At Home With: Mia Moretti in New York City

Mia Moretti serving food on her terrace in New York.

In honour of the launch of Soho Home in the US, we asked DJ and Soho House New York member Mia Moretti to open up the doors to her Upper West Side apartment

By Jess Kelham-Hohler   Tuesday 28 May, 2019

For a DJ who’s always on the road, it’s important to come back to a space that truly feels like home. Mia Moretti’s Upper West Side apartment is just that – a haven of art, books and vintage pieces mixed in with 1980s accents and treasures from recent travels. After six years as a staple on the Lower East Side nightlife scene, Moretti set her sights on an uptown brownstone, where she’s lived for the past four years. The main level has a bright and comfortable living area with adjoining dressing room, while up a spiral staircase you’ll find Moretti’s cozy bedroom and an outdoor terrace. 

Here, the downtown DJ tells us how she made the Upper West Side her home, why she’ll never plan out a room, and the piece that she treasures most.
mia moretti lounge
What brought you to the Upper West Side?
‘I knew nothing about the Upper West Side before I moved here, but my boyfriend at the time was a Brit with Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen aspirations, so this was the part of New York City he was drawn to. Then, when I saw this place, it was sort of impossible to look anywhere else. 

I loved the idea of being in a brownstone and fell for the spiral staircase – I thought it was so romantic. Of course, the terrace was a huge bonus that I never imagined having in New York. When I moved here, it felt like moving to a new city. It’s night and day from downtown, where I lived for six years, and it’s nice to have a little respite from the whirlwind of the Lower East Side. I travel so much that sometimes I’m only here for a week in a month. That week makes it so important that this place immediately feels like home – probably more so than if I was here every day.’
bar cart and framed artwork
double bed with throw pilows
Did you immediately know what you wanted to do with the space?
‘I had no idea. I don’t think I have a specific design aesthetic; instead, I’m drawn to individual pieces, which I buy and then fit together as a puzzle. One thing I love is repetition and pattern. I fell in love with the idea of the 3/4-painted walls, which I’d seen a lot in Milan, and I decided to start with that. Then I found these vintage Milo Baughman sofas in a matching black-and-white stripe, plus a striped rug, so I just built it out from there.’

You take such a bold approach to pattern – how do you decide which pieces will work together?
‘My first job when I lived in LA after college was working for interior designer Mary McDonald. There’s so much inspiration from her in this apartment, from the stripes on stripes on stripes to the layering of patterns. Once I painted the walls white and black, I knew that was going to be my colour palette and I tried to stick with that. I bought the striped cushions from Jonathan Adler to contrast with the stripes on the couch. As far as the porcelain and pottery go, I always stick to black and white as well. I’ve found pieces in Africa, India and Mexico that I wanted here, and my rule was, as long as it’s black-and-white, it could come back with me. Then I wanted to add some special statement pieces and added pops of color to offset the whole thing.’
a table of sardines and summer foods
Compared to your living room, your bedroom is pretty minimal. Was that a deliberate choice?
‘I did each room as its own space and basically started over each time. I loved the idea of making the upstairs nook my bedroom, with the closet separate and downstairs. I wanted it to be super-clean and simple, since when I’m sleeping is the one time I can completely forget my day. That’s also the room that opens onto the terrace, so not to have used it as the bedroom would have been such a waste. I started by painting the ceiling orange and went from there. I found the orange cushions in Morocco and above the bed are prints I cut out from a book I found in Osaka.’

How do your travels play into the design of this apartment?
‘I think travel is part of my soul. It’s like when you meet people, they stay with you, and for me it’s the same with places. I love finding local artisans whenever I’m traveling and often go to local flea markets and bazaars. I spend a lot of time in Morocco and Mexico, and those are places with incredible ceramic artisans. The pottery on the coffee table is from Marrakech. The style is really popular, so actually all the pieces are from different trips and different stores, but I just kept adding to the set.’
two vases with yellow flowers on mantle
record player on bookshelf
Where else do your source pieces?
‘I’m on the board of Housing Works, a non-profit fighting AIDS and homelessness, and often find a lot of pieces in its thrift store. Luckily, I have a lot of architect and interior designer friends, so I get to peek into their worlds a lot. Eduardo Ardiles in Philadelphia is an incredible interior designer, and a lot of the little accents come from his studio, like the rings on top of the fireplace and the circular vase. My grandpa, who’s 102, has lived in the same house in New Jersey his whole life, and his basement is full of stuff from different periods of his life. So whenever I move into a new place, I take a look around his basement to find little treasures to take with me, like the side tables in my bedroom. He also lives near some great thrift stores – these 1950s coffee tables in the living room are from one of them.’

Do you have a most treasured piece?
‘Probably the chair in shagreen stingray by French furniture designer, R&Y Augousti. The couple are good friends of mine, and their entire apartment is in shagreen. It’s insane.’

How do you use your terrace?
‘This year I’m creating my first edible garden. I tried before, but this time I’m really determined. I’m growing a bunch of herbs, plus lettuce, kale and purple cabbage. I love to cook, but when I’m entertaining up here on the terrace I very much do it in New Yorker style. I’m lucky to live by some great markets, so a lot of the time I’ll pick up a smoked fish from Barney Greengrass or anchovies from Zabar’s and serve it up there. I love red vermouth with a twist or an olive, that’s my go-to. And I tend to make a mezcal Negroni when I have friends over.’
mia moretti on her striped couch
Is there any particular record that you end up playing the most?
‘I had a much bigger record collection but decided to narrow it down to my real babies when I moved here – the ones with great memories and great stories connected to them. I actually don’t think it’s possible to have a favourite song because it all depends on the mood you’re in or the moment in the day. For example, when I’m getting ready to go out, I love to play a Pete Rodriguez boogaloo record. It instantly makes me feel alive.’

How have you approached building your art collection?
‘I’ve collected all these pieces over the years through my travels. I’ve been going to Art Basel for the past 10 years, but last year was the first time I bought a piece there. It’s by an artist who lives in Brighton Beach, an old Russian guy, and just paints all day long and eats tins of tuna. That convinced me to buy it. The piece above the door is by a young artist from Philadelphia I discovered at a Rock the Vote event during the last election. She’s a textile artist – she recently turned some of my poetry into six huge flags, and they’re all hanging in a park in Philadelphia. 

In the stairwell, I have a Zoe Buckman piece that I love, which is a uterus with punching bags. I also have a nude of me that a lover drew. The Dalí lithograph, which I bought when I still lived in LA, was the first serious art purchase I made. It was from his horoscope series – Pisces, which is my sign – and it has come with me to every apartment.’

Do you think you’ll decorate your next home differently?
‘I think design is kind of like an outfit – once you’ve done it one way, you don’t want to replicate it. I love the idea of a blank canvas as an opportunity to start again.’

Images by Reid Rolls

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