Our own Ariel Okin worked alongside of superteam of designers and organizers to help bring to life the first Real Simple Home in Brooklyn—and her serene design will change your perception of home offices.
Photos by Seth Caplan
Real Simple has been taking readers inside stunning spaces for well over a decade. So when they made the foray into designing their own space—one that exists off the page and in a 17-story apartment building in Brooklyn’s leafy Carroll Gardens neighborhood—they assembled some of the industry’s best designers and organizers to imbue each room their with the same caliber of style and organization they celebrate in every issue.
This superteam includes design duo Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, Donna Garlough (style director for Joss & Main), and Homepolish premier designer, who makes a strong case for why the home office can serve as a serene retreat—and the perfect place for a fully stocked bar cart. We asked Ariel to walk us through the process of establishing a calming work space and working with such a talented team of visionaries.
Design by: Ariel Okin, Homepolish premier designer
You worked alongside some incredible designers during this process. How did you work together to create a cohesive aesthetic?
It was such an incredible thrill to work alongside Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, who designed the living room; I have been inspired by both of them for so long while building my own brand, so that was really special. We definitely had to consider the entryway when designing our office, since they speak to each other—my room is the first room you see when you walk into the space, next to the foyer. So the foyer’s color palette was definitely a consideration when putting ours together just to make sure they would flow cohesively.
What type of vibe were you trying to achieve in the office, and from where did you draw inspiration?
I tried to create a serene, calm environment from which I would want to work in. Light blue is my favorite color and I find it to be a really soothing hue, so I started with that as the anchor of the room by bringing in a light blue grasscloth wallpaper. From there, I played off of the gorgeous green garden outside the huge floor to ceiling windows and brought in some more natural elements with a raffia desk by Global Views, rattan candle holders and trays by AERIN, Japanese handmade ceramic bowls from Land of Belle, and chinoiserie 3D hand-painted art by Dawn Wolfe. I tried to use the colors and textures of nature as my palette and let it spring organically from there.
Why did you opt for an open layout?
I work from home, and I know how easy it is for my workspace to get cluttered, fast. An open layout leaves plenty of room for a tidy and organized feel while still leaving space for lots of books, extra seating for meetings, and more. The cleaner your space, the clearer you think!
Design by: Nate Berkus & Jeremiah Brent
There are so many calming elements at play here, which even extend to the color scheme of the bookshelf. Tell us about your decisions there and how you pulled that off?
Much of my design work relies on the use of a tone-on-tone color palette—I find it to be both calming and grounding. In this case, using the colors of nature as my guide, I really tried to flow the blue, green, and ivory color scheme mixed with natural fiber and metal elements even into the bookshelves. I worked with an amazing company called Booth & Williams, who curated the library for me based on the interests of the imaginary office user (design books, vintage cookbooks, fiction by female authors and more) and also based on color. I absolutely loved working with them!
I also loved the inclusion of Suzanne Kasler for Ballard Designs’ pottery at the top of the bookshelves (which are also Suzanne Kasler for Ballard Designs!), as I felt they really added an organic, shapely feel to break up the linear lines, and the one of a kind pieces from Land of Belle really added a handmade touch. Anything rattan I adore, so AERIN’s pieces were the perfect natural texture to tie it all together.
Design by: Donna Garlough, Style Director of Joss & Main
A big part of this concept centers around DIY organizing strategies. How did you work with Neat Method to achieve such an organized space?
Neat Method is wonderful, and I loved seeing what they did with the closet in the office! We are actually moving in January, and I want to use them in my own home. I really tried to keep the room open yet approachable; the books are sort of dotted around the room with a lived-in feel, but the furniture plan is open, leaving negative space for the eye to travel and process without feeling overwhelmed.
Any tips for designing an office space? Any must-have pieces?
I think all offices—especially a designer’s office—should have a slew of beautiful books on hand that display the owner’s interests and hobbies. Whether they are interior design books to reference for images, or tomes on travel, art or cooking, I think the home office is the heart and soul of where a person expresses their professional interests, whatever they may be. To display those interests proudly and in a beautiful way is a really special thing. Good lighting is also key, and the Ralph Lauren task lamp on the desk and the Arteriors flushmount, both from Circa Lighting, not only added personality but also functionality by brightening the space in a really nice way.
I love your decision to have a bar cart to the space. It adds a bit of irreverence to a space that’s usually perceived as quite serious. Tell us about that choice.
Frankly, everyone should have a bar cart in their office. It’s the best solution to a long day’s work!
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