If you've had your eye on the interior design scene in recent history, chances are you've heard talk of our latest Hype Girl. Ariel Okin is the founder of her eponymous firm Ariel Okin Interiors, a NY-based interior design firm specializing in residential and commercial design. Working with the likes of "Girls" star Lena Dunham and Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand Goop, Okin's spaces are designed to stand the test of time, sophisticated with a touch of whimsy. She pairs her tailored design taste with equally skilled writing chops. A contributing writer for publications like Vogue and Architectural Digest, Okin is now launching her own editorial site, Fenimore Lane. Let's hear what she had to say!
Tell us a bit about yourself: where you’re from, where you live now, your family, and how you would describe your job (you do so many things!)
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in an area called the Main Line – I loved growing up there. I recently moved to the suburbs of NYC with my husband and our almost one-year-old daughter (and our dog, Charlie) after a decade of living in Manhattan. I am the founder and principal at my interior design firm, Ariel Okin Interiors, and I am also a contributing writer at Vogue, Architectural Digest, and Domino. This past year I made a foray into product design, with the launch of my furniture line with Society Social, and wallpaper with Chasing Paper, so that has been a really fun addition to my job description! My most recent endeavor is launching Fenimore Lane at the end of July – the site, named after the street I grew up on, is an interiors focused editorial destination where readers will also be able to shop my favorites and items from my brand collaborations.
How would you describe your style and aesthetic?
Well-edited, classic, and tailored, with a touch of whimsy.
Your Instagram (@arielokin) might just be one of our favorite accounts to follow and is a go-to for all of us when seeking design inspiration. We have to know: what are some of YOUR favorite accounts to follow on Instagram?!
Well, that made my day! Thank you so much! There are so many accounts that I absolutely love – @landofbelle, @howieguja, @houseandgardenuk, @mrsalice, @louiseroehome, @casamota, and @leahoconnelldesign are some favorites.
We are just over halfway through 2020 and you have had one busy year! You started off 2020 with the launch of a fabulous furniture collection with Society Social. Can you tell us more about this collection and how it came to be?
It’s certainly been a crazy year – 2020 is one for the books, that is for sure. My furniture line with Society Social was really born in a modern way – on Instagram! Roxy and I started DMing about motherhood and all things interiors, and quickly became “insta friends”. I asked her if she’d be interested in doing a line with me and that was sort of how it was born! The design process was incredibly fun, and I tried to incorporate pieces that I was always looking for in my own projects but couldn’t find, i.e. the tromp l’oeil wicker ottoman/coffee table with an upholstered top. It was such a thrill creating the pieces in this collection, and working with Society Social was an absolute dream.
Beyond your furniture collection, you also just had another product launch of wallpaper with Chasing Paper. What can you tell us about this collab?
Creating wallpaper has always been a goal of mine – we use so many different wallcoverings in our projects, and I always think wallpaper is the fastest, and easiest way to completely transform a room into something special. Elizabeth Rees, the founder of Chasing Paper, and I met through a mutual connection, and we immediately hit it off.
When I started to think about what I wanted the art to look like for the collection, I kept coming back to all of these lively, colorful watercolors that I had seen by Ashley Begley of Ashley D. Studio. They almost felt alive, they were so exuberant; I knew I had to weave that feeling into my collection.
I absolutely loved working with Ashley – we grew up in the same area but didn’t know each other as kids, so we immediately had a kindred spirit. She is so incredibly talented and I feel so lucky to have been able to work with her! I can’t wait to do more together. I pulled about 200 reference images – moods that I wanted to channel, papers that I wanted to reference, etc. Ashley and I then worked backward from those images in terms of coming up with patterns and colorways, etc. Elizabeth was incredible about really letting us run with our imagination in terms of ideas and was so supportive and excited every step of the way.
The inspiration behind the collection really came from envisioning Palm Beach in the 1960’s and early 1970’s – saturated shift dresses and wicker interior Fiat Jolly’s, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and bright, climbing bougainvillea. I wanted to imbue my first wallpaper collection with a sense of joie de vivre and a little bit of kook, and I think that this collection really embodies that sentiment. I grew up spending the winters in Palm Beach my entire life (and my parents live there full time now) so for me, it is my happy place, and I wanted other people to get that sense of joy from these designs. Especially now in the era of COVID and quarantine, if we can find something that makes our spaces a little bit brighter and happier – well, that’s just the best part of interior design!
In addition to your design work, you are also a freelance writer and recently launched your own editorial site, Fenimore Lane. How did you decide to launch your own site, and what can we look forward to reading about on the pages of Fenimore Lane?
I always wanted to produce my own editorial content – as a freelance writer, having the freedom to write whatever you want without approval from an editor is always an exciting idea. I had been throwing the concept around for about three or four years, but never felt ready to put the full infrastructure behind it. Quarantine has been such an interesting time for all of us, and I was really inspired by Paloma Contreras and how she launched a podcast during this time (her podcast, The Style Files, has quickly become my favorite!), so I finally pulled the trigger. We are covering a variety of topics in the home space on the site, as well as interviews with luminaries in the design world, such as Gen Sohr of Pencil & Paper Co., Annabelle Moehlmann from Land of Belle, and even Paloma herself! I’m really excited about it and I am very much looking forward to engaging with a new set of readers.
