by Lacelliese King
Did you ever meet a stranger and suddenly feel like you were chatting up an old friend? When I first connected with New York-based interior designer Ariel Okin awhile back, our tête-à-tête quickly felt familiar in the nicest of ways. Upon getting to know Ariel further, she is bright, warm, and engaging — not unlike the spaces she has created since launching her design career in 2016.
Ariel’s work has been seen in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful, to name a few. Her use of textures such as grasscloth wall coverings and wool textiles paired alongside attainable foundations such as sisal and jute rugs achieves a completely sensible, yet just-glamorous-enough effect that is decidedly fitting for where we find ourselves in 2021 and for years to come.
Elegant livability through design would seem to be a hallmark of Ariel’s mode de vie, and indeed, her social media tableau (ok, her Instagram) is a pleasant narrative of deftly-decorated spaces plus a daily digest of what’s on her plate or underway in her kitchen. (She recently inspired me to make this chicken pot pie recipe from Ina Garten’s Modern Comfort Food.) Ariel’s resumé doesn’t stop at the Farrow & Ball-lacquered front door. Last year she launched Fenimore Lane — an extension of her own portfolio, a wallpaper collaboration with Chasing Paper, and a home furnishings collection with Society Social. Her own interior design book is currently in development, and one can only hope it might include an Okin family recipe or two!
With such a growing portfolio of expertise, I was stunned to learn that Ariel’s professional career did not begin in interior design, and I confessed that I occasionally succumb to the not-uncommon “imposter syndrome,” wondering how she coped? Ariel responded generously and with the wisdom of a woman well beyond her years, a trait she seems to have mastered across multiple realms, not least of which is within the interior design world.
Bearing all that in mind, I simply could not miss the opportunity to beg her for advice on one of the most onerous design dilemmas throughout history: spousal decorating opinions! On that note, read on: we are absolutely thrilled to welcome Ariel to The Glam Pad for our latest installment of Style Profiles!
Tell us about your personal decorating style.
My personal style is traditional with a contemporary twist – I gravitate toward warm interiors with an English bent; I love a grounding neutral base injected with pops of color and texture, layered with a mix of old and new. I don’t like things to feel cluttered, but I do like things to feel comfortable and lived in. Practicality is also key, with a toddler and a dog!
Who are your top five interior designers (past/present)?
This is such a hard one! Daniel Romualdez, Mark Hampton, Albert Hadley, Bunny Williams and Gil Schafer are all personal icons of mine, but really there’s a list of so many!
What are five (material) possessions you could not live without?
Phone, computer, glasses/contacts, all my pots and pans, Vintner’s Daughter face oil (!)*
*I, too, love the stuff!
How did you get started in interior design?
I started designing for friends on the side for fun, and quickly realized it was something I loved. I kept getting more and more requests, and eventually I left my day job in an unrelated field to open up my firm, after two and a half years of taking design projects on the side during nights and weekends. It’s been five years since I took the plunge, left my job, and opened my firm, and I could not be more grateful every day that I get to design for a living, and that I have such a wonderful team to help me realize the visions we create.
Where do you source inspiration and/or mentorship?
I am an absolute hoarder of interior design books – you truly can learn so much and find so much inspiration from studying them; I collect vintage books like crazy. There’s also so much value in finding mentors in the industry – Jill Cohen has become an invaluable mentor and advisor to me, and I am eternally grateful for her guidance and friendship!
Tell us more about your recent move from the city. What has been the most exciting, and what will you miss?
Having space to fill with all the things I’ve collected over the years, and actually spread those items out, has been the most exciting! I truly don’t know how I fit all of my books in our old apartment. It’s also really nice to find community out here; it’s a much slower pace and it’s very nice to have a full kitchen to cook in. I do miss the energy of the city, and the walkability, but I am not that far from the city, so when things (hopefully, eventually) go back to normal, I’ll be in a few days a week checking in on projects and popping into the D&D and such.
What advice do you have for working together as a couple (eek!) in decorating at home?
Just like anything in a relationship, designing together is give and take. Listen to your partner’s requests and really try to meet them with those requests – if you are hearing “comfortable” as a key request, lean into that with a cushy roll arm down upholstered sofa that you can sink right into. Make it fun, provide 2-3 options to choose from, and enjoy the process. I often think we are designing the movie sets that our clients live their lives in and make their memories in; designing is so much more than just choosing a side table – it’s about crafting the way you want your life to look and feel at home.
What are you currently working on that we can look forward to in the coming months?
We are so busy at the moment, which I am so incredibly grateful for in the midst of all the chaos. We have a new licensed collection coming out in the lighting sector for 2022, which is very exciting, and we also have a hospitality project in Palm Beach in the works, as well as a second round of new designs for our wallpaper line with Chasing Paper. We’ve also got thirteen active projects all over the country currently, from Manhattan to Greenwich to the suburbs of Chicago. It’s an exciting time for the interiors industry, and I can’t wait to see where it takes everyone in the coming years!
Thank you, Ariel, for joining us at The Glam Pad!