing potential pieces for her personal collections. “I love items that have multiple uses, like a console table,” she says. “It can be used as a desk, an entryway table, or bathroom vanity. I’ll ask myself, ‘What can it actually bring to a room?’” In Tay’s case, her picks bring energy, culture, and childhood memories to the forefront of her home’s curated look.
“My dad would travel often for work,” recalls Tay, who first visited the United States with her father at the age of 12. “He would go to Manila, Japan, Hong Kong, or China and always bring me back something—like a limited-edition item you can only find in that country. I appreciated the uniqueness of everything he brought back.” At the time, Tay had no idea the Hello Kitty pencil box from Hong Kong and chewing gum from Japan would nurture her love of one-of-a-kind finds and eclectic design.
The Influencer – Gladys Tay
Tell us about the inception of @thegladystay—your Instagram profile.
I started in 2016 for fun. I was working out, cleaning up my diet, and going vegan, so I was sharing the lifestyle I was living at that point in my life. Then it slowly evolved. I started to share more of the house, what I was doing with it, and my style. That gained a lot of interest from people.
What’s your most popular content today?
Anything with my hand chairs. Every time I post one, there are people who think they’re creepy and weird. Most people love them, but some aren’t sure. It gets lots of attention.
Any advice for people inspired by you and your designs?
Keep an open mind. When you shop, don’t have expectations. That’s when you’ll be surprised about what you find. Design is really all within yourself. Look inward and follow your intuition.
Shop Gladys Tay’s vintage market, Foo Shoppe, at chairish.com/shop/fooshoppe.