The fashion designer Phillip Lim moved into his SoHo loft in 2007, originally occupying a one-bedroom flat on the fourth storey of a century-old cast-iron building that is evocative of the quintessentially industrial glam of downtown Manhattan. It’s the kind of place one imagines was previously occupied by all sorts of cool artists in the Seventies and Eighties, when SoHo was the dirt-cheap no-man’s land of New York City lore. On its façade, each storey features six majestic, three-metre-tall arched windows, though Lim’s original flat sadly faced a different direction.
Four years later, when his neighbour offered to sell his street-facing apartment—“an Eighties finance-bro bachelor pad with metal blinds, the bed at a diagonal and one giant TV”, as Lim puts it—the designer snapped it up and combined the two units into a sprawling, light-filled 3,600 sq ft home. The dream loft is the result of an 18-month renovation with architect Joe Nix, the husband of Lim’s senior brand director Maria Vu. “He was just out of school and it was his first commission,” says Lim, who prefers to work with young architects. “The good part is, their minds are so open. I wanted to work with someone who wouldn’t fight me, wouldn’t resist making a home for myself and not in their vision.”
Lim’s vision is all his own, an eclectic mix that feels like an intensely personal collection as opposed to a curated showroom. His eye for design is a natural extension of his career in fashion, but one that has also been carefully cultivated through his enthusiasm for research in other fields.
Off the foyer, its floor done in rich Rose Brescia marble, is an office filled with pieces acquired from various travels, charity shops, local markets and dealers. Built-in shelves display a collection of ceramics, pottery and objects. “Some things are, like, US$5, like that Japanese malachite box,” says Lim. “In the old days, they would make the box look beautiful so it was the equal of the gift inside.” There’s a piece of wood picked up in Coney Island after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and a US$50 vase from a student art show. “Next to it is a marquetry box from 17th-century Japan, which is a bit more expensive,” says Lim.
Above a shagreen desk is Robert Longo’s Study of Z. To the right hangs a yellow Helmut Lang sculpture, just a taste of the art that fills the rest of the expanse. The parlour, drenched in midday light, features white smoked oak floors in a French herringbone pattern, each slat meticulously measured at 31 inches long (a reference to Lim’s brand, 3.1 Phillip Lim). The room is set with a mixture of the unexpected—a vitrine showcases a design of bondage-like leather body armour by the London- based leather worker Úna Burke, a collaborator of the late Alexander McQueen—and the blue chip. A sitting area includes a custom George Nakashima Conoid bench and a 1920s Transat chair by Eileen Gray, as well as an Yves Klein glass coffee table filled with his signature blue pigment. “The colour is always changing depending on the season and humidity,” says Lim, “so it’s alive.” The shades remind him of California, where he grew up.