The Ralliers is a collection of interviews with female creators we admire. We look for women who have made hard choices in exchange for self-defined lives. You'll leave these stories with wisdom, comfort and beauty too.
I am an interior designer, founder of editorial and e-commerce site Fenimore Lane, and contributing writer for Vogue, Architectural Digest and Domino; I'm also a mom to a two-year-old girl (with another girl on the way!), and a wife.
How have you broken with traditions or norms created by other people in exchange for a self-defined life?
I did not follow a traditional path into the design world; I went to college for journalism and got my Master's in strategic communication with a focus in public affairs. I graduated my master’s program and started a job at a big international public affairs firm, which was my “dream job”, and I quickly realized I was not happy. Cubicle life was not for me, at all – which was not something that I was expecting. A few weeks in, it was like all the life sucked out of me. My mom was incredibly instrumental in helping me figure out my true passion – she's always been my biggest cheerleader, and when she could tell that I was miserable at my job after grad school, she was the one who urged me to find something I really loved doing. I feel grateful to have a parent who could identify that I wasn’t happy and pushed me to pursue my dreams instead of sticking with the path I was on; she was very much okay with the fact that I would be changing course in my career, she didn’t even bat an eye. I was more afraid for me to make the change than she was. That intuition and lack of fear to try something new, which I guess you could umbrella under resiliency, is an important life skill that I learned from her and from that experience. I felt a lot of embarrassment around shifting careers when so many of my classmates were going off to work at places like Edelman and Ogilvy, and I think the lesson there is to stay in your own lane: only you know what’s best for you, and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else’s path or trajectory. With social media, I think that’s so crucially important.
Tell us about your work.
I am the principal and founding designer at Ariel Okin Interiors, my New York based design firm where we primarily design for luxury residential clients. We do take on a select few commercial projects a year (past projects have included the offices and showrooms for Goop, Maisonette and Minnow Swim). I feel so lucky that we get to create the backdrop for the “movie sets” that our clients live their lives and make their memories in; I really believe that is a true privilege and a special experience. I am also the founder of Fenimore Lane, an editorial and e-commerce site I founded in 2020, which is focused on all things “home”; we’ve interviewed over 150 creatives in the interiors world since we launched, which I’ve really enjoyed. We also publish original recipes, how-to’s, shoppable content, and more. We are overhauling Fenimore Lane in 2022 and I’m really excited about it! In addition to my design work and Fenimore Lane, I am a contributing writer for Vogue, Architectural Digest and Domino, where I write about design, food, travel, cooking – anything under the living vertical. (I ultimately did end up using that journalism degree!).
What do you most want us to know about feeling at home?
I strongly believe in the old Billy Baldwin adage to “be faithful to your own taste, because nothing you really like is ever out of style.” I tend to eschew trends; in your home, I really think you should buy slow and buy things you love. Not only is it a more sustainable way to live, and the quality of the furniture is usually much better when you’re buying vintage, antique or hand crafted, but also it allows you to furnish your home authentically and unabashedly in your own style. Warm homes that are unique to their inhabitants are the best kinds. I hate spaces that feel "ordered and delivered" as the lovely designer Lilse McKenna has said; I like that phrase because it really does encapsulate the difference. Big box spaces lack personality and depth of character, and that makes me sad. Spaces that aren't concerned with being 'on trend' are the best ones. (I think that goes for people too!)
Tell us about your style of living.
A lot of how I live is dictated by the fact that I have a two-year-old and a dog! My husband and I are both very casual, and we definitely don’t want to worry about stains on the furniture, or our daughter or dog not being allowed in a certain room, so I also tend to choose materials, etc. with all of that in mind. I always want the house to be functional for the way we live, which is how I design for all clients.
It's ok to change your career path; you don't have to have it all figured out after college or graduate school. Some people don't find their true passion in work until way later in life. It's important to think of all the good things you bring when you come to a new role with a little more life experience.
What do you most want other women to know?
I love this question – it’s such a tough one! A few things I’ve learned:
- It’s ok to change your career path; you don’t have to have it all figured out after college or graduate school. Some people don’t find their true passion in work until way later in life. It’s important to think of all the good things you bring when you come to a new role with a little more life experience.
