Ariel Okin’s Latest Construction Project Features Central Park Views
It’s a pretty regular occurrence that we come across a space and think, “Hey, how’d you do that?” From custom built-ins to expert styling to genius pattern combinations, pros in the interior design business know just what to do to make a room or a home or even a coffee table stand out. So with this series, we’re asking them to let us in on their secrets in the hope that we can take our own spaces to the next level.
Maximizing natural light and modernizing the once octagonal floor plan were just two of the goals designer Ariel Okin had when it came to the renovation of an apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Hired by a couple who wished to preserve the bones of the beautiful pre-war-era home overlooking Central Park, Ariel aimed to maintain as much original detailing, like the beveled glass pocket doors, while reimagining the layout, adding sleek fixtures, plus an array of art and midcentury furnishings. The result? A layered, serene space with pops of bold color. Intrigued to learn more, the designer walked us through the entire design process.
Clever: What’s most important to you when designing a space?
Ariel: Functionality is always key when designing a space; you can design the most beautiful room in the world, but if it doesn’t work for how the clients live, that’s not a win in my book. So, making sure that every room is thoughtfully executed in line with a client’s specific needs and lifestyle is always very crucial. I also always want spaces to feel layered and collected; to feel as if they came together over time, so I try to make sure that we’re doing a nice mix of trade, vintage, retail, owner’s own items, etc., to get that vibe.
How do you approach a new concept or design?
I always start with a floor plan. Once I know how the room will be laid out, I can source from there. Then I get into a fabric scheme—I pull from our library in the office or pull from a list of fabrics I’ve been dying to use (of which there are many!). In tandem with fabrics, I start sourcing vintage and upholstery.
What did the client want and how did you translate that?
This client grew up in homes that were very sleek, stark, and neutral, and she liked a lot of elements of the midcentury modern feel, but she wanted to update that look with pops of color, pattern, and her own spin on things. We tried to achieve that by weaving in accessory details, like tying in some very saturated hues and interesting prints (the burnt sienna velvet pillows playing with the Schumacher Hothouse print in chocolate brown, for example); some fun lighting, like the vintage Murano chandeliers; and incorporating modern elements throughout the apartment while keeping them warm, like the kitchen, which features flat cabinetry but done in a very warm and inviting cerused oak with brass finishes.
What’s your favorite detail of the space?
I really love the custom brass and cerused oak bar we built out in the kitchen (the clients love to entertain, so that was a key consideration), and I also really love the vintage marble and bleached oak coffee table from Mecox, and all the vintage lighting from 1stDibs!
Was there an aspect that stumped you?
Figuring out how to orient the kitchen during the initial renovation planning phase was certainly a tall task—the original layout was an oddly shaped hexagon, so the key was orienting the kitchen, so it flowed nicely between spaces but didn’t feel like it was all in one room.
How did you choose what to display or highlight?
Certain pieces, like the vintage woven mahogany Wormley for Dunbar cabinet, were so beautiful it was an immediate “this should be front-and-center” reaction. Other things came organically through discussions with the clients.
If someone was inspired by this, what is one thing you would tell them to copy/buy?
The Murano fixtures really made a huge difference in this space, and you can find some beautiful and dramatic ones on all sorts of vintage sites, from 1stDibs to Etsy to Chairish. They are such a unique way to add in some color and intrigue. I would say to look for pieces that are both contemporary and traditional and mix them 90/10—heavy on the contemporary silhouettes but nice small pops of traditional for that added warmth and oomph.
Did anything take you over/under budget on this project? How did you and the clients make that call?
The primary bathroom was not over budget, but it was a conscious decision to use beautiful materials in there. That was a call we made by walking through the Waterworks showroom and the client just absolutely fell in love with a slab of Danby marble.
How long did the project take?
A little over a year, with a few months after the project wrapped to fill in with accessories and such.
Where did you source the major pieces? Where do you like to shop?
We sourced a lot from 1stDibs for this project, as well as Mecox, Stark Carpet, Matouk, and custom vendors like New Day Woodwork. I love vintage shopping and we do a ton of shopping with 1stDibs and Chairish.
Department of Architecture: https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-architecture/