10 Questions With... Juan Montoya

Juan Montoya, the acclaimed interior designer and Interior Design Hall of Famer, is well known for his eclectic approach to his craft, refusing to be wedded to any particular style or period. Initially he was labeled a minimalist, but over his 40-plus-year career his work has evolved dramatically. Montoya's eye for juxtaposing textures, colors, and volumes began at an early age in his native Colombia, and was later refined during his formal training at an architecture school in Bogota and Parsons School of Design in New York. Today, examples of his work can be found the world over. 

Throughout his career, Montoya became somewhat of a collector, too. Many of his elegant pieces have found their way into the debut 1stdibs and Christie's collaboration. The collection, entitled "Christie's for 1stdibs," is currently exhibited at the 1stdibs Gallery in New York City. This means the approximately 100 pieces of furnishings and decorative items, curated by Montoya, will be available to collectors without them having to wait for an auction. Some of the pieces were designed by Montoya himself, including several petal-form side tables. 

Interior Design: What is your first memory of design? 

Juan Montoya: At age seven, with my mother's approval, I decorated my room with an orange wool fabric (curtains, bedcovers, and tablecloth). The chair was upholstered in a black-and-orange plaid with a black wool fabric as contrast.

ID: What motivated you to launch your design career in the U.S.?

JM: After architecture school in Bogota, I came to New York and graduated from Parsons School of Interior Design and then I went to Paris and Milan for three years. Upon my return, I decided to open my own firm.

A Montana home designed by Juan Montoya. Photography by Eric Piasecki.

ID: What projects have you completed recently?

JM: I’ve recently completed a pre-war 6,000-square-foot apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York, and I’m just completing a 20,000-square-foot apartment overlooking the water at the Surf Club designed by Richard Meier in Miami. I’m also finishing a beach house on the water in Water Mill on Long Island, and quite a large cabin in Lake Tahoe, as well as a modern house in Pound Ridge, New York.

ID: What is upcoming for you?

JM: A historic landmark house in upstate New York is ongoing, and an apartment on the West Side [of Manhattan] overlooking the river. 

Read more: 10 Questions With... Jasper Morrison

Juan Montoya's room design for the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House included the Indian Lingham Stones displayed on the coffee table. Photography by Eric Piasecki.

ID: What is your biggest design pet peeve?

JM: When projects aren’t finished to perfection and they are too matchy matchy with no surprise.

ID: Do you have a design object in your home that is particularly important to you?

JM: The vintage manual juice press that I use every morning.

 Casa de Campo, a past project by Juan Montoya. Photography by Miguel Flores Vianna.

ID: What differentiates art from design?

JM: Is there a difference? Good art and good design go hand in hand.

ID: Do you practice any kind of visual art yourself?

JM: I am designing sculpture and sculptural installations in my country retreat upstate. I also enjoy landscaping.

Items available via "Christie's for 1stdibs," curated by Juan Montoya. Photography by Pernille Loof, courtesy of 1stdibs.

ID: What was your approach to curating the “Christie’s for 1stdibs” collection?

JM: My goal was to create a dramatic display.

ID: Was it hard to say farewell to any of these objects? 

JM: I was attached to the Lingham stones. They brought me serenity and peace.

Juan Montoya’s Indian Lingam Stone of Ovoid Form with Metal Stand, available through 1stdibs. Photography courtesy of 1stdibs.
A guestroom at Casa de Campo, designed by Juan Montoya. Photography by Miguel Flores Vianna.

Read more: 10 Questions With... Juli Capella

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