Ariel Okin began designing in 2016 as a side hustle to her full-time job in communications, but when it started to take up more of her time, she pivoted to found Ariel Okin Interiors in 2017 and, she says, “the rest is history." The Westchester-based talent creates “spaces that really reflect the owner’s wants and needs and will look good 20 years from now.” Her particular blend of new and traditional has already earned her collabs (with Society Social, the Mural Source, and others) as well as a devoted Instagram following.
As for what sets her designs apart from others, Okin says she always follows two goals when designing spaces for clients: “making sure the space is livable and functional for the client’s day to day, and trying to ensure it will stand the test of time.” Ultimately, Okin says she wants to “create spaces that really reflect their owner’s wants and needs, and how they live in their homes, and I also want to create spaces that will (hopefully!) look great twenty years from now.”
“I tend to eschew trends and keep things classic but always feeling fresh,” she says, whether that's with contemporary lighting, artwork, or greenery—or by finding an unusual combination of texture and colors.
Despite her love of the classics (grandmillennials will love her use of antiques and rattan), Okin never veers stiff. “I never want anything to feel fussy or overdone," she says. "That tension between old and new is key in our work.”
Get to Know Ariel Okin:
How did you get into interior design?
I started designing for friends on the side; I was working in public affairs after graduate school, and friends would come over to my apartment and ask me to help them with theirs. After helping a few friends and realizing I was spending more time putting together mock presentations for free than on my actual day job, I realized this was something I might actually want to do for a career.
What project are you the proudest of and why?
I was really proud and happy when my own home was featured in House Beautiful in 2021, because that project is such a clear representation of my personal taste and how I design when I am the “client”—it was a thrill to see it featured. I’m also really proud of our Fifth Avenue project which was featured in Elle Decor last year, which was a total gut renovation of a pre-war apartment in a landmarked building; that was such a joy to work on.
What sets your work apart?
My main goal when designing spaces is twofold: making sure the space is livable and functional for the client’s day to day and trying to ensure it will stand the test of time.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I actually got this piece of advice from Bunny Williams in a Business of Home podcast, but she says to outsource the things you aren’t the best at (like, say, accounting or CAD) to make way for the creative or the things you really excel at. When I took that approach to my business, it really helped me grow and expand the firm in so many positive ways. Jill Cohen also always tells me to prioritize photography and to shoot the types of projects I want to get more of, which is just excellent advice that I always take with me on every project. From my mom, the best advice I’ve gotten is to be nice to everyone!
How do you want your clients to feel in their space?
Comfortable! Comfort is always key—I always want the upholstery to be cushy, a place for everyone to put a drink, books in the house, and cozy pillows and throws to sink into. Timeless spaces are always welcoming and cozy, and that ethos is something I care a lot about infusing into our work
What or who was your first design crush?
Judy Kling from J.K. Kling and Associates was the first huge influence on my perception of design; she designed the house I grew up in and I think she is the chicest woman on earth!
Your current design crush?
I always go back to the classics: Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton. From a contemporary perspective, I absolutely fell in love with Noel Pittman’s Hancock Park home in LA, which was recently featured in Veranda. It is a beautiful debut!
What’s your favorite room, anywhere, of all time, and why?
Veere Grenney’s living room in London, ensconced in deep emerald green velvet walls, with Aurora Chintz side chairs and a beautiful ivory geometric rug, is one of my favorite rooms of all time. It’s such an elegant, bold, yet restrained room with just the right pops of color, pattern, antiques, etc. I also love a New England living room by Billy Baldwin that has a chocolate and cream geometric rug with blue patterned slipper chairs in his signature silhouette, a whole wall of books in a built-in bookcase, pleated lampshades on sconces for warmth, and a neutral sofa – it still feels as fresh today as it did then. I am an avid collector of design books, so I look to those for inspiration often!
For under $100—or even for free!—what decorating trick that has the most impact?
Outside mounting your roman shades just under the crown molding or as high as they can go, and then layering the outside mounted romans with drapery panels on either side and the rod just above the roman (when applicable) creates automatic warmth by layering different textures and heights in a room. This technique elevates the eye upwards, making windows seem taller and bigger, and ceilings much more expansive. It’s a free trick that can alter a room in the best way! That, and over scaling furniture and rugs is always better than under scaling!
What’s overrated in decorating?
What’s underrated in decorating?
What’s your favorite and why?
Thing to collect:
Royal Copenhagen China in the Blue Fluted Half Lace pattern (my wedding pattern!), and design books (I obsessively collect design books of all eras.)
Art Deco (particularly Jean Michel-Frank and Frances Elkins) and 1960 and 70s era Billy Baldwin/Albert Hadley. I love how these eras still feel crisp and timeless; there’s an edited eye to these spaces, and styles that transcend time, but they still feel “decorated” and warm and personable, not austere.
Borrowed Light, Farrow & Ball is such a beautiful pale blue; it reflects light beautifully and when lacquered on a ceiling it really takes on the dimension of an expansive sky.
Artist or piece of art:
I love Pissarro’s street scenes, they’re so painterly and beautiful. Boulevard Montmartre, Paris is a favorite for the color schemes and perspective. It also has an interesting history of ownership!
Local shopping destination:
KRB on the Upper East Side – such a treasure trove of gorgeous items. Kate has such an incredible eye.
Goop’s shop always has fun new brands in it, especially for kitchen and beauty, and I love Chairish and 1stDibs so much for all things home.
Palm Beach and Capri.
Decor item you buy from Amazon:
Wicker organizing baskets
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