Ron's Perfectly Suited FiDi Flat

Ron's Perfectly Suited FiDi Flat

Designer: Ron Marvin
Location: Financial District, New York, New York
Size: 600 square feet

If "haberdashing" isn't a word, it should be. And Ron Marvin would own it. He's made a mark in the design world with menswear-inspired interiors that come together like a polished GQ how-to: Start with the well-tailored groundwork (charcoal suit, sofa or wall paint), add a splash of color (tie or pocket square or lamp), give it a little bling (cufflink or nailhead trim) and make sure the details are right, polished and impeccable. It's signature Ron Marvin, and dandy never seemed so fine. Even on a bit of a budget.

Enter "Ron Marvin" in the Apartment Therapy search bar, and you'll find a long list of links, tours and tips from this dashing designer. Ron's no stranger to Apartment Therapy, whose own home made him a past top-contending contestant in the Small, Cool contest. And as an Apartment Therapy all-star of sorts, he's parlayed it all into a buzzing and buzzed-about career, landing him in the NY Times, a recurring role on HGTV's Small Space, Big Style, and a slot in the inaugural 2011 "New Trad Designers" (the ones to watch collected in the e-zine offshoot of Traditional Home.)

Ron garnered the New Trad honor as a designer worth watching for his deft ability to breathe colorful new life into tradition-based décor. His signature style is a little Hollywood Regency, a little Savile Row, always jazzed up with a dash of strong and confident color, nods to the past, and lush and layered styling. And boy, the boy can tablescape.

Ron was one of five designers selected to complete and compete with model makeovers of units at 116 John Street, a commercial-turned-residential building near South Street Seaport. And like his past experience with design Olympics, he rose right to the top podium, taking co-star status (with past Tour designer Kevin Dumais) by architect/designer Deborah Berke.

Ron's sartorial-inspired style comes from suiting fabrics, charcoaly colors and a generally buttoned up demeanor. But how does Ron keep the starch out of his handsomely tailored interiors? Color is a strong tool in Ron's hands, and he mixes vintage, store bought, custom and DIY, with crisp white (moldings, mats, and painted furnishings) the sharp through-line, like a glimpse of shirt cuff from beneath a chic and well-tailored suit.

Not even a restricted budget (each designer was given a cost cap based on each unit's square footage) put a damper on this dandy, proving that even ready-to-wear can still look haute. Haberdashing, even.

See the other units here, here, here and here.

What floorplan did you get and what was the square footage? One bedroom - 600 square feet.

What was your decorating budget? $8,000

Who's your fictional client/resident? Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a young couple. This residence is their pied-a-terre in the city. Mr. Smith works on Wall Street and this is his apartment in the city, and for when Mrs. Smith comes into the city.

What was your inspiration piece or first decision made? The inspiration was the color of the kitchen tile and the floor colors. When I first was approached for the project I thought I would use a lot of color and pattern and was thinking about using pink, orange and brown. But, when I saw the color of the tile in the kitchen, the flooring, the space and the neighborhood, that changed everything. I then went to a classic "Ron Marvin" style and went to a "Wall Street Chic" look, using green as the inspiration. Greens, blues, greys and luxury. The first piece I bought was the Chinese chair in the living room, and then upholstered in deep teal, men´s wool suiting.

What was your biggest splurge? Why? Without a doubt, my splurge piece was the piece of art in the entry. I refused to budge on that piece. Since my entry was so small, (you basically walk into a wall), and there wasn´t space for a console, I need another ¨"wow" moment at the front door. I got this idea in my mind and I had a photo taken of my friend, in profile. I have her looking down the hall, lit from where the light of the apartment comes from, subconciously leading you down the hall. I blew it up to 4 feet x 6 feet and framed it to make a stunning entry piece, creating my "wow" moment.

What "usual suspects" were on your shopping list? Yes, I think we were all forced to shop at IKEA, West Elm, and CB2, However, surprisingly, I don´t think there were any repeat pieces, which impressed me. If I used something from one of those places, I tried to manipulate it, so that it wouldn´t look like any one else's, in case they used the same thing. For example, I sewed trim to the edges of my West Elm curtains to make them stand out.