On top of all of this, you and your family are moving to a new home! So exciting! We can’t wait to follow along. Do you have any words of wisdom for renovations and home projects?
It really has been a crazy few months! We are so excited to move to our new home and I am having a lot of fun with the freedom of the design process. Designing for yourself is the hardest and also most exciting, I think, as an interior designer. A few tips for home renovations that I’m definitely taking to heart in my own project:
- Splurge on areas that are the heart of the home – kitchen countertops, for example, are not a place to skimp. If you’re wavering between materials, go with the one you love most; the kitchen is the place most of us spend the majority of our time.
- With that being said – start with an all-in budget number upfront, and add 10% to it to allow for any overages. That way you won’t feel anxious when any unexpected costs creep up (and they will!)
- Don’t feel you have to finish everything at once. Allow things to come together over time. The best houses are layered with found objects, and layering doesn’t happen overnight.
We asked Ariel to design a few dream bathrooms using wallpaper from her recent collab with Chasing Paper. We will be the first to say, they have us wanting to renovate!
Bathroom #1: Powder Bath
Weezie Towels: Light Blue Piped Edge Hand Towels with Prince Embroidery in green thread
Sconces: Soane Rattan Nasturtium Wall Light
Sink Vanity: Waterworks Henry Washstand
Flooring: Cle' Basics Carrara Herringbone Tiles
Mirror: Ballard Designs Atoll Mirror
Bathroom #2: Primary Bath
Weezie Towels: Grey Piped Edge Bath Towels with River embroidery in mint thread
Bathtub: Waterworks Margaux Cast Iron Bathtub
Bathtub fittings: Waterworks Highgate Wall Mounted Exposed Tub Filler
Wall/floor tiles: Cle' Basics Carrara Oversized Subway Tiles
Bathroom #3: Baby's Bathroom
Weezie Towels: Green Piped Edge Bath Towels with Sullivan embroidery in light pink thread
Ceiling Light: Soane Rattan Daisy Hanging Light
Sink Vanity: Bath Vanity in Green with Carrera Marble Vanity Top
Floor Tile: Cle' Basics Porcelain White Penny Tile
Mirrors: Rose Pink Bone Inlay Mirror
Go to Summer Recipe?
This Blueberry Crumble Pie recipe works with any type of filling, and is a summer classic. I make it all the time – and to make it easier, I sub in a frozen pie crust instead of making my own.
Current brand crush?
I love being able to personalize anything with my monogram, so I’ve been loving Neely & Chloe’s hand painted monograms on their gorgeous, timeless handbag silhouettes. I just recently purchased one of their canvas and green embossed leather frame bags with my initials and I can’t wait to receive it!
Favorite Interior Designers to follow?
I love following all the English designers in the UK, I find so much inspiration in the way they layer colors and patterns and leave things just a bit untidy. I love Ben Pentreath and Nicholas Haslam for that reason. I always love following Mark Sikes, Sarah Bartholomew, Amy Berry, Paloma Contreras, McGrath II, Veere Grenney...the list is endless!
Favorite coffee table book?
Favorite artist or art gallery?
Favorite scent (flower, candle, etc)?
I love the clean scent of ambre – I use ambre essential oil as my perfume day to day. I also love Thierry Mugler’s Angel because it smells like my mom. My favorite flowers are hydrangea and lily of the valley, but I love the scent of honeysuckle and gardenia. Candle definitely is the Ralph Lauren Bedford candle...I have gone through so many. The best smell in the fall!
Favorite Hostess Must-Haves?
Ariel's other go-to's for a stunning tablescape include:
Last show you binge-watched, last book you read, or last podcast episode you really loved?
The last show I binged in one day was Normal People. I read the book right before I watched the show and it was just.so.good. The last book I read (well I’m in the middle of reading it right now) is “Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as Told to Me) Story” by Bess Kalb. My Bubby (grandma) told me to read it, and it is a memoir about Bess Kalb’s grandmother but written in her grandmother’s voice. Kalb uses old voicemails and text messages as well as photos of her grandmother and it is truly incredible. I’ve already cried like six times while reading it but it’s also a hysterical book. I highly recommend for anyone who is super close with their grandparents to read it! Podcast, definitely Paloma Contreras’s new podcast, The Style Files! My most favorite recent episode was with Robert Rufino, House Beautiful’s Style Director.
Pick one of each, from each question.
- Bubble bath or shower? Bubble Bath. Always.
- Wallpaper or paint? Wallpaper!
- Towel bar or hook? Towel bar.
- Towel time sips: tea or tini? Tini, please!
Want to hear from more of our Hype Girls? We recently chatted with serial entrepreneur and hot sauce extraordinaire Molly Fienning, you can read it here!