How a fashion designer duo became home improvement experts

Like many of us trapped at home during quarantine, Oliver and Bessie Afnaim Corral, the co-founders of fashion label Arjé, decided to use their extra time to tackle a few DIY projects. In their case, it was an ambitious undertaking to remodel their 2,000-foot duplex apartment in New York without the help of any contractors except an electrician for the light fixtures. “We were watching YouTube videos and learning by doing,” says Corral. “I knew how to build a plaster wall, but we wanted to approach our house as an artistic project.” The result is a dramatic, light-filled space awash in soothing neutrals that now serves as a showroom for the brand’s expansion into interior design and furniture.

Creating living spaces is not completely foreign to the duo. Arjé, which is best known for its durable sheepskin jackets, had pop-up stores in New York and Los Angeles that were built to feel like home, with coffee and wine served while customers do their shopping. shopping and an open invitation to lie down on the furniture. So it was a natural extension for the couple to fully immerse themselves in interior design. “We had three successful years selling clothes, but we felt this desire to be a lifestyle in its own right,” says Afnaim Corral. The move from clothes to interiors may have always been part of a bigger plan for the couple, but that doesn’t mean they were completely without anxiety about the new direction. “When you have butterflies, you know you’re getting closer to your dream,” continues Afnaim Corral. “At the height of the pandemic, we looked at each other and said: we just have to do this. Our hearts knew something was missing. And so they took the leap.

First, the wall that separated their kitchen and dining room was knocked down and transformed into an arched opening, ideal for creating flow for guests when entertaining. Another impressive project Corral has done is the custom wall behind their dining table that required multiple trips to Home Depot for wood dowels cut to size and attached piece by piece. “Oli was able to do things, and I was the boring customer,” laughs Afnaim Corral.

Husband and wife designer duo Oliver Corral and Bessie Afnaim Corral.

As well as transforming the layout of their living space, the couple also designed five bespoke pieces of furniture – what they like to call the basic staples of any home – a coffee table, a dining table, a sofa, an armchair and an ottoman that are made to measure. -ordered and built in Rochester, New York. These last two articles are their greatest hits. “The chair and ottoman are our flagship products because interior designers and clients request and request them in custom fabrics,” says Afnaim Corral. There are plans to expand the range, with pieces that complement the existing design.

To complete their lifestyle concept, the two have ensured that everything from artwork to rugs to plates and even magazines and books from their home showroom are available at home. ‘purchase. “Oli curates most of what you see, so we really love and believe in everything. We work with artisans that we know personally,” she explains. “Everything is a closed loop of production done in small batches. Here you’ll find textiles co-designed with Nordic Knots, tableware by Japanese brand Kinto, handmade pitchers by Barcelona ceramist Marta Bonilla and surreal glassware by New Yorker Grace Whiteside. interested in seeing all of these pieces in person, private shopping appointments are available to tour their home, sit on the furniture, touch the decorative items, and most importantly, interact with the couple.

This level of thought and attention to detail informs their plans for the future. The duo don’t want to fall victim to the relentless and exhausting schedule that forces fashion designers to burn themselves out. “We are not rushing. We want to do less with the intention of lasting longer,” says Afnaim Corral. “As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.”

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