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Ryan Korban

He even makes poetry with his inclusion style, combining trends and different epochs of décor and design in projects that would never pass unnoticed.

To be and not be

korbanstudio @ryankorban

“I’m the kind of designer who likes a lot more information. So for me I tend to not avoid things. I tend to really, um, take the route of the more I can get from the client”

In the world there are two types of people: the ones who are afraid of change, and ones like Ryan Korban, who in the last 15 years has lived in nine different places. For the designer, “to be, or not to be” was never a question – his creativity and boldness make it obvious since he is the type of person who seeks to add, never exclude. This logic took him to the homes of James Franco, Kanye West, Natasha Poly, and Debra Messing – not as a guest but as a designer. He was responsible for the look and feel of the homes of those and other powerful ones, like Alexander Wang, that extended the talent of the man in Balenciaga stores. In all cases, Korban reveals that his creative process is almost every time the same, starting with a piece that captures his attention and developing the project around it. Perhaps “quiet and elegant” is the most scandalous whisper between power wheels in the United States and beyond.

“Someone once told me to always stay true to my design vision and as I branch out into bigger projects and into product that is always at the back of my head”

Claur: How would you describe your design philosophy?
Ryan: That’s a good question. I believe my designs really are made up of two different categories I would call them. One is romantic which you can obviously see here. And the other one is brutalist. So I think it’s an interesting mix of something very brutalist and something very romantic. But always trying to push to make things feel fresh and to feel reinvented and to feel of, you know, the 21st Century and I really push to do that.

Claur: What is your must do to project? Is there anything that you try to avoid when you work on something?
Ryan: My must do is to get my lighting designer involved in the project because for me the number one thing and the most integral part of it is having an amazing lighting designer. I think they can make or break a project. And then I think, you know, beyond that my number one thing is to really, um, to start with the materials and to really understand what I wanna do with those. So most projects normally start with a piece of stone that I really love or a piece of bronze or, you know, some sort of material and then we build the whole project off of that before we get into, you know, the logistics of it. Does that answer your question?

Claur: Is there anything you avoid when you work on something?
Ryan: I’m the kind of designer who likes a lot more information. So for I tend to not avoid things. I tend to really, um, take the route of the more I can get from the client, the more I can learn about the brand’s heritage or, um, you know, depending on what I’m working on, I like having as much information so I can sort of study the background of the project before I go into it. I like to kind of let that dictate what the aesthetic will be and I find that that creates a much more thoughtful and, um, you know, educated project.

Claur: So your style was described once as quietly elegant. Do you see it that way?
Ryan: I would like to see it that way. I think that’s a great way to be although I’m not sure that it is always so quiet. But I strive for it to be quietly elegant. But there are times when it’s appropriate for a project to be less quiet than others. But when it comes to, you know, my own personal taste and the way I would wanna live it definitely, I would describe that as quietly elegant.

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Claur: What was the most eccentric thing your client has asked you for?
Ryan: That’s really hard. I mean a lot comes to my mind. You know, shipping things overnight from across the world or, you know, asking for, you know, stone walls that are 16 feet high and, you know, just very specific things in very short time frames from around the world… I mean for me to give you one example of something that felt outrageous or extravagant would be very difficult to do because it’s- there’s always something. It happens every day.

Claur: What is your advice for dealing with a headache that comes with the renovation process? Because I know that you move a lot so.
Ryan: A lot of Advil. (laughs) The headache will never go away. I think what you need to do is to learn how to function within the headache because when you, um, work through one headache there is another one just waiting for you and that’s really what I’m in the business of doing is really navigating headaches (laughs) and figuring out the best way to manage them. So I think it’s to know that they’re not going to go away. They’re only gonna get worse and to be prepared (laughs) for them and to learn how to navigate them.

Claur: What was the best design advice you’ve ever received?
Ryan: That’s a good question. The best design advice I was ever given. No one’s asked me that before. I think my style’s always been really the same and I think when I hit the decade mark for designing and I started very young and, you know, you grow, you see trends come and go and you see sort of the design world lean towards something else and whenever that sort of happens I always wonder if I should lean with it. Someone once told me to always stay true to my design vision and as I branch out into bigger projects and into product and stuff like that it’s always at the back of my head do I want to design a product that’s more of the time or do I wanna design a product that’s true to what my aesthetic has been for the past 10 years. Someone very wise who I looked to for advice told me to stay true to what it is you’re doing and to just look at yourself and not look at anybody else around you. It’s a little cliché but I think it’s really important for an industry like this because there’s so much going around. So it’s really easy to let yourself in or see something else’s what’s popular at the moment and go in that direction.

Claur: Name three favorite restaurants in New York City?
Ryan: My favorite restaurant is called Fred’s and it’s in Barney’s New York but that’s my number one favorite restaurant. Um. And I love, um, Marea on Central Park West which is another one of my favorite restaurants. And I’d say my third favorite restaurant is, um, Le Bernardin.

Claur: Could you name us your favorite décor shops in the world?
Ryan: There’s so many. If I would pick one it would be Flair in New York. It is in SoHo.


Photos: Aline Velter