New York-based interior designer Ron Marvin is known for designing refined, sophisticated residential interiors. With a style dubbed as “Gentleman’s Chic,” his tailored, menswear-inspired rooms are always comfortable, elegant, and chock-full of incredible details, art, and furniture meant to last. At this year’s Design on a Dime, Marvin’s booth caught the eyes of passersby—so much so that every piece of well curated art adorning his booth was sold on opening night. We also loved it so much we convinced Ron to sit down with us and give us some behind-the-scenes knowledge.

Interior designer Ron Marvin posing in front of his Design on a Dime Vignette, 2018.
Interior designer Ron Marvin in front of his Design on a Dime Vignette, 2018.

Downtown: We loved your booth at Design on a Dime this year! What was your inspiration?

Ron Marvin: Every year I have come up with a theme and then worked with that theme when approaching my donors. This year, I did it the opposite. I started with the major donation from RADG. They gave me the sofa, the club chair, the dining table and the two ottomans. Once I had those pieces, the rest of the room fell into place!

Downtown: How many times have you participated in DOAD at this point?

RM:
This was my 5th year and I LOVE it!

Downtown:
What keeps drawing you back?

RM: First of all, it’s for a wonderful cause, Housing Works. Second, it’s the one time of year, I get to do what I want and how I want it. It’s a chance for me to do me with no client parameters.

Downtown: Can you explain the process to our readers in terms of timing, set-up, and finding vendors?

RM: I start the process in February at the moment that Housing Works asks me to participate and the moment I say yes. You have to start asking your vendors and donors EARLY because so many great designers participate, and you want to get in line early!

I come up with my basic concept and idea and then I approach my vendors with specific asks, to create an overall themed room.

Once the time comes to set up, we have only 13 hours to take an empty room and turn it into our vision! Housing Works delivers all of your donations to your room on Tuesday. We get into the space at 5:00 pm. We have from 5:00–10:00 on Tuesday evening, and from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM on Wednesday. THAT’S IT! It’s truly like a reality show design competition.

On Thursday night, the evening of the event, at 6:30 they say, “Starts shopping” and people literally run into your room and start grabbing things! Quite literally, start grabbing things.

Ron Marvin Design; Photograph by Mike Van Tassell.
Ron Marvin Design; Photograph by Mike Van Tassell.

Downtown: How do you manage to get through one, let alone five, DOAD’s?

RM: It’s such a wonderful sense of comradery and teamwork during the set up. It’s hard work, but it’s fun, and it’s rewarding.

Downtown: What advice would you give a DOAD newcomer?

RM:
Bring a vacuum! But seriously, you have to remember that you’re here to make money. This isn’t the time for a vanity project. Do what you do, but keep in mind always, “Will it sell?” That’s the bottom line. It has to sell and raise money! 

My first year doing Design on a Dime, another designer said to me, “Be ready. It’s a little surreal to see your room being torn apart, but you have to remember one thing: “The best room is an empty room!” I’ve never forgotten those words and I tell every new designer doing it the same thing!

Ron Marvin at Design on a Dime.
Photograph by Patrick Cline.

Downtown: What are some behind-the-scenes stories you can share?

RM: You can usually tell the first timers from the veterans at set up. The veterans are all there in work clothes, jeans, t-shirts, and comfortable. Many of the new designers are all dressed and looking fantastic! But I’m always thinking, “You know you’re going to be opening boxes and moving furniture, right??” I’m pretty sure they will all be comfortable next year!

Downtown:
Tell us about the art in your booth. Who were the artists and what do you most love about being able to include them all?

RM: I’ve developed a reputation for having great art in my space. People know to come visit me for it. I have several friends and colleagues who are artists. I reach out to all of them, and give them the mock up of my space and ask what they might have that might work in the room. They usually come back with several options. I then pick three and rank them. Three of the artists this year decided to donate all three pieces! I’m very fortunate to have such talented and generous art donors. Also, side note, EVERY SINGLE PIECE of art in my room sold this year. EVERY PIECE!

Ron Marvin at Design on a Dime.
Photograph by Patrick Cline.

Downtown: What is the feeling like to see your booth taken apart?

RM: I personally LOVE seeing my room get torn apart. I think it comes from all of my years in retail. I actually stay in my booth all night long so I can help sell everything and talk up my donors and my artists. I actually take it a little personally if something in my room doesn’t sell!

Downtown: Which item in your booth do you wish you could have taken home with you?

RM: Hands down, the Dumais Made lamps! I’m a “self-confessed lamp tramp” and I really wanted them! I also really wanted the custom bar from Aronson’s Woodworks. They made that specifically for me and for Design on a Dime!

Downtown: What were some of your favorite booths at the event and what drew you to them?

Ron Marvin at Design on a dime.
Photograph by Patrick Cline.

RM: Marc Cunningham’s space is always a master class. I was very happy to be next to him this year. I also always love to see what the two founders, Miles Redd and Ford Huniford, create. They always do an AMAZING job!

Downtown: What do you most love about participating in DOAD?

RM: The charity, the comradery, the teamwork and the freedom to create!

Downtown: What are you working on now? Where can our readers find you?

RM: Right now, I’m working on combing two apartments in Lincoln Center, one apartment on the Upper East Side, and one on the Upper West Side. I’m also doing a big renovation project in Provincetown and a big house in Iowa that I’m working on with my brother who is the contractor! You can also find me on Instagram at @ronmarvin.