Inside Mr John Derian’s New York Studio

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Inside Mr John Derian’s New York Studio

Words by Mr Chris Wallace | Styling by Ms Lucy Armstrong

7 August 2019

Mr John Derian makes beautiful things and beautiful spaces. On the quiet block in the East Village of Manhattan, where he has lived for nearly a decade and where his company occupies three shopfronts, an office and storage space, Mr Derian is sort of the merry mayor of decor. Here, he greets neighbours, arranges his carefully curated collection of objects into artful vignettes and makes the beautiful decoupage tableware for which he is known.

As he describes it, it all happened almost by chance. In the late 1980s, when Mr Derian was living near his native Watertown, just outside Boston, he decided to cut out some drawings to laminate onto plates, bowls, cups and all manner of household objects. One thing led to another, and pretty soon Mr Derian, who had previously studied painting and worked as a waiter (alongside the artists Messrs David Armstrong and Jack Pierson), found himself driving a carload of his work down to New York City to sell. On his first trip, a single shop ordered more pieces than he could produce himself and a cottage industry was born.

In the three decades since, that cottage – a fitting analogy considering Mr Derian’s New Englander aesthetic (and he does have a shop in a 18th-century sea captain’s house in Provincetown, Massachusetts) – has expanded considerably. The decoupage, often drawn from illustrations in 18th- and 19th-century anatomical and botanical books, has found itself something of a cult following. In his shops, the immediacy and intimacy of his creations are all the more vivid – the antique furniture upholstered in his custom linens, as well as the eccentric and enchanting collaborations with French ceramicists Astier de Villatte.

Mr Derian’s wit – and neatnik tidiness – is in evidence everywhere in his office, which is the most glorious mood board come to life. Walking us around the room and showing us the goodies it contains – buried in drawers, his meticulous folders and in the 19th-century books he’s brought back from an antiques fair in Paris – Mr Derian has the gleeful giddiness of a kind of hip, East Village Mister Rogers. And we’d certainly love to be his neighbours.

Join us for a tour of Mr Derian’s world and a digression to our beloved Italian restaurant Il Buco, and feast your eyes on all the treats therein.

Film by Mr Jacopo Maria Cinti