great rooms

Inside Artist George Venson’s Pattern-Obsessed, Chinatown Studio Renovation

The bedroom in Venson’s 275-square-foot studio.
The bedroom in Venson’s 275-square-foot studio. Photo: Floto+Warner

“The apartment looked like a prison,” artist George Venson recalls, “but I took it on the spot.” And though the 275-square-foot studio in Chinatown was strewn with “exercise equipment and a mattress on the floor,” Venson says, “I knew I could just transform it into a little tree house.” His first order of business was to not only paint but wallpaper every surface with his own hand-painted designs (Venson launched Voutsa, a wallpaper-and-fabric line, two years ago). Next, he says, “there were three major questions I had to answer: Where do I put the bed? What about the lighting? And then what would I be looking at once I got the bed-slash-couch in place?” To tackle it all, he tried to “listen to the space. It’s kind of like painting; a lot of times paintings will tell you what they want, and your job is to respond to their needs.” To that end, the furniture—which he picked out with the help of his friend the designer Matthew Remy—had to be just the right size and, in some cases, flexible, like the Murphy bed he found online and the dining table by the door that acts like a console most of the time. The table comes in handy for his regular (albeit small) dinner parties: “I can have two people over, max.” He often leaves the Murphy bed in “bed mode.” “People love to lounge on it while having cocktails, and then they’ll end up staying for six hours; they don’t want to leave.”

*This article appears in the February 23, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.

Photo: Floto+Warner

The Entryway

A drop-leaf table by the front door doubles as a dining-room table with a two-guest limit.

Photo: Floto+Warner

Convertible Couch

Venson had three large cushions made at Greenpoint’s Pillow Perfection to serve as a couch. When the Murphy bed unfolds, they store underneath.

Photo: Floto+Warner

The Bedroom

The bed folds down to reveal a Peruvian painted-glass mirror Venson found on The bedding is Venson’s Birds on Red by Safe House USA.

Photo: Floto+Warner

Wearable Wallpaper

Venson has just launched a Voutsa clothing line with designer Paul Marlow. The shirt he has on here matches his blue Birds of Paradise wallpaper adjacent to the bed.

Photo: Floto+Warner

The Kitchen

Venson painted the cabinets with Benjamin Moore Amazon Moss and replaced the hardware with infinity-knot pulls from eBay. Two versions of his Snakes wallpaper cover the wall.

Photo: Floto+Warner

By the Bathroom

The portrait belonged to Venson’s great-grandmother; the vitrine and cabinet are both from Restoration Antiques; the cane on the wall was his great-grandfather’s.

Photo: Floto+Warner

The Sitting Area

A flat-screen TV anchors the wall opposite the Murphy bed, along with a Cameroon Juju hat and two Indonesian-theater puppets. The Float Trim wallpaper is the first print Venson made for Voutsa. The lampshade is a Voutsa design.

Tour a Tiny, Pattern-Filled Chinatown Studio