Ten Questions With... Ryan Korban
Known for decadent textures and old-world aesthetics with a decidedly urban spirit, design wunderkind Ryan Korban has become a star within New York City’s design community.
Staff -- Interior Design, 4/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
Known for decadent textures and old-world aesthetics with a decidedly urban spirit, design wunderkind Ryan Korban has become a star within New York City’s design community. Though only 27, the self-trained designer—and co-owner of chic accessories boutique Edon Manor—boasts a client roster that includes Downtown NYC boldfacers (residences for the likes of Vanessa Traina and Jessica Stam) and fashion pioneers (Barneys, Opening Ceremony, Alexander Wang). Here, he shares his mission, obsessions, and the secret to his success.
INTERIOR DESIGN: Do you have any particular “mission” as an interior designer?
RYAN KORBAN: The number one thing, for my whole career, has been to blur the lines between “commercial” and “residential.” In Europe, there are true multi-brand boutiques, while in the US there’s this obsession with commercial spaces feeling really commercial, and residences feeling residential. While New York City’s known for having the best designers and style, I feel we’ve fallen a bit flat as far as boutiques are concerned. That’s what led me to be interested in showroom spaces for designers. At this point that’s why people come to me… for special jewel box spaces that feel curated.
ID: As a young presence in the industry, what risks are you willing to take that others might not?
RK: The most important thing has been the decision to go off on my own and not compromise myself. That’s the hardest thing to do. I started small, decorating people’s homes, then small boutiques. Now I’m working with larger, more seasoned companies that respond well to a young person with a clear vision.
ID: Has there been any secret to your success so far?
RK: In a city like New York, confidence and professionalism are everything. Any sign of weakness and you’re finished, so I try to stay strong through the whole thing. I always knew I wanted to do this, though when I saw friends at Parsons drafting floor plans, I knew that was not what I wanted to do. A lot of these friends have very successful corporate careers but don’t have a really clear look of their own.
ID: What kind of brands are the most fun for you to work with?
RK: I enjoy working with contemporary brands, and I find there’s an interesting thing happening in their market. They’re exploring how to sell something at a contemporary price point yet offer something more luxurious. That’s fun. Within my brand, I’m looking to discover what is luxury for my generation. Sometimes interior design feels only available to the very wealthy, or it’s a DIY project. There’s a way to have something amazing that doesn’t feel cheap.
ID: Is there a mindset shared by the clients who hire you?
RK: The clients I go after tend to be looking for a “new chapter,” brands opening their first flagship store, couples signing a first mortgage or having their first baby. Downtown clients comes to me to add a sleekness, while uptown clients comes to me to make something fresher. The biggest blessing in evolving my career has been having clients come to me for what I do and trusting me.
ID: You’re known for mixing textures. What are you enjoying playing with now?
RK: I’m always obsessed with something. Right now there are two things: Graphic floors done with tiles in a way that feels fresh and nontraditional. Then, upholstering walls… It’s a more traditional thing that can feel young. Of course, the skin and the fur won’t ever go away.
ID: How do you know when a project is right for you or if you’d rather pass?
RK: I usually always know right away, in the first meeting. There are three kinds of projects that I will go for… the one I love right away, the one with great potential, or the one I can learn a lot from.
ID: That said, what are some of the most exciting projects on your plate these days?
RK: I’m working on a few residential spaces, a store opening on 69th Street and Madison Avenue, and working with a few contemporary brands. Right now I’m working with Diesel to explore a new line they have, which will be a really high-end Diesel experience. Some other projects are developing a new furniture line with a major retailer and a home line with the perfume brand Killian… Oh, and a book.
ID: What do you like to be surrounded by in your own home?
RK: [Laughs.] A lot of dead animals and fur, some crystals. I love taxidermy, so I have my collection of cranes and peacocks. I like to be surrounded by textural and exotic things, things that feel really special and are borderline fantasy.
ID: When did it become clear that this was your calling?
RK: I’ve always loved the idea of creating an environment… When I was young it was going to hotels or really nice restaurants, or watching my house change when my parents had guests over At first, I thought maybe I would go into fashion, because I love the idea of a “brand.” Then I thought maybe it was something to do with art. The reason I love retail design so much is because a commercial space has to be kept alive. Things are always changing and it has to endure.