- Two things can be true at once – this especially applies to motherhood and being a working mom. You can love being a mom AND love working, and neither makes you more or less of anything. That’s something I have trouble reconciling all the time and it’s a good reminder, the power of “and” – my father-in-law is big on the “and”! It’s a great cognitive reframe.
- Always have snacks in your purse.
- Another for moms – when changing a diaper, you don’t have to take the baby’s pants completely off, just roll them down to the ankles, change the diaper and pull them back up. (For some reason that changed my life when I saw a friend do it.)
- If you have a child, you need mom friends, period. Raising a kid is hard (very hard!) and you need a group of moms to go through it with. Join a mom group, let other friends connect you to women with kids your child’s age, etc. Mom friends who you can be completely open and honest with are necessary for survival! (Can’t stress the open and honest part enough!)
- Go for the nice guy who makes you laugh, not the one who doesn’t call. (I feel like all young women need to hear this more – TV and movies do such a bad job of reinforcing the latter. I blame a generation of women raised on Mr. Big!) This is true for friends too! Think about how you feel after you’re with someone and stick with the ones that make you feel good and happy.
- Never be afraid to cold call anyone – sometimes you just have to ask, you never know what doors can open that way.
What are you searching for?
I think part of running a business and parenting is knowing you don’t have it all figured out – no one does! You have to be open to learning every day. I would love to keep working on drawing clearer boundaries with work/life balance and being better about staying off my phone. Mom guilt is so real!
What brings you ease?
Learning how to meditate really changed my life, because I tend to run anxious, and whenever I do it before bed consistently, I notice so many positive benefits. I also keep a journal on my nightstand that I jot down worries or to do’s in at night if I’m having trouble falling asleep. I also like to write down three things I’m grateful for each day – I find putting pen to paper really therapeutic! I love taking a hot Epsom salt bath, and moving my body a few times a week, whether it’s a walk outside, a 30 minute Sculpt Society video, or a ride on the Peloton. 30 minutes working out/moving your body to some good music is the best mood booster. And Friday night dinners with my husband with no phones, just talking about our weeks, is my favorite part of every week.
Something You've Just Discovered.
I think I’m late to this party, but I recently started using the “Reminders” app from Apple on my phone, and it has increased my productivity tenfold. I have different lists for different categories (personal, work and meal planning) and taking some time each week to plan out our meals for the week and ordering the ingredients has made cooking so much easier and more enjoyable, and less of a chore. I love to cook, and I hated that it felt like it was becoming a ‘task’ – this helped me be more organized (and less stressed) about executing a few meals each week. Also make enough to have at least one day of leftovers for each thing you cook – huge time saver. The NYT Cooking app is great for inspiration! I also love Alison Roman’s “A Newsletter” and all of Julia Turshen’s cookbooks. And Ina – always Ina.
Share a good read, watch, or listen.
I’m currently watching Gilmore Girls – I never saw it growing up (!) and I really love it, it’s such a happy, cozy show. But back to the Mr. Big point, Jess is the worst! (I’m on Season 3).
Something you've recently created.
We are in the middle of finalizing my lighting collection with Hudson Valley Lighting’s D2C line, Mitzi. Working on those drawings and iterating the final product has been really exciting and rewarding.
A gift you gave someone.
I just put together a little Valentine’s Day bundle for my daughter (way early, I know! With Covid lockdowns I need something fun to distract me.) I’m really excited to give it to her – it’s just silly stuff, like stickers and matching mommy & daughter heart PJ’s and pancake molds in the shape of hearts that we can make pancakes with together with my husband on the weekend, but I had fun thinking about things she would like and putting it together! Valentine’s Day is such a cute holiday to celebrate with kids.
Based on my expertise – measure twice (or four times), order once (when it comes to furniture or anything, really!) Also – never buy the matching furniture set. It’s always more interesting to have a few collected pieces in a room than a nightstand, bed and dresser that all match.
Ariel is the founder of her eponymous firm, Ariel Okin Interiors, a New York based, full-service interior design firm specializing in luxury residential, commercial, and hospitality projects across the country.
P.S. The pieces in our stories are always authentically picked. When purchased, we sometimes receive compensation in return. Thank you for supporting!
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