John Derian: A Particular Path

My brother came to visit the house and said, ‘Take your time renovating,'” recalls John. “I had already renovated.”

John Derian Cape Cod

Derian’s 1789  ship captain’s house in Cape Cod

John Derian is very particular, very precise and very creative.  The unerring path he has charted through vintage lands, paper worlds and crumbling houses feels enchanted: seemingly removed from the compromises and aspirations of modern culture whilst becoming both commercially successful and highly sought after.  Inspired by Victoriana through to, yes – you know it, curio cabinets and beyond. His découpage (produced by hand from his New York studio) is a cottage business gone global, his stores a curio treasure trove and place of pilgrimage for many …

johnderian  wall

Curio-wall in store

JD derrainwall

He has a true collector’s passion for 19th Century printed matter, images are chosen and ‘couped’ (cut) so they work all ways: mismatched collusion(above) en masse profusion (below).

JD science lab birds

Derian collaborates in store with a group of like minded creatives, including  Hugo Guinness whose pared back images draw the eye.  I love the  The Green Vase’s chic paper florals and Leanne Shapton’s  wooden ‘book’ boxes and books inspired by classic editions, which might sound familiar?

green vase 2

a profusion of paper flowers, porcelain, books and Hugo Guinness in store

His most famous partnership is with Astier de Villatte whose delicate white porcelain is in the chicest homes and which he transformed with a marbleised effect for their first collaboration.


Can’t reach his stores? go online, John Derian, once seen it’s just as it should be and impossibly quirky to dream up before.

humble utility goods to whimsical paper fancies

humble utility goods to whimsical paper fancies

golden pouffes, bedding,  ceramics and furniture enticing you in

pouffess to ceramics and furniture enticing you in

Elle Decor featured his latest découpage concept this month, sure to cheer many a utility room or chic boudoir, the humble switch plate transformed:

john derian switch plates

I wonder if they’ll make it into John’s famously ‘made-under’ homes? Both Cape Cod and his East Side apartment are spaces where time has stood still,  barely changed since their original construction in 1780 and 1850 respectively.  He defines his approach thus: I wish I had spray dust or spray dirt in a can,. “I don’t want to lose the look of the place — I want that patina.”    The Cape Cod house has retained its peeling paint and faded wall papers whilst being re-wired and plumbed, quite an operation I imagine.


Loose arrangements of natural elements and books rest easy beside the wallpapers, painted boards, peeling paint and brickwork, all is soft harmony.

He left the 2 separate doors ‘dually’ leading into the dining room, which gives a trompe l’oeil effect to the  experience:


inside soft red toile du jouy and wallpaper whisper to each other.


An upstairs sitting room unpainted … untouched? no rewired etc…


vintage finds IMG_3764

a sweet ‘Green Vase’ paper peony adding modern colour above a mass of foraged tumbleweed


complete with:IMG_3766

 ship’s captain.


the entrance –  well, you get it don’t know you –  he worked very hard with that spray dust can and twisted his contractor’s arm ‘DON’T touch the paintwork’.

Even in the kitchen… where a 19th century white wicker table holds accoutrements


the sleek splash of stainless steel his only 21st Century intrusion

Otherwise all is ‘as-was’, albeit in Derian’s inimitable style:IMG_3770

front bedroom


Hugo Guinness on the right next to a Cocteau-esque arrangement.


spare bedroom with a strikingly over-scaled crustacean statement


another one of 6 guest bedrooms


The portrait over sink, also spotted in his New York apartment.


for the nieces and nephews one assumes?  Who must run in and out from the beach with never a harsh word, this place is intended to be used –  for sandy feet, lazy lunches and happy sundowners, bags I get a sofa seat:

john  Derian

Watching John Derian being interviewed (below) he is humble, charming and obsessive.  Almost all of us yearn to stamp our personality, aspirations, ‘lifestyle’ upon our home.  In seeking to enable a house to talk, to stay true to it’s heritage and identity Derian creates a home aesthetic that is uniquely his and rather humbling. His particular path is one that I would like to walk along and when I get to NYC I will make the pilgrimage.

Images from ‘Annie Kelly’s Rooms to inspire by the Sea‘, you might also like ‘In Praise of the Pineapple II‘ for seaside houses.

Shop images from Bart Boehlert

marbleised product image from Astier de  Villatte

when I get to New York, this is a long time coming.

One thought on “John Derian: A Particular Path

  1. Pingback: The Food of Love | adecorativeaffair

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