Thom Browne’s Crispily Tailored Manhattan apartment
The fashion designer’s aerie in Greenwich Village is filled with pristine midcentury pieces that match the meticulous style of his clothing collections.
Text by Lynn Yaeger / Photography by Douglas Friedman
Nothing is worse than a home that is too perfect and done. You have to live in it,” fashion designer Thom Browne deadpans, even though his New York City apartment, in a lovingly preserved 1930s building, is the very model of perfect and done.
Then again Browne, who today is clad in his standard summer attire—a gray cashmere cardigan, whimsical Bermuda-length trousers, and a serious pair of brogues—does seem supremely comfortable here: getting a drink from the ’30s-style faucet he has installed in the kitchen, leaning against the living room’s fireplace (its slate-color marble surround matches his outfit), or catching his reflection in one of the glass-knobbed doors he has surfaced with antiqued mirror.
Set on a tree-lined block in Greenwich Village, his apartment building is prime Manhattan real estate. But when Browne decided to move out of his old place, on Central Park West, he wasn’t focused on any particular location—it was a glorious terrace he was after. “I looked for more than a year,” he says. “It could have been uptown, I didn’t care. New York has so many interesting neighborhoods.” Perseverance paid off. The one-bedroom flat, a compact 800 square feet or so, is surrounded by some 300 square feet of outdoor space with sweeping views, enabling Browne to gaze out from beneath a striped awning at the Chrysler Building or the new World Trade Center tower.
A friend once commented that Browne’s apartment is so spare you could hose it down. But it’s simply the home of a guy who says, “I like it as clean and as uncluttered as possible” and who has no trouble getting rid of things. (Besides, if you hosed it down, you would destroy the artfully displayed collections of vintage clocks and Champagne coupes; on the other hand, the midcentury crystal ashtrays—Browne doesn’t smoke, but he loves the old-fashioned romance of tobacco—would probably survive.)
Browne grew up in an archetypal Colonial house in Allentown, Pennsylvania, smack in the middle of seven brothers and sisters, all of whom were athletic. (His own sport was swimming.) He is the only artist in the bunch; the rest are doctors and lawyers. At first he wanted to be an actor, so he moved to Los Angeles. “I was horrible,” he says, laughing. He came to New York in 1997, got a job working in sales for Giorgio Armani, and was eventually tapped by Ralph Lauren to design clothes for Club Monaco, which Lauren’s company had recently purchased. But Browne soon started getting noticed for his own very particular style: a vision of abbreviated tailoring and twisted classic haberdashery so youthful and dependent on a trim, fit form that one suspects it has its roots in Thom Browne’s school days.