John Derian has been peddling his own brand of dilapidated bohemia in the form of decoupage plates, platters, paperweights, coasters, and bowls since 1989. They are all handmade in his East Village studio in New York City, where he employs a small staff of artisans to assist with production. We adore his wares. They possess a certain…je ne se quois. If anyone makes a more charming paperweight, you’d be hard pressed to find them.
When Derian came into an entire floor of a grungy 160 year-old building in late 2011, he set out to perform a “nonrenovation” renovation—essentially a series of serious tweaks that would respect the spirit of the artists, the garment workers, and the other long-vanished New Yorkers who graced the space before him. The make-under consisted of preserving a creaky plank floor, smoke-stained walls (the prior tenant, a sculptor, was a chain smoker), and original moldings. But Derian’s not mad. His nostalgia has its limits. The kitchen and bathroom were beautifully overhauled and enlarged. He invited Todd Selby inside his 1850s East Village apartment for a peek into how he lives (with his cat) at home…and it’s nothing short of a charming.