Korban is originally from Philadelphia with roots in Beirut and moved to New York 15 years ago. Surprisingly Korban initially came to New York to pursue an acting career. But he enrolled at Parsons school of Art and Design, and by chance he assisted a graduating collaborator from Parsons who wanted to launch her own shoeline. “I said, why don’t you start with a multi-brand shoe store and I can help you out with the design. We looked at spaces in Tribeca – which at the time had a very low rent. I paid a renderer and told him what my vision was and he put together a rough design of a space that didn’t even exist really. I wanted to do a commercial retail space that didn’t look commercial - so it kind of had a boudoir look and feel. With no expectations we had sent out the render to a few of the major brands: Alaïa, Givenchy and Valentino. Within days they wrote back inviting us to see their collections - although we didn’t even know what that meant. We finally received a small investment, found a space in Tribeca and a few months later we opened the store called Edon Manor. Straightaway neighbours would start coming in to ask; could you make my house look like this?” Ever since then calls from stylish clients have kept coming.
Korban who went to school with a lot of young designers that were starting their own fashion lines became the go-to if they needed help for their showrooms or market week and eventually for opening their first stores. The young generation turned to him because he had an excellent understanding on how fashion and interior architecture are symbolically intertwined, creating seductive spaces that surpass the trend to redefine traditional design for a new generation.
In his work Korban is freely inspired by everything ranging from the works of impressionist Monet to photographer Helmut Newton as well as museum architecture, from neoclassic to contemporary. The union of mixing brutalism with romanticism is the perfect expression of his style. “What I like to do is make something hard that originally is very romantic and classical European. I work with hard materials to achieve a kind of hardness that has a romantic feel about it. It’s always that kind of mixture, because I feel that people really respond to that. Sometimes its very obvious and sometimes you cannot quite put your finger on what it is.”
“What I like to do is make something hard that originally is very romantic and classical European. I work with hard materials to achieve a kind of hardness that has a romantic feel about it. It’s always that kind of mixture, because I feel that people really respond to that. Sometimes its very obvious and sometimes you cannot quite put your finger on what it is”
When it comes to materials; “I’m on a constant journey and hunt for the perfect materials that are the counter part to a design and in search for things that feel luxurious and elegant, but are not that obvious. I love the idea of using those materials that we think of as classically luxurious in a modern way and I think that is what brings them to the future. Instead of doing suede upholstery we put a lot of suede on walls and instead of putting cashmere on a blanket will hang it on drapes. Just to find new ways to use to classically luxurious fabrics and textiles to breath new life into it. There is always a suede, there is always marble, there is always some sort of rough textured silk and there is always velvet - because what I’m always searching for is that sort of modern warm kind of luxury. For me it’s all about the idea of perfecting something that is based on something that is classic - yet modernizing those original pieces, because I don’t like to stray from the original feeling that they’re meant to convey. For me it is really about perfecting classics.
Another characteristic of Korban’s interior spaces is the use of a rich yet neutral colour palette; referring to a philosophy he calls “the new neutral”. “It's a wash of grey’s ranging from blue to black and all the shades of grey in between. For me grey is far more exciting and acts like the perfect backdrop to any kind of material that I gravitate towards.” Whenever you do find a pop of a colour in one of his interiors it’s usually derived from a material or a specific source of inspiration.
“I’m on a constant journey and hunt for the perfect materials that are the counter part to a design and in search for things that feel luxurious and elegant, but are not that obvious. I love the idea of using those materials that we think of as classically luxurious in a modern way and I think that is what brings them to the future.”
Although creating environments is Korban’s core business, the 35-year-old already has two books to his name, a soon-to-launch product line and a highly anticipated luxury building that is currently under construction. In the heart of Noho on 40 Bleecker Street the luxury residential project houses 61 units, a 57-foot swimming pool, a state-of-the-art exercise room, and a stretching studio that has Ryan Korban’s touch all over it. The result is an expressive, textured alloy of the designer’s myriad interest and inspirations, coming together to create a beautiful and tactile luxury experience. “It’s the first time I’ve designed an entire building. You can actually buy a 4 million-dollar Ryan Korban house - a big dream of mine to get that into place. When the 40 Bleecker showroom opened, 35 per cent of the units were already sold out based on pre-construction, so we’re really excited about the sales and people have just been responding really well.”
Conjointly, coming spring his furniture line in collaboration with EJ Victor - the same company that produces for Kelly Wearstler, Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade – will also be launched. “I’m very excited about it. It’s going to be about 35 pieces, things you’ve seen over the years in my projects, but done differently. We’re starting with case goods, bedroom furniture, sofa chairs, and occasional furniture. In the future we will also introduce lighting and each season we will add new product categories.
After all this, you can only imagine what the future will hold for Korban. “My dream is to keep doing what I’m doing – I was in the fashion space for so long and I’m really loving to be in this development space. I feel like I’m not done here, and I really like to do more. I honestly just want to keep going, do the sort of big things that I’m doing and have it go really well.”
PHOTOGRAPHER MARC HOM | WORDS BY REBECCA DONNISON