Jonny Ribeiro’s Apartment if Full of Funky Secondhand Finds and Vintage Furniture

“I kind of like being a jack-of-all-trades, being able to move throughout the design world organically,” says Jonny Ribeiro, a designer, collector, and dealer. He’s pictured here in his Brooklyn apartment, with a 1960s metal lamp, a 1970s stone sculpture by Bernice Dritz-Epstein, and an impressionist seascape by Uta Von Bern. www.maxbphoto.com Brooklyn, NY

“My living room looks like a bomb went off,” Jonny Ribeiro tells me over Zoom from his East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, apartment. His roommate has just moved out and everything is in flux. But that’s nothing new for Jonny, a designer, collector, and dealer who is used to an ever-evolving domestic landscape. Most of what you see in his cozy city apartment is for sale.

“It’s a constant rotation,” Jonny says of the cache of funky objects, furnishings, and artworks that fills the strange but charming ground floor apartment, which boasts parquet floors, 10-foot ceilings, and a skylight in his bedroom. (In a past life, it was a service repair shop for slot machines.) There’s a 1970s stone sculpture by Bernice Dritz-Epstein he picked up in Massachusetts and a strange 1980s ceramic confection, snagged at the Brimfield flea market, all listed (or to be listed) on his new website, jonnyribeiro.com.

“There’s not really a go-to source for affordable artwork and small objects,” says Jonny, who hopes to fill that void. “I’m less interested in who made it and more interested in what it is.” A 20th-century oil painting by Thomas Barrett hangs above the custom sofa in his living room, which also features Alvar Aalto tables, a primitive stool from France, and an Isamu Noguchi Akari lantern. www.maxbphoto.com Brooklyn, NY
Jonny opted to hang a 1970s stack-laminated wood shelf vertically so it looked a little more interesting. It is shown here with a collection of wooden stools, objects, and sculptures, many of them with makers unknown. That doesn’t bother Jonny.  “I love anonymous, unattributed objects and pieces,” he says. “What I always ask is, Where else are you going to find it? You’re just not.”www.maxbphoto.com Brooklyn, NY

Jonny developed an eye for old stuff while working in store development at Ralph Lauren. His job was to canvas flea markets—like Brimfield, in Massachusetts; Elephant’s Trunk, in Connecticut; and Round Top, in Texas—for objects and furniture to fill the heavily stylized stores. “I learned the importance of layers, of telling a story,” he says of the experience that laid the groundwork for a passionate collecting practice, in which he gravitates toward sculptural pieces by unknown makers that show wear and history. After Ralph Lauren, he worked for interior designer Sara Story for a few years, learning the ins and outs of crafting residential spaces. But just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he went out on his own, booking a few freelance design projects, amping up the buying and selling, and even designing some furniture of his own.

Jonny puts his lessons and layering to good use in the living space.

www.maxbphoto.com Brooklyn, NY

“My passion is putting that extra layer in, styling, making things photogenic,” explains Jonny, who brands himself as a “gun for hire” for anyone looking to add those finishing touches to a project. Accordingly, he tends to focus on accessories, artworks, and textiles rather than major furniture pieces, which, he feels, other dealers around the city are already doing a good job of.

Sometimes Jonny thinks about the deeper meaning of the things around him, saying, “I think we’re really just custodians for these pieces. We’re looking after them, giving them new context, and I think that’s what’s so attractive about finding these things and selling them—someone is going to repurpose whatever you sell them into their world and make it something different.”

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