Q & A: Ryan Korban’s Fresh Eye
Up-in-coming interior designer Ryan Korban recently launched a website showcasing a selection of his projects to date which span from commercial to residential and other various interiors in between. Clients including downtown designer Alexander Wang, actor James Franco, model Natasha Poly and the stylish daughter’s of Danielle Steel–Victoria & Vanessa Traina, in addition to shopping go-to’s Barneys and Opening Ceremony, have all turned to the young designer for a classy, curated space that incorporates traditional English design elements fused with ornate and rich modern pieces. Creating an upscale yet functional space that is both polished and un-stuffy is the designer’s specialty, and his unique approach is one we’re excited to watch evolve.
LoftLife: As a traditionally untrained designer, what led you to this field?
Ryan Korban: I have always been drawn to the arts whether it was fashion, theater, or fine arts. My desire for creating environments was something that I was born with. Whether it was doing the table scape for my mother’s dinner parties or coming up with a concept for the Christmas tree every year. My desire to actually be an interior designer didn’t develop until I was older, but my passion for atmosphere was always there. Once I entered university at the New School, I had realized that creating full environments was what I wanted to do. Even at that point I didn’t want to go to school for it. I was more interested in having an academic degree. For me design is not about drafting living rooms in a classroom, but learning about the past. A perfected yet untrained eye has always been what inspires me. I studied European history and art and my liberal arts degree taught me more about how to create an alluring environment than studying floor plans would have.
In my senior year of school I was ready to exercise my skills so I designed my first commercial space while I was in school.This was a store I opened with a friend. What better way to start than having the challenge of creating a store? It had to be such an alluring space that people would want to buy something in it. Edon Manor really was a collection of everything I had studied and learned, from the rare book collection to the china collections, it supported my ideas of creating an academic space. Also my informal training lent itself as I was able to create a residential design for a commercial space. I hate how stuck America design is. In Europe the lines between commercial and residential are totally blurred and I am so drawn to that. So Edon Manor really was my first ever project.
LL: What finally led you to launch a website?
RK: I work with a very specific group of people and this is very important to me in order to create a body of work that feels different than what we have seen before. I really felt that the interior world was making little effort to try new things and as I saw the publications dropping (Domino, House and Garden, Metropolitan Home, Vogue Living) I realized that there lack of change and risk was really hurting the industry. This is why I am so drawn to the fashion world and the people in it. There is something new and relevant going on all the time. I feel a huge disconnect when I look at a lot of the interior publications. I work with CFDA winners, actors who have been in Academy Award nominated movies, and models who have been in couture shows and they don’t even live like the people do in Architectural Digest. I think the interior world is so fixed on square footage, I am more concerned with creating something fresh and sexy. I don’t feel any sex appeal in the interior world. So I thought it was time to publish my small, but precise body of work under my own name which is now the website.
LL: You have a strong fashion following, in addition to co-owning/designing Tribeca’s Edon Manor. How do you see fashion tastes crossing over with interior style?
RK: Working within the fashion world is so inspiring. It’s young, it’s fresh and it’s glamorous. All the things I look to achieve when I create a space. I love working with designers and watching them grow into lifestyle brands and helping them do that. The connection is so there and so underutilized that it makes me angry. My fashion clients know so much about what kind of mood they want and how they want to feel in a space its amazing. They know about silhouettes and fabrics. They have such a new approach to the treatment of fabrics and furs because of clothing. The way they develop fabrics is so advanced compared to the interior industry. Even the older, experienced, and respected people in fashion still look to be sexy and of the time. This is what really draws me to their world and pushes me to create spaces that feel sexy and sophisticated.
LL: Good design should be accessible. As a young designer, with a young clientele, how do you see a new generation’s attitude toward working with an interior designer on their home and not just doing it on their own?
RK: For me it’s so easy. I love working in small spaces — it’s my passion. Anyone with money can buy an Upper East Side condo or a mansion in the Hamptons and make it look amazing. I am more interested in what you do with a 600-square-foot studio in SoHo or the East Village. My work is based on taste not size and I think that is the new approach to interiors and my clients share this approach. Young people, even young rich people want to live the way they dress. Not everything needs to be polished and precise. Working with young people makes my jog so exciting and challenging. It forces me to really focus on what we should invest in. I work with a lot of renters so it’s important that I give them furniture they will have for the rest of their lives. When I work with someone it is usually their first time to hire a designer; I’m always flattered that they come to me and its exciting to take their virginity.
LL: That said, what are your favorite spots for shopping on a budget?
RK: I love shopping at Flair, of course they have very expensive pieces, but you can also go in and get the best accessories for the home. You can get stunning crystal ashtrays for $150. I love flea markets and I am addicted to Housing Works online auctions.
LL: What design elements do you begin a project with?
RK: I always start with a mood, it could be a color, a scent, or a flower. I like to develop the feeling my clients want and the world that they want to live in. That is more important than any tangible element of design. I never feel confident choosing furniture until I know the exact mood they want to achieve. Working with the senses is how I always start.
LL: Traditional English design is a big influence in your aesthetic. What began your obsession?
RK: I’m drawn to an old world dark romance that is so hard to find these days. I think my obsession started with Sweeney Todd, Eliza Doolittle, and Oliver Twist as a kid. From there it expanded into Princess Diana, The Clash, Amy Winehouse, and Kate Moss. My partner (Davinia Wang) at Edon Manor is from London as well and we have spent so much time in Oxford and
Holland Park. The idea of tradition is so alive there and the idea of rock is also still so alive. The enormous gap between Brink Lane and Buckingham Palace is so fascinating to me. To have such highs and lows creates so much romance in so many different ways that I cant help but be inspired. Plus I have a large obsession with the Elizabethan era to think England has had women ruling for so many years and are such a strong and wealthy country is amazing. Especially when we think we are the progressive ones.
LL: What kinds of projects do you hope to work on down the line?
RK: I hope to just keep doing what I do now. I hope that I can help bring life to the interior world and most of all I hope we can start to see exciting things happen. I love the projects that I do whether its a store, showroom, home or even a baby shower for the future I just hope I can keep getting interesting work with inspiring people. A hotel wouldn’t hurt either. If I don’t learn something or find something new working with a client then I’ll know it wasn’t a success.
LL: Describe your ideal home, and where? Is there a city or neighborhood, decorating theme, etc.
RK: My ideal home wouldn’t reflect a time period or a design aesthetic, not even a neighborhood, but instead a complete fantasy. The design world is so obsessed with dates, times and eras I’m obsessed with the idea of walking into a space and feeling like you are in a whole other world that has never existed until that very moment. That’s my ideal home, it’s a bit of a fairy tale.