The fashion designer Phillip Lim’s New York penthouse is as classic and quirky as the clothes he makes.
Phillip Lim lifts the arm on the turntable, puts the needle on the record and Nina Simone’s I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl crackles into life. “It’s the mix of high and low that I love,” he says, referring to his luxe but lo-tech hi-fi. At first sight, the setup looks like another group of industrial ornaments on his grey suede sideboard. But the brass and leather drums are connected, and when he starts the motor, they turn into the most incredible record player you’ve ever seen. It’s typical of Lim’s style: he designed the interior of his vast SoHo loft in New York, and everything feels personal.
If Lim moved out of fashion and into interiors, it’s obvious he would be just as successful. “I’m a little worried about how obsessed I’d be, though,” he says. His touch is evident everywhere. Across the room from the stereo is an original Eileen Gray chair with a patchwork-denim throw. In a less creative interior, it would look like a design cliché — the polished chrome and the kind of décor that devoured the 1980s. “It’s about what you put the designs together with,” he says. “They are still beautiful pieces.”
Lim talks me through his ceramic and wooden vessels, insisting that it really isn’t about price. The collection includes everything from rarefied Asian antiques to a box made by a friend from scrap wood from Coney Island, picked up after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. “That particular piece is quite special,” he says. “They made it for me because they said it went well with the wabi-sabi style I like.” He is referring to the Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in imperfection, and the practice of putting the rough with the smooth.
Lim lives in a sort of fantasy of Manhattan loft living. “The wide-open spaces, the high ceilings, the metal columns and all the industrial elements — I’ve always wanted to live in a space like this,” he says. “It’s the ultimate New York experience that we all know from films. And even though a lot of people say that SoHo has changed and now it’s a shopping mall, it’s not true. At night, it’s totally quiet around here, and it has a great atmosphere, especially if the cobbles are all slicked with rain. I love walking past the late minimalist Donald Judd’s old house and studio at 101 Spring Street, and seeing the Dan Flavin sculptures shining through the windows.”
Lim’s home is serene, chic and comfortable, and serves as a gallery for his art collection, but it’s also very playful. His bed frame is upholstered in leopard print (“because it’s a little kinky”), and in the rear lounge, hanging in front of a wall full of books, there is a leather-detailed swing that he commissioned from Hermès. It’s a great place to sit with one of his thousands of art books. “It seemed like a good idea to get the swing,” he says. “I mean, what else are you going to have in a SoHo loft?”