To say it's been a busy time for Ariel Okin is an understatement. In the past year alone, the talented designer has juggled a full stack of noteworthy projects, including the Maisonette offices, a gorgeous bedroom at New York's Holiday House, Lena Dunham's West Village apartment, and most recently, the Goop offices in New York. Did we mention this tiny powerhouse is also seven months pregnant? So, we were absolutely thrilled when Okin found time to stop by our most recent pop-up, Spring on Bleecker, where she set a charming summer table and filled us in on her entertaining go-tos, design favorites, and the keys to creating a timeless nursery.
Describe your aesthetic in five words or less.
Traditional, but with a twist.
Colors or Neutrals.
Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the table you pulled together at Spring on Bleecker.
Since we've just entered summer, I wanted to craft an easy, breezy table that evokes the joy of the season but can also be formal enough for a dinner party. I've been really inspired by the combination of deep burgundy and pale blue lately, so that the informed the palette, and then those Liberty print napkins stole my heart! And of course, fresh peonies and a few sweet treats from Sant Ambroeus always make anything better.
Give us 3-5 tips for creating a beautiful summer table.
1. Fresh blooms are key.
2. Consider lighter weight fabrics, like linen and cotton, to fit the season.
3. Candles add the best ambiance, especially at dusk.
4. Placing little bowls around the table filled with treats like fresh local fruit or cookies adds intrigue and allows people to pace their courses at their leisure.
5. Play around! Don't feel like you have to adhere to any specific table setting "rules." Gravitate toward what expresses your aesthetic and roll with it.
Any go-to hors d'oeuvres you like to serve when entertaining?
No one has ever turned down a mini hot dog wrapped in phyllo dough, and that's a fact. A beautiful cheeseboard with a mix of hard and soft cheese, some yummy crackers and a crudité keep everybody happy.
What are the key ingredients to a successful dinner party?
Dim lighting, uplifting music, and interesting people.
What's on your g0-to playlist for a get-together at home?
The Temptations, Beach Boys, Dion, and Sam Cooke. I also love to throw in a little late 90s and early 2000s for good measure.
Any favorite candles to burn when entertaining?
Maison Louie Marie's No. 04, Bois de Balincourt, is a great scent. It's light and interesting and doesn't overpower the room— it's beautiful for summer. No scented candles at the dinner table, though.
Any go-to soap for the powder room?
Portugal-based Claus Porto makes the beautifully packaged soaps. I always keep one in our guest bathroom and they also make a gorgeous hostess gift.
Any favorite cocktails to serve at home?
If not rosé or an ice-cold glass of white burgundy, one of my favorites is tequila with soda, lime and a splash of pineapple juice on the rocks.
Any dinner guest pet peeves?
Failing to RSVP!
What's your favorite hostess gift?
If invited for dinner, I like to send some fresh flowers ahead of time. For a longer stay, a basket with favorite treats from local purveyors is always nice, as are beautiful soaps or a candle, or a coffee table book that relates to the area.
Do you collect anything?
Royal Copenhagen in the blue fluted half lace pattern (our wedding china), and Architectural Digest and Domino Magazine in print. A friend who recently moved to Austin gave me her full Domino collection that completed mine —I now have every issue going back to when it was founded!
Favorite room of the house to decorate and why?
I love designing the big common areas — living and dining rooms in particular, because I love to think about how the space will be used at its best: People milling around during a cocktail party, dimmed lights, great music, everyone having fun. Houses are meant to be lived in. I don't subscribe to the all-white room where children aren't permitted and no one can drink red wine. If you aren't enjoying your home, what's the point?
What design "rule" is made to be broken?
I'm not much of one for rules. I think Billy Baldwin's ethos of choosing what you love and living in a space that feels wholly you is the best "rule" to live by.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow for design inspiration?
There are so many! A few notables are @soph_isticatedstyle, @loithai, @gadabout, @nineandsixteen, and then the accounts of other designers like @amylberry, @palomacontrerasdesign, @sarahbartholomewdesign, @clarybosbyshell, @alyssakapitointeriors and @markdsikes. And of course, @landofbelle!
You're expecting a baby this August. Give us three tips for designing a nursery.
1. Make sure the baby can grow into the room. A few touches of "baby" are adorable in the form of beautiful art of a specific printed pillow, but too much runs the risk of them outgrowing the room quickly. Choose wall and window treatments that can stand the test of time, because they are more of an investment.
2. Use performance fabric and easy to clean rugs (i.e. 100% wool) everywhere you can.
3. Create storage areas everywhere to keep things neat and tidy. Woven baskets are your friends!
To you, home is...
Anywhere my husband is (and dog!).