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At Sonos, we’re on a mission. We want people to switch off from work, stow away their laptops and celebrate the joy of listening out loud. It’s what we call ‘waking up the silent home’ – and designer Jim Walrod is all for it.

 

Jim is the man behind some of the world’s most iconic and extravagant interiors – from hotels and nightclubs, to rockstars’ pads and billionaires’ playgrounds. So it might come as a surprise that his own apartment lies on a blue-collar block in New York’s Chinatown, entered through a hardware store and up three steep flights of stairs.

Inside, however, the appeal of the place is obvious. Vast windows. Soaring ceilings. And 2,000 square feet of space in which to read, create and listen to the music he loves.

 

Jim Walrod uses the Sonos app to select his favorite songs.

 

White-walled and light-filled, this loft is an inspiring workspace. But Jim has an office not far away and likes to keep some degree of separation between business and pleasure.

“At home, I love to be away from work and find it can help me bring new ideas to the table. My relationship with the internet is important too. I use it only as a tool, not as a source of entertainment. It feels throwaway at times, so I prefer to read – you really need to invest something with books.”

Put simply, “I like looking at something and going, ‘Holy shit. Why is that in a room?’”

Throughout his career – kickstarted by Andy Warhol in the 70s – this self-taught, straight-talking designer has always gone against the grain. He stubbornly resists traditional notions of style – instead, championing the odd and ugly, and pioneering a more challenging, eclectic look he likes to call “atonal”.

Put simply, “I like looking at something and going, ‘Holy shit. Why is that in a room?’”

 

Jim Walrod music books.

 

When it comes to music, Jim is just as uncompromising. As a teenager, he fell headlong into the avant-garde scene after seeing a gig by the seminal new wave act Suicide and says:

“Before I even got creative, there was a lynchpin between me and my friends – separations and likenesses within music. People were going from listening to prog rock and heavy metal to punk rock. It was a cultural dividing point. A line in the sand. How could you go listen to a Yes record after [Suicide]? If you don’t like it, I’m not your friend”.

In the years since, he’s rubbed shoulders a Who’s Who of rock royalty, from Bowie to the Beastie Boys, who famously dubbed him their “furniture pimp”. And today – at the age of 48 – Walrod is as passionate about music as ever. It’s still a driving force in his work and remains a defining feature of his friendships, old and new.

“I remember walking into David Bowie’s house years ago, seeing his boombox and thinking, ‘Have stereo systems become that clumsy?’”

So what’s Jim loving right now? At home in his apartment, you might find him kicking back to Frank Ocean, or blasting Kendrick Lamar on his multi-room Sonos system. But listening out loud has also given him a newfound appreciation for old favourites like The Fall.

“It’s a beautiful thing. You can move from room to room and hear details you never heard before,” he says.

“I remember walking into David Bowie’s house years ago, seeing his boombox and thinking, ‘Have stereo systems become that clumsy?’” Back then there were a couple of speaker systems that looked beautiful in a very retro way. But they weren’t things that could easily be incorporated into an environment. You had to look at music. You had to look at speakers. With the Sonos system, it’s very easy for it to disappear and then have the magic of what music is about just fill your house.”

Simple, universal pleasures for an endlessly surprising designer.

 

Sonos PLAY:1 in Jim Walrod's window sill.
Images by Collin Hughes.