The Interior Life of Ryan Korban
PHOTO BY BILLY FARRELL AGENCY
What the mischievous 26-year-old interior designer Ryan Korban lacks in formal design training, he makes up for with unerring intuition for luxury and a forward-thinking knack for the mix. Having grown up in an era when fashion is both high and low, Korban knows that people wanted to live the way they dress: luxuriously, minimally, and with fur, please. On top of collaborating with his friend Alex Wang (and featuring in a shoot for the designer in this magazine), Korban has become the go-to guy for high-end Downtown—among its members, Jessica Stam, James Franco, Vanessa Traina, and Natasha Poly—in need of a home that looks like their own. When Jefferson Hack wanted to throw a dinner party this week for AnOther Magazine at Milk Studios, he imported Korban’s talents to make it look like the London-based magazine had an expensive East Coast outpost.
ARIELLA GOGOL: How did you figure out that you wanted to do interior design?
RYAN KORBAN: I always knew that what I wanted to do was based around the idea of creating environments. Even from childhood, I was always focused on dinner settings, furniture placement, and flower arrangements. I soon began to realize all these things were interior design.
GOGOL: When you’re working on the design for someone’s home, do you have a process for “getting” that person’s aesthetic? Is there research that you do?
KORBAN: Yes, it can be a difficult process, but it’s one I love. I tend to start more abstract. It’s all about a mood and trying to figure out how your client wants to live. I work a lot with the senses—they tell a lot about a person’s aesthetic. What do you want to smell in a space? What do you want to touch? That sort of thing.
GOGOL: How much of your design work is influenced by your own tastes, and how much by your client’s?
KORBAN: I think the amazing thing about what I do is that when I walk away from a project I have learned something from my client. While my aesthetic is distinct, it also comes from the people I have worked with. I fell fortunate that I can choose the projects I want and I do this in order to keep being inspired by other peoples’ desires.
GOGOL: How did you get hooked up with Jefferson Hack?
KORBAN: I was collaborating with Mac and Milk and was asked to do Jefferson’s dinner. Of course I’m always interested in projects like this. It’s these types of collaboration that I love the most. I love designing a space made for entertaining–it’s one of my biggest passions.
GOGOL: Is there a particular object you’re into at the moment?
KORBAN: Exotic taxidermy. I love exotics! I just got an ostrich leg mirror from Flair NYC and I’m obsessed with it!
GOGOL: What sorts of things inspire or inform your designs?
KORBAN: I’m inspired by hotels, mostly in Europe. The idea of giving someone the ultimate experience in a small space really moves me. I’m also inspired by the guys who own Flair. I get a lot from the retailers who I work with. The relationship between designer and retailer is an amazing one.
GOGOL: Who is your dream client?
KORBAN: Princess Diana.
GOGOL: What are the challenges of doing work as a 26-year-old with no formal design training?
KORBAN: When to be gracious and when to be a firm business person. Knowing when to say “Well, I’m 26, these people are more experienced than me” and when to say “Hey, I need to stand up for myself.” It’s such a huge challenge.
ARIELLA GOGOL: I read that you learned your style sense from being in your father’s hair salons as a kid. Do you and your father share a similar design sense?
KORBAN: I don’t think we share similar design sense, but rather similar tastes. I think we both understand what it’s like to provide a service that is considered a luxury.