Vicente Wolf’s Manhattan Loft: A Memorable Remark from His Travels

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Written By Jim J Neal

Pernille LoofThe ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated that you cannot cross the same river twice. Vicente Wolf’s Manhattan loft would be a favorite of Heraclitus if he was still alive and had an eye to design. Since the 1980s when an interior designer bought and combined two units from a 1928 brick factory in Hell’s Kitchen and painted the floor white, the gestalt has remained the same: white walls, white-painted floors, explosions of greenery, a dozen large windows that “Here, no plant ever dies” he said; and furniture and decorative items that he sourced from all four corners of the Earth. Wolf is an infamously adventurous traveler. He was there while others were on vacation or skiing this winter.
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in this space, even if it was 20 years ago, would be able to recognize it. There is a constant eclecticism to the four-poster daybeds, midcentury furniture, antique carved alligators, museum-quality black and white photographs, and midcentury chairs. Wolf believes even old objects can become invisible if they are kept in the same places and vignettes. He moves them around. Under a photo of Robert Mapplethorpe, a 1940s French cabinet once sat in the bedroom now resides in a living-room niche. An Ethiopian chair supports a 19th-century oil portrait of Prague, which was previously paired with a Dutch Colonial desk in Sri Lanka. The media room has lost the forklift that was once used to mount a TV stand.

A 1960s French cantilevered floor lamp in French illuminates the custom-made daybed in raw steel. The VW Home chair is left, while the vintage Hans Wegner chair is right. It is made in Edelman leather. The painting at the window was done by Damien Hirst. The antique stupa is from Thailand. Wolf questions “What’s the deal with the crab that keeps getting stuck as it travels through the ocean?” This refers to a real creature called the decorator crab. It is also referring to the fact that not everything in Wolf’s home was purchased for a particular place, but it ended up there because it looked good.
Some objects were taken by clients and returned to their nests as adult children. Wolf found an antique daybed for Clive Davis in Borneo, which Wolf later sold. He also adopted the money plant Bette Midler, which he had left behind when he rented his Long Island beach home. Margaret Russell gave him the Ron Arad chair after she had left the editorship at ELLE DECOR.
Wolf recently increased the loft’s social aspect. In 2009, Veranda magazine described Wolf’s furnishings as having a “conversation of their own”, each one speaking a different style. The arrangements are now more suited to real conversations between people. Wolf’s bed, which he designed and upholstered himself in his own fabric is now surrounded with soft seating that creates one of many convivial areas in his home.

Clarence John Laughlin takes a photograph of Wolf sitting on a neoclassical Italian armchair in the library. The triptych photograph is by Richard Avedon. Pernille LoofAt 77 Wolf is tall and handsome. Matthew McConaughey could portray him in the tale of his life. It has been told many times. Born in Cuba, he immigrated to Miami at the age 15 in 1961. He was a dyslexic in a new world and never obtained a high school diploma or formal training, except for a few months at The New York School of Interior Design. Wolf will claim that he doesn’t remember names or facts. Wolf will then look at the tabletop covered with intricately carved Tibetan Buddhist Conch Shells, and wonder who changed a few pedestals.
It is easy to see the evolution of his aesthetic sensibility by reminding him of his favorite things. This was reported by Chicago Tribune in 2006. Although he still admires Thom Browne’s unchanging vision (“very different than how I think”), he has been wearing more casually since the pandemic. He still enjoys the Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka’s herbal flavor, the sleek lines of a 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

The primary bedroom is anchored by a custom bed, settee and chair. The screen is Javanese. The serving cart is by Mathieu Mategot. Edelman Leather supplies the cowhide rug. Pernille LoofHe has stopped using Annick Goutal since the formula was changed. Because of its lack of tint, he prefers Benjamin Moore’s Super White to PPG Pittsburgh Paints Delicate White.
He is puzzled that theatre, which he loves, didn’t make it to the original list. (Company is his favorite). He also doesn’t care much about restaurant dining. He says, “It’s noisy and it’s uncomfortable, you’re all dressed up. You can’t find what you want on the menu, so it’s better to eat at home.”
He will only serve one meal if you are fortunate enough to be entertained at his loft. It is a place where everything is amazingly eye-catching and doesn’t overwhelm the senses. He actually planned to serve Mikhail Baryshnikov that exact dish in a few more weeks, on a table covered with orange so it glows in the white, light room.

This story first appeared in the April 2022 issue ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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