A painting by Marc Dennis sits between the windows of this Tribeca high-rise
Brito at home, with artwork by Rafael Neff
Art by Hunt Slonem graces a West Chelsea apartment designed by Brito
Interior designer Maria Brito is known for her bold use of color and sophisticated juxtaposition of vintage and new wares, but her particular trademark is the incorporation of contemporary art into any interior. “When people hire me they know for sure they will end up with some piece of art,” says the Venezuelan, who recently transformed a vacant two-bedroom Tribeca apartment from an empty shell into a “masculine but homey” residence, replete with a chic contemporary art collection.
Brito’s gift for combining interior design with well-chose artworks became apparent in 2008, after she achieved a quick sale of her Upper East Side apartment while three others in her building languished on the market. “The real estate broker told me, ‘You really have an exquisite eye. You should reconsider your career,’” she says.
The broker then offered her an opportunity to stage an apartment with a modest budget of just $5,000. “We got quirky things from eBay and thrift shops,” says Brito. “That apartment sold in a month.” Recognizing her calling, she established her fullservice interior design company, Lifestyling by Maria Gabriela Brito, the following year.
Brito works with a range of galleries, from blue chip to emerging, but is especially fond of Lehmann Maupin, Sikkema Jenkins, and The Hole on the Lower East Side, as well as photography specialists Danziger Projects and Yancey Richardson. “I think a lot of my value comes from being out there all the time, learning who is emerging, and attending art fairs,” she says. During the recent Art Basel Miami Beach, she worked with Diddy to develop his collection. “Getting a Warhol or a Basquiat is actually easier than spotting a new, extraordinary talent.”
At Soho House, Brito runs a monthly event for approximately 30 guests at a time. Participants have so far visited the Brooklyn-based Faile street-art collective, the edgy Hole gallery on the Bowery, run by Jeffrey Deitch protégée Kathy Grayson, and met veteran urban artist Gregg LeFevre in his Lower East Side studio, as well as street art duo Mint&Serf, who were given free rein by developers to adorn the walls of a luxury Chelsea condominium. “That was literally living with art,” says Brito, who has filled the Chelsea home she shares with her husband and two young sons with a mix of covetable paintings and limited-edition photography, including works by Os Gêmeos, Vik Muniz (her favorite artist), Marilyn Minter, and Flavia Da Rin. Future events will include panel discussions between gallerists, artists, and online dealers.
While Brito aims to increase the value of her clients’ homes and share her expertise on living with art, she also believes in the overall sense of well-being that derives from an artfully appointed interior. Says Brito, “I think it’s that desire of people to have a life that is meaningful and more anchored that a lot of my clients have in common.” 125 W. 21st St., 917-239-3436