Friday, July 9, 2010

Dear John

There are those people in the world who see things you never thought to see before. They're our sources of inspiration and our gurus of possibility. In the world of style and home decor, I gravitate towards designers who embrace my ideal of the home (more on that as this blog evolves) and who empower me to break the rules and trust my instincts. As my students often remind me, it's important to tell these people how they inspire your life. Dear John, this one's for you.

I don't think there's anyone who has cast an influence so far-reaching in the design world today as John Derian. His hodgepodge of collectibles and oddities are arranged in such an organized mess that you feel as if you've stepped into a story rather than a store. Beyond his impeccable taste is his eye for the unusual and his talent in mixing the obvious with the unsung heroes of a room. Browsing his store on 2nd and 2nd takes me hours, as I have to loop around more than once just to soak it all in. Like wandering the streets of New York, the trick to spotting John's talent is to look up. He manages to fill every square inch of space with objects that seem to reflect his heartfelt devotion to hearth and home. He reinvents the idea of versatility, appreciating a piece for what it is and yet trusting that it can take on an unexpected role.

Derian's vision has infiltrated the product lines of well-known brands (I've spotted reproductions of antique rope buoys on more than one occasion) and has redefined the art of propping merchandise. After visiting his store, I'm motivated to reinvent what I already have by arranging my home in a new way. It's the "beginner's mind" of decorating: seeing everything as if for the very first time. What I love is that his innovation seems to be almost by accident. As a bystander, I get the sense that John is just being John.

I wanted to ask him about his yoga - the things/places/activities that connect him most to himself. "Nature keeps me very connected," he told me. "Wherever I am I take note and reflect. I also think the flea market on Saturday mornings keeps me inspired." (Agreed! A post on Alan Miller from The 25th Street Garage is coming soon!) John's philosophy on life informs his design philosophy. "My work, which is all about natural imagery, is another way for us to relate to nature. It sort of brings nature indoors." Derian's decoupage pieces are stunning and reflect his art-imitates-life mantra. (They're also the perfect gift and can reincarnate from serving cheese to adorning your walls.)

His top five cannot-live-without items should come as no surprise: nature ("I am feeling like my theme song could be 'Nature Boy' [by] Nat King Cole"), friends and loved ones, his bike, his house, and a tub. "Taking baths brings me peace," he explained. Some of his favorite things: his computer and his iPhone (which perhaps explains the need for peace), RRL clothes, Astier de Villatte dinnerware and flatware, and (my personal favorite) nice bedding. He sells Mateo sheets at his store; one word ... divine.

His respect for what "is" -- the recognition of an object's true nature -- and his desire to let it shine are what I admire most about Derian. Seeing the beauty in all things, after all, is what yoga's all about. Thank you, John, for reminding me that style has no rules and that really good things happen when you do what you love.

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