What source will people find most surprising, given the budget? Salvation Army and flea markets. A majority of my furniture and nearly all of my lighting was from the flea market. The dresser in the bedroom is from Salvation Army for only $97!

What were the biggest "builder basic" challenges in the unit? My biggest challenges were the entry wall, then turning the corner and looking straight into the bathroom. I solved it by my entry piece, and then painting out the door of the bathroom the same color as the walls. So, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a party, they can simply shut the door to the bathroom and it disappears with the wall. If the door is open, there is a tongue-in-cheek photo of a man hiding his eyes, hanging above the toilet for a bit of humor.

The other was the size of the bedroom. It's small! The only size bed I could fit in there was a full bed, if I still wanted to get a dresser in, too. Mr. and Mrs. Smith would have, of course, preferred a bigger bed, but I gave them a lot of style and a dresser instead.

How did you decide what and where to add or start/stop paint? In my apartment it was fairly easy, as I had good breaking/stopping points. So, the breaks were rather obvious.

What's the one idea someone should steal from your design? My headboard. It´s made up of four IKEA dining room table tops, hung vertically, that I upholstered in grey flannel wool. Then attached them to the wall using French cleats. It´s a LOT of look for not much money.

Don't miss: The DIY art and headboard, bright white accents and trim, and Ron's signature vignettes.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: "Wall Street Chic."

Inspiration: Men's haberdashery. Jean Michel Frank. Vintage finds. Dark colors. Green glass tiles. Black and white photography. Clean lines. Martinis.

Favorite Element: The entry piece of art.

Biggest Challenge: Figuring out how to handle the entry. Walking into a wall and making it exciting and interesting. Giving it a "wow."

What Friends Say: About this apartment, they say it's "Classic Ron Marvin," which is exactly what I wanted. They love it. They all love the look and feel of it, all and are proud of all the elements I did myself, such as the all of the paintings, the headboard and the entry piece. When I first approached the project I wanted to use a lot more color and pattern, but I didn't want people to come in an say, "It's very Mad Men", or "It's very Palm Springs", or "It's very Domino." I LOVE all those styles, but I wanted them to say, "It's very Ron Marvin." And they did. Success.

Biggest Embarrassment: It's not really an embarrassment, but I found it a bit humorous, that when I selected the paint colors for my apartment, I had, unknowingly, selected the EXACT same color as the public hallways! Benjamin Moore's "Gentleman's Gray." What are the chances of that?? Not a similar color, the EXACT same color. Luckily, no one else noticed it, but me. (and the painters!)

Proudest DIY: Proudest DIY:
It's a toss up between the upholstered headboard, and painting all of the paintings in the apartment myself.

Biggest Indulgence: The entry piece. I put the money in the budget for it and refused to touch it. I kept reworking the rest of the budget to allow for me to do that piece. In the end, it didn't cost as much as I had anticipated, but I wouldn't touch that budget until I had the final cost.

Best Advice: Use unexpected resources. With this budget the easiest thing to do would be to go to West Elm, IKEA and CB2. But I wanted to be different. So, every weekend I scoured the flea markets. I painted furniture, I reupholstered chairs, I found lamps, tables, and several accessories that no other apartment had, setting mine apartment.

Dream Sources: Flair, Ralph Lauren, 1st Dibs, AERO Studios, flea markets.

Resources of Note:


    • Entry: Behr, Cracked Pepper UL260-1
    • Bathroom: Behr: Espresso Bean UL160-23
    • Living Room: Behr, Classic Silver UL260-18
    • Bedroom: Behr, Restless Sea UL230-23


    • Carved Chair: Flea market, (reupholstered by me.)
    • Photo: Commissioned and art directed myself. Framed by Sky Frame.


    • Cocktail Table: Flea Market
    • Sofa: West Elm
    • Console Table: CB2


    • Restaurant Table: Rogers and Sons


    • Dresser - Salvation Army
    • Side Tables - Flea Market
    • Headboard - IKEA Dining table tops/Grey Flannel


    • Shower curtain: West Elm

Thanks, Ron!

Images: Patrick J. Hamilton

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