AT HOME WITH VITA is a monthly interview with artists, designers, and friends who inspire us.
This month, Vita sat down with food and wine tastemaker, Ariel Okin. Ariel has been shaping the conversation in food and travel for more than 20 years, first as Editor-in-Chief of both epicurious.com and Food & Wine, and now as an Emmy-nominated TV personality. Born in Iran and raised in Paris and New York, she brings a genuinely global perspective to her work, informed by a love of food and wares from around the world. Ariel is a permanent judge on Netflix’s Iron Chef. An accomplished home cook and restaurant obsessive, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, writer Peter Jon Lindberg, and can always be found gathered with friends around a charcuterie board. You can also find her on Instagram @ArielOkin.
Describe your design style.
Ariel Okin: My design style tends to gravitate toward traditionalism, with a contemporary twist. I always aim to craft timeless spaces for our clients that are inspired by English and American influences, always incorporating antiques and comfortable upholstery, and really setting the stage for happy, cozy, inviting family homes for generations to come. I am often inspired by nature for palettes; whether blues and greens, chocolate browns and marigolds, or pinks and oranges the color of a sunset, and I like to use color, typically, as an accent on a neural palette with lots of texture as an anchor. I like playing with textures, and we always incorporate different elements of smooth, angular, nubby, etc. to create the tension that makes an interesting space. Hallmarks of our work that are often identifiable in our projects include sisal rugs, porcelain jars and lamps, white plasterwork, interesting wallpapers, and good English style upholstery.
At the end of a design project, how do you pull a space together? What are your go-to accessories or finishing touches?
AO: Books are often a large piece of pulling our client’s spaces together; I also like to learn more about our clients and see if there’s anything they collect, etc. Accessories and finishing touches not only make a house feel like a home, but also give the personal stamp that shows the client’s individuality and interests.
What are your essentials to setting a festive fall table at home?
AO: Fresh, seasonal flowers are always a must, as well as candlelight (everyone looks better in candlelight!) and pretty linens. I like to swap out my plates and servingware depending on my mood!
Who inspires your entertaining style?
AO: My parents! They are very warm and thoughtful entertainers and that experience watching them host as a child stuck with me. My husband’s parents are also excellent at throwing any kind of party.
Who features heavily on your cooking playlist?
AO: Billy Joel, early 2000’s rap – anything I can sing to. It’s a mixed bag!
No meal/party is complete without:
AO: Good music, good food, good people. (And good lighting – sorry, that's four things!)
Where was the most memorable tablescape you’ve ever seen?
AO: At one of my childhood best friends’ rehearsal dinner, she had beautiful white tables set with silver and blackberries and chocolates on the silver platters, and wild greenery and twinkly candlelight everywhere – it was a special evening and a beautiful table that always stuck with me.
What are your favorite purveyors or resources to pick up local produce, provisions, or catering?
AO: Anything from Rochambeau Farm in Bedford, crusty bread from LMNOP, dark chocolate from Mast, weekly provisions from Stocked by Three Owls, prepared foods from Aux Delices in Greenwich.
Whose home would you be the most excited to be invited to for dinner, and why?
AO: Ina Garten, because how fabulous would that be?
Who would you love to have as a dinner party guest in your home, and why?
AO: Nancy Meyers, because she definitely has the best stories.