Rafael Viñoly talks personal taste: Part One

Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly includes London’s Walkie Talkie building and New York’s 432 Park Avenue among his diverse portfolio

Image: Weston Wells

My personal style signifier is wearing multiple pairs of Lunor glasses at the same time. This has become an affectation of sorts, but each pair serves a different purpose: I wear one for distance, one for playing the piano and others for reading and drafting. I’ve been faithful to these very expensive German frames for the past 10 years and keep them on strings around my neck so as not to lose them. They’ve become part of my anatomy. Lunor A8 283,$595; www.lunor.com.

Viñoly’s Steinway Concert Grand D piano
Viñoly’s Steinway Concert Grand D piano | Image: www.steinway.com

The last thing I bought and loved was a Hamburg Steinway Concert Grand D piano. I collect pianos and have nine spread across my homes and my office. This particular one sits in my living room in Tribeca and I play it daily when I’m not travelling. For me, it is almost a living object as it has so much soul. From $129,995; www.steinway.com.  


And the thing I’m eyeing next is a very good French carving knife. A friend showed me an extraordinarily menacing one made of carbon fibre. I loved its ergonomic design and extendable blade, but since you have to have a special licence for it, I think I’ll opt for a simpler Laguiole version.

The Caran d’Ache pencil set given to Viñoly by his father
The Caran d’Ache pencil set given to Viñoly by his father | Image: Weston Wells

A recent “find” is Ito-ya in Tokyo, which sells all kinds of paper, calligraphy and fountain pens, and has just moved into an incredible, multifloor space. I am fascinated by artisanal papermaking and specifically by Japanese paper that is made entirely by hand; this shop was full of discoveries. 160-8001 Shinjuku (+813-3346 1108; www.ito-ya.co.jp).

Viñoly’s Manhattan fedora, from $650, from Optimo in Chicago
Viñoly’s Manhattan fedora, from $650, from Optimo in Chicago | Image: Weston Wells

My favourite room in my house is the living room in my Tribeca apartment. It was designed by my wife and includes a mix of disparate styles – a sort of hodgepodge of furnishings, lighting and plants. The big, well-lit space contains a very large Jean-Michel Frank sofa as a centrepiece and two comfortable seats designed by Gardella in the 1940s that I love.

Viñoly’s woollen throw from José Ignacio, Uruguay
Viñoly’s woollen throw from José Ignacio, Uruguay | Image: Weston Wells

The grooming staples I’m never without are Paco Rabanne après-rasage lotion and a Klorane shampoo with cornflower extract that is specially formulated for grey hair. Klorane Silver Highlights shampoo, £6 for 200ml; www.klorane.co.uk and stockists. Paco Rabanne 1 Million aftershave lotion, £35 for 100ml; www.feelunique.com.


The best souvenir I’ve brought home is an incredibly simple woollen throw from José Ignacio in Uruguay. It was woven by an artisan who sells his work at a stand just beside the iconic José Ignacio lighthouse and is the colour of the natural wool with slight flecks and variations. It sits at the foot my bed and I love its warmth and lack of sophistication.

The best gift I’ve received recently was a small, original Rembrandt etching. His work is completely out of this world and I’ve travelled to Amsterdam many times to see it. I never thought I could actually own one of his pieces, so this beautiful little landscape depicting the Amsterdam skyline and a dog running across the roof of a hut was a big surprise – plus it was a gift from my family, which makes it even more meaningful. I designed a special frame for it and it sits above the piano in my New York apartment.

The last accessory I added to my wardrobe was a fabulous, steel-coloured felt fedora called The Manhattan from Optimo in Chicago. It was made to order so it fits perfectly and is great for autumn. A friend told me about this milliner, and while I don’t wear hats very often, this one is practical and stylish. From$650; www.optimo.com.

An object I would never part with is a simple Caran d’Ache pencil set that was given to me by my father when I started university. I still have it – all these years later – and it reminds me of a turning point in my life.

My favourite websites are the BBC and C-Span for news, no matter where I am in the world, and for information about architecture and design I like Architectural Record and the Architects’ Journal. I also visit Levi’s for black 501 jeans, a staple of my wardrobe. www.architectsjournal.co.uk. www.archrecord.construction.com. www.bbc.co.uk. www.c-span.org. www.levis.com.

See also