Home Tour: Inside David Monn's New York Loft

David Monn, New York’s grandmaster event planner, reflects on a beautifully executed career in a new monograph and in his own personal sanctum.

Bjorn Wallander
OF 7

It’s not every day you’ll hear an event planner reference the techniques of 19th-century English architect Sir John Soane. But David Monn, 53, isn’t your typical party planner, and his apartment, in a former factory building in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, isn’t your typical one-bedroom. “I wanted to keep the integrity of a loft and yet be modern,” Monn says.

While discussing the various bits of minutiae that went into the pristine home’s design, he states the guiding principle that brings it all together: not a color or historical period but a unit of measurement. All the walls float with a one-inch reveal throughout the entire base. According to Soane, an inch is the ultimate unit of measure. And perfection is Monn’s thing. “That’s where the optimum shadow is found, within an inch,” he says. “It’s in every setback in my apartment, in every elevation. There is one inch everywhere. When you have that visual consistency, it quiets the eye.”

If anyone needs a bit of visual quiet in his personal life, it’s Monn. He and his full-time staff of around 30 create over 100 ne plus ultra events per year—from weddings and bar mitzvahs to red carpet galas and dinners for two—that can often require the calculating mind and creative spirit needed to stage Aida at the Met. His (hush-hush) client list reads like a Who’s Who of the masters of the universe, from presidents and museum directors to Hollywood producers and business titans.

Party elements have included but certainly have not been limited to: flamenco dancers, prancing-stallion topiaries, white peacocks (alive, mind you) at the Plaza, and an ultramodern chuppah in a Broadway theater. It’s all lavishly documented in the just-released David Monn: The Art of Celebrating (Vendome Press), a monograph of his best work. The cover is, in fact, from “White Nights,” the very first story Contributing Editor Monn did for DEPARTURES, in 2010. And this winter he’ll unveil new, regal holiday decorations at Bergdorf Goodman.

So you’ll forgive him if he uses a judicious amount of beige in the space he returns home to each night. The wood floors—wide-plank with no finish—look museum-gallery quality. “It’s actually a Danish oak, which has a white base to it,” he says. “Most American oak has either a yellow or a pink tone to it.” Ask Monn about any detail in the apartment, from the Chinese antique sculptures (on custom plinths) to the restoration glass he had put into the windows that flank the half-block-long space, and you get a response with a level of expertise that’s borderline encyclopedic.

The color palette is restrained, almost achromatic. The all-white kitchen is covered, both cabinetry and walls, in Corian—“It feels like velvet,” he says—with two sinks at opposite ends (one for prep and one for finishing). The small, similarly monotone bedroom connects to the living room, partly partitioned by glass walls, while a generously spaced receiving area includes an open coat closet guarded by a classical-style Italian terra-cotta statue of a woman. Altogether, the aesthetic serves a kind of utilitarian function of the finest order.

The highlight may be Monn’s all-mirrored bathroom, which is entered through a walk-in closet (although walk-in room is more accurate). Shirts and sweaters are spaciously hung or folded in a manner more befitting Barneys. In an extra nod to consistency, the same custom system is also used in the aforementioned coat closet. While regaling a visitor with details of how he planned his space, he pauses to apologize that a piece of furniture is inappropriately covered for the sake of his dog, Sammy, who is recovering from surgery. It’s entirely unnoticeable. “I’m a little bit of an obsessive neat freak,” he admits.

His attention to sumptuous detail is borne from an austere upbringing. “As a child, we were poor. I say simple, but it’s really code for poor,” he says about growing up in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, the fifth of six children, with a factory-working mother and a father employed at an Army base. “It’s very hard for me, even to this day, to equate success with something that you feel good about. Success was monetary.” After struggling early on in fashion and merchandising, followed by a ten-year career in interior design, he fell into a jewelry business that ballooned into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. After an early retirement, he was asked to plan the wedding of a friend’s stepdaughter. “I did a lot of entertaining in my personal life in those days and helped a lot of other friends but didn’t do it as a business,” he says. The wedding was a smash, and the rest is history. Although it almost didn’t happen: “For a brief moment, I thought, No, I’m not going to be a party planner. That was the last thing I wanted to be called.” But he quickly realized that those two weeks running the wedding were the happiest he’d ever been. The boy from rural Pennsylvania had found his calling.

And now, after a two-year process, the maker-of-dreams perfectionist says he has crafted himself the perfect apartment. “This is where I come to recharge and nurture myself,” he says. Although it does make for one hell of a party space—the living room is dominated by an enormous 14-foot dining table—and Monn’s already thrown his fair share. Explaining the myriad decisions that went into giving the table bench seating, he says: “I find that people actually sit here and don’t want to leave. I have a good friend who always says, ‘If you can lean into life, you’re living life.’ You kind of lean in here.” Monn certainly has into his.