Any NYC real estate mogul will tell you—strong interior design can make or break a property. Therefore, a strong designer-developer relationship is essential for a powerful—and more importantly, marketable—finished product. No one is more aware of this than designers themselves, among them seasoned interior design coordinator Karen Asprea. With experience working in New York City’s most active interior design and architecture firms, Asprea prides herself on being immersed in all facets of the design process—making her one of the most sought-after interior designers in the tri-state. And, most recently, Asprea founded her own consulting firm specializing in the design process of residential projects, retail and commercial spaces: Karen Asprea Studio (KAS). We sat down with Asprea to discuss her new venture, as well as some of the most prominent considerations when it comes to interior design in the real estate marketplace.
What drove you to create your own interior design firm?
Although there were many reasons that drove me to start my own firm, wanting to offer more diverse services was probably the most consuming. I am focused on design of course, but am also expanding into different arenas such as owner representation and project management. Most of my clients are making an investment, whether it’s a renovation or new property, which can be difficult to navigate and execute. My goal is to coordinate and manage the process in its entirety as well as problem solve ahead of the curve. With this kind of focused attention, I’m able to deliver a high quality, finished product.
What advice would you give to other designers who want to strike out on their own?
There are many creative and wonderfully talented designers out there who will try to start their own firm believing that success is an inevitable outcome of being talented—but sadly, this just isn’t true. Any designer looking to start their own firm should have a solid understanding of how the business side of this industry works. Finding a mentor or career coach who has more experience is the best way to keep yourself in the know.
What residential interior design trends dominated 2018, and which of these do you foresee persisting in the new year?
Last year we saw a surge of exposed lighting, rose gold accents, velvet upholstery and softer lines in everyday furniture. Overall in 2018 residential design became more inclusive of color and less fearful of stronger accents. I think colored and mixed metals are here to stay. Although my personal aesthetic is comprised of rich muted palettes, I think we’ll see bolder colors being used in 2019, as is evident with the Pantone color of the year.
For more information, please visit www.karenasprea.com.
Your expertise ranges from commercial to residential properties. How did you diversify your expertise, and why do you think these experiences are imperative for the modern designer?
Initially, and luckily, I had a residential client who also owned commercial property and entrusted the design and coordination to me (under my previous firm) as we had developed a good relationship. I am currently designing and managing the renovation for two commercial spaces and enjoy it as much as residential. I cannot stress enough how important it is to diversify your portfolio and knowledge base—as the market changes, so will the needs of your clients.
When approaching a new project, where do you draw your inspiration?
Every project is different and every need is different, so there is no one formula I use to draw inspiration. Examining the needs of the project from the perspective of the owner is where I usually begin my internal dialogue. I also like to hear from my clients about what spaces have inspired them, so that I can develop a tailored concept to fit their project.
How important is an aesthetically pleasing lobby when marketing residential properties?
The lobby is the first impression. This is a key space that sets the stage for the entirety of the experience. If a potential buyer doesn’t feel comfortable in the lobby of a building, chances are they will look elsewhere. In my opinion, functionality should drive design decisions when it comes to lobby spaces, as you can easily create a space that becomes piled over with Amazon boxes if reception necessities are overlooked. That being said, I can go on for quite a bit about this, so I’ll stop myself there.
Overall how does strong interior design add value to a property?
Adding value to a space or building with good design creates something desirable and therefore marketable, especially with social media being so heavily relied on. Strong design is not only about the aesthetics—for me, this is also about the execution and process. Project management is an integral part of my role, which holds its own tremendous value and provides a high level of quality control. To the benefit of the client, and also myself, the end result should be Instagram worthy.