How One Collector Makes Studio Living Work
A Ralph Lauren exec reveals his layered Greenwich Village loft
John Devitt knows a good thing when he sees it. As Vice President of Advertising and Set Design for Ralph Lauren, he rubs elbows with top tastemakers and industry influencers on a regular basis. Devitt also spends a decent portion of his week searching for antique, one-of-a-kind finds that transcend eras and styles to display in stores across the country. So it's no wonder that his loft in Manhattan's Greenwich Village—a home that is an accumulation of treasured objects and art that feels collected, never cluttered—reflects that layered, eclectic sensibility. Click here for more photos.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter space,” says Devitt, who lived in Manhattan rentals for nearly 20 years before deciding to buy a place of his own. “That was the major move,” he says of the transition. “If anything goes wrong, it’s my responsibility." Devitt saw a slew of apartments over the course of a year and a half spent searching, but only this street-facing loft space with its high ceilings and room to grow ticked all the right boxes. "It’s very rare to see an apartment with a little bit of character," he says. "That put this one ahead of other contenders.”
Square-footage was another key selling point. Devitt worked with his contractor to remove a dated sleep loft from the center of the studio to open up the layout; he also raised the ceiling in the kitchen and bathroom and built out storage space wherever room allowed. “You just have to really think about what exactly you can do," he says. "Behind the front door, I asked them to put a closet in, even though the contractor said it would be of no use to me since the only thing it could fit is maybe a broom. I was fine with that. So we added in another closet. ” Devitt sourced understated cabinetry, countertops, and a marble backsplash from IKEA. “It took a couple years of flipping through magazines and pulling out the stuff that I liked,” he says. “It helps to have some sort of vision so you can get the fundamental stuff done. The more I live in the space the more time I have to problem solve and get the maximum out of it.”
That doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing from the get go. Devitt confesses to buyer’s remorse, thinking to himself, “It’s such a dump—the dishwasher is too close to the fridge!” Now, after two years of living with the place, it doesn’t feel quite so new, and Devitt is far from disillusioned. “It’s really a simple space, but I tried to update it and make it as unique as possible.” A big part of Devitt's idiosyncratic aesthetic is informed by working with Ralph Lauren, whose Montauk home the VP cites as a particular source of inspiration. “I think the most frustrating part of my job is that you’re exposed to all of these great things, but you can’t buy them all—where are you going to put them? A lot of people I know rent a storage space and it gets into crazy land. It’s all about editing and getting the pieces you like that can still be functional.”
For Devitt, function and age usually go hand in hand. The apartment is littered with vintage and secondhand finds from Brimfield and the Rose Bowl in L.A.; the dedicated office space features a custom-built sawhorse desk, an idea Devitt cribbed from one of Lauren’s homes. His extensive photography collection also spans styles and time periods and includes everything from prints humbly copied out of books to gifts from frequent collaborators such as Bruce Weber. Somehow, he never tires of the juxtaposition. "Your tastes are going to change [over the years], but not so drastically that you throw everything out," Devitt says. "It’s easy to decorate an apartment, but it’s rare to come across pieces that really speak to you."
John Devitt shares his most trusted outlets for constant inspiration
1. Paula Rubenstein
Rubenstein's Bond Street outpost is a design haven, revered for American textiles, oddities, and antiques. 21 Bond St., New York, NY 10012
2. Melet Mercantile
“I used to work with [Bob] Melet at Polo," recalls Devitt. "Over the weekend he had a sale and Julian Schnabel [popped by]—there were, like, four people in there but it looked like a Vanity Fair party.” 804 Wooster St. #205, New York, NY 10012 & 102 Industrial Road, Montauk, NY 11954
3. Wyeth Home
Owner John Birch has crafted one of the nation's premier destinations for globally-sourced antiquities. 315 Spring St., New York, NY 10013