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A Bohemian Loft in Tribeca

Federico de Francesco gave up his “very tense” career in finance to become an artist, and to live like one.

Federico de Francesco’s paintings, ceramics, and resinwork are seen throughout his loft, where an 18th-century Sicilian bed and a 12-panel Coromandel screen preside amid many carpets and some flourishing plants. Photo: Annie Schlechter
Federico de Francesco’s paintings, ceramics, and resinwork are seen throughout his loft, where an 18th-century Sicilian bed and a 12-panel Coromandel screen preside amid many carpets and some flourishing plants. Photo: Annie Schlechter

You must climb five steep flights of stairs to visit Federico de Francesco’s Tribeca loft. He greets you with a big smile, apologizing for your effort. After you catch your breath, you see his 12-panel Coromandel screen, two Murano-glass chandeliers, heaps of Moroccan carpets, and a large 18th-century Sicilian wrought-iron bed for lounging — as well as his own big abstract paintings.

De Francesco, 44, grew up in a coastal town in Calabria, Italy. “In Cittadella del Capo,” he tells me while making an espresso. “It’s tiny, tiny.” His father is a musician, his mother a teacher. They all lived, until he was 5, in an apartment in his grandparents’ house — “It had beautiful tiles, and I think my first memory, the visually compelling thing, was those tiles” — until his parents built their own house with purple tile floors and two yellow Fendi couches. “It felt very bold.”

He grew up playing violin, then studied economics at Milan’s Bocconi University. In 2004, he moved to the States to get his Ph.D. at UCLA. But another idea was growing in his head for what he wanted to do with his life: be an artist. “I started visiting museums more often and becoming more honest with myself, all of myself,” he says, “and the distance from home helped.”

After finishing his dissertation on income inequality, he moved to New York in 2010 to work for an investment bank, though he remained focused on art. “I got a good job in finance and had money for the first time in my life,” he says. He was living in a studio in the West Village. “I had a very tense job, and I was doing studio classes at night and during the weekend. After two years of that, I couldn’t think of anything else other than finding a studio.”

From 2013 until 2017, he lived in a loft on Reade Street where he could work as well. “Those four years were incredible,” he says. “That place felt like the birthplace for my art.” He left his job at the bank and started consulting. When Alex Katz bought one of his paintings, he knew things were going to work out. (He has a show opening at The Journal Gallery on February 2.)

He moved to this 1,000-square-foot loft in 2017 after the Reade Street building was sold and he had to leave it. “There was nothing in here,” he says. “One chair and a small couch.” His friend the architect William T. Georgis encouraged a bit of décor drama, including the bed — “It was the first time I bought something at auction,” he says — and the screen, which had been in Georgis’s room at the Kips Bay decorator show house last year. Meanwhile, de Francesco’s plants are thriving in the light, and he’s been able to rent a studio a few blocks away so the live-work loft is just for living now.

De Francesco next to his painting ‘Just How I Like It’ (2023) Photo: Annie Schlechter
De Francesco’s dining table is made from a door that he stained pink and propped on sawhorse legs. The floral metal and ceramic sconces are from a flea market in L.A. The iron candlesticks on the table are Japanese. Photo: Annie Schlechter
The Murano-glass chandelier over his bed is from “that crazy store called More and More” on the Upper West Side. The painting over the bed is by de Francesco, as is the resin lamp on the floor. Photo: Annie Schlechter
“The plants were just taking over the window and I decided to create that breakfast table there,” de Francesco says. He made the ceramic tiles for the top at Greenwich House Pottery and found an antique base. The high-back armchair is from Christopher Cawley on East Broadway. Photo: Annie Schlechter
“Alex Katz has been a mentor for a long time,” de Francesco says. “When I moved in here, he said, ‘You need a painting rack,’ then he said to come to the studio and ‘I’ll show you how it should be.’ ” Photo: Annie Schlechter
“Music has always been a big part of my life. I bought this violin three years ago; it’s a modern one, a copy of an Italian violin made by Testore, one of the great makers. I started taking lessons again three years ago.” Photo: Annie Schlechter

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Federico de Francesco Gave up Finance to Be an Artist