Style | The Aesthete

Murray Moss talks personal style: Part Two

The New York design guru reveals more of his fancies and fondnesses.

December 10 2009
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is Andrée Putman for her honesty, intelligence, wit, passion, vitality, curiosity, joie de vivre, hearty digestive constitution and longevity.

The site that inspires me is Luis Barragán’s house in Mexico City. He built it himself, and I’m pretty sure he died there in 1988. The architecture is all about the light and the shadow: chiaroscuro. The architecture facilitates the dynamism of the light – it’s like another building material. And there are crucifixes everywhere; even in the floorplans and windowpanes, which are divided by these metal crosses. He was a very religious person and he placed that into the architecture.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home recently is a rubber eraser with “Stonehenge” printed on it. It’s ironic for a bit of architecture that time could not erase to be remembered by an eraser that, through use, slowly erodes.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Franz Xaver Messerschmidt [1736-1783]. He was a sculptural portraitist and does not have a large body of work – I’ve never seen it for sale. He was in the rococo period, but not of it, and his portraits are utterly contemporary in their blatant truth. It’s sort of like what Diane Arbus did, saying, “I’m not idealising, I’m not documenting; I’m presenting a super-truth.” Somehow, his mind leapt out of the mid-18th century and into the 20th. These portrait moments don’t feel as if they’re intended to be public; they show a hiccup, a laugh, a sneeze.

In my fridge you’ll always find Evian water (12 plastic bottles, large size), several containers of Fage Greek Yogurt with Honey, a few small boxes of blueberries and a gallon of whole milk.

If I didn’t live in New York the city I would live in is Ascoli Piceno in Marche, Italy. The entire city – including the beautiful small central piazza and most of the buildings, as well as the gutters and signposts – is made from white travertine marble, which is my favourite stone.

My favourite room is the study in our apartment. Two floor-to-ceiling windows face up Fifth Avenue to Central Park. On the wall between them is a beautiful photograph of an ancient library by Candida Höfer. There’s Vitsoe shelving (by Dieter Rams, 1960) from floor to ceiling on the other three walls, filled with books and illuminated by Ingo Maurer lighting. We live in this room. Candida Höfer at Nicole Klagsbrun, 526 West 26th Street, New York 10001 (+1212-243 3335; www.nicoleklagsbrun.com). Vitsoe, 3-5 Duke Street, London W1 (020-7428 1606; www.vitsoe.com). Ingo Maurer, 89 Grand Street, New York 10013 (+1212-965 8817; www.ingo-maurer.com).

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city I’d choose my own neighbourhood, Midtown East, from 50th to 65th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. You’ll find a fake Gucci bag being sold outside Gucci and a fake Cartier watch being sold outside Cartier. Juicy Couture clashes with Prada, and then, of course, there’s the Gift Shop of St Patrick’s Cathedral. And when it rains, there is an umbrella vendor on every corner. I like living in the middle of an iconic tourist moment – the pretzel stands and the mono-brand stores. There’s a dynamic there that’s missing for me in Via Montenapoleone or Rue St Honoré. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Gift Shop, 15 East 51st Street, New York 10022 (+1212-355 2749; www.stpatscathedralgiftshop.com).

The grooming staples I’m never without – and for some reason I find this rather embarrassing – are Olay Complete Care Daily UV Cream with SPF15, Molton Brown White Mulberry hand wash and Speed Stick Regular deodorant by Mennen, which I think I’ve used since I was 12.

If I weren’t doing what I do now I’d be an actor. So thank goodness I’m doing what I’m doing.