Ryan Korban, a designer who’s worked on high-end apparel stores like Balenciaga and Alexander Wang, and private homes of people like Kanye West and Jessica Stam, is currently working on his first ground-up building.
The 12-story 40 Bleecker, in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood, is a new luxury condominium, where apartments will show off Mr. Korban’s signature style, which mixes urban chic with more old-world romance.
We caught up with Mr. Korban, 33, to discuss the changing tastes of New York’s luxury buyers, why he thinks London is tough to beat, and more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Ryan Korban: I’m drawn more to something that’s traditional, but there’s nothing about me that’s traditional. My dream is to find something that’s old world feeling, or European feeling, and make it more modern.
I like something like a weathered chevron floor with something more brutalist, like stone. I like the contrast of those two.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
RK: It was a house in Bridgehampton (N.Y.). It was just perfect. It wasn’t too big but it was kept so beautifully. You could have brought your furniture right in and you’d be done. We made an offer and didn’t push harder when another offer was made.
Another was an old dilapidated house in Tuxedo Park, New York, that used to be part of [famed interior decorator] Dorothy Draper’s house. We lowballed it. I look back and envision what could have been done with that.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
RK: My first book was called “Redefining Luxury” because I was so sick of that word. For me, it’s important to use luxury, not to keep it on a pedestal. There was a time in fashion when the Birkin bag came off the shelf.
Whether I’m talking to my design assistant or to an architect, I always ask: “Does it look expensive?” It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to look expensive.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
RK: I’m surprised at how modern things are getting, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. In terms of new developments in New York, everyone’s going after international clientele, with each building becoming taller and bigger than the last. It reminds me of Hong Kong or the Middle East. When the Time Warner building went up, it was so new and different. I’m surprised that it has become a competitive market of how much bigger and taller these glass boxes can get.
Another surprise in New York is that new buildings have so many amenities that you never have to leave your building. New York was always a city where you wanted to be out in the streets.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
RK: London, hands down. You can’t compare Regents Park or Mayfair real estate to anywhere else in the world. There’s still green space. You really feel like you’re in the middle of the city, but you can have a huge standalone mansion. The architecture is beautiful and still restrained.
The use of limestone and wrought iron—you can’t beat that.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
RK: My living room. I finally moved to a home with enough rooms that I could decorate the living room as I wanted. It’s the “adult room.” It has really high ceilings, but it’s all light gray. Every inch is monochromatic—rugs, walls, upholstery and drapes.
I can really use it and don’t leave it precious.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
RK: I’ve lived in New York 15 years and I’ve moved 12 times. I’ve done a midtown apartment with a terrace that felt “Mad Men.” I live on the Upper East Side now, in a townhouse, so it feels more like a home… It’s as close as you can get to Europe in New York.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
RK: My three little dogs. One is gayer than the next—pomeranian, yorkie and chihuahua.
Most of my furniture is custom designed, so I can’ t put a price tag on any of those.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
RK: I like when there are pools and spa amenities. With this new obsession with getting people to come to you, having a masseuse come to you is a real amenity.
I also love the idea of common space in a building that you can use for entertaining. When a building does it well it makes a big difference.
MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
RK: I’m all about making a space beautiful. My biggest thing is to follow your instincts and your heart. People who have been the most happy are the people who followed their instincts. I’m brought in to bring in a feeling you can’t describe.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
RK: In general I feel people are being more careful before they make a big purchase. People are privy to more information. They’re also so inundated with choice —both in design and real estate. People are taking an extra two or three steps before they make decisions.
It’s harder to have a sense of urgency. That’s why I encourage people to go with their instincts.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
RK: Older property, unless its 40 Bleecker, which I designed. Then I’d go with a new development. If it hasn’t been designed by me, I’ll probably go older.
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