If the name Ariel Okin sounds familiar to you, it might be because you’re familiar with her chic, bold, and inviting interiors—or maybe you were lucky enough to hear her speak at our Meet The Experts Breakfast series at MoMA Design Store’s Print Shop Pop-Up earlier this year. We also recently featured a project of hers here on the blog. (Can you tell that we’re really big fans?)
If you love Ariel’s eye for eclectic, colorful interiors as much as we do, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading as she spills some of her secrets for designing a uniquely personal space (complete with custom framed art, of course!)
Simply Framed: You’re obviously known for your stunning home interiors, but your commercial projects (like the new headquarters you designed for our friends at Maisonette) are equally beautiful. How do you differentiate between the two types of projects? Is the process different?
Ariel Okin: The process is both different and the same. With residential projects, my goal is always to have the owner’s personality peek through in subtle ways throughout the design. I want each interior to feel unique to its inhabitants, while also staying true to our firm’s overall design sensibilities. When designing for a brand in a commercial project, the general idea is the same, but we essentially turn the ethos of the company into a “person” to design for. We identify key personality traits of the brand—i.e. Is this persona whimsical and fun, or a bit more buttoned up?—and play off those to create an aesthetic that visually represents the brand’s identity. Ultimately, whether the project is for an individual or a corporate company, we want each space we create to be a reflection of the client.
Maisonette’s magical Brooklyn headquarters recently got the Ariel Okin treatment (and a few of our White Gallery Frames.)
SF: We love the way you incorporate bold colors and patterns in your interiors—and custom framed art seems to frequently play an important role in that. What are some of your tips for incorporating art into a space? Do you have any go-to resources?
AO: Art absolutely elevates a space! It adds life, color, interest, and intrigue to an otherwise bare wall. Custom framed art plays a huge role in how we design for clients. When it comes to buying art, I always recommend that clients purchase pieces that speak to them on a personal level, and not just try to fill an empty hole, or to buy specifically for one room. Clients move, preferences change, but art is something that stays with you forever. Collecting should be a long game, where pieces accrue over time and are a representation of the client’s style and interests. We work with a variety of art advisors in the city to help clients find the right pieces, not only for the projects that we’re working on, but also for their long-term collections.
No one does a statement piece quite like Ariel Okin. We love how the Julie Blackmon photograph above the sofa ties the whole room together.
SF: When it comes to having art custom framed for a project, do you have a favorite frame style or specific features that you look for? What about a favorite piece of art that you’ve had custom framed?
AO: I tend to gravitate toward frames that let the art speak for itself. I’ve been particularly loving a thin, natural wood frame with a white or off-white mat lately. But I do think it really depends on the piece—sometimes a frame that picks up some color from the artwork itself can really elevate the whole experience. A recent favorite piece of art that I had framed is a gorgeous 3D origami fan by a favorite artist, Dawn Wolfe.
The incredible Dawn Wolfe fan in all her glory, mounted and framed.