Spring is right around the corner, and there’s no better excuse than that to update your home. Home design has evolved significantly over the past few years. The best home furniture reflects your lifestyle, and it goes way beyond selecting a couch. Talk about disruption: home furniture and design haven’t evolved this dramatically since, arguably, the ’60s. Today’s modern home furnishings capture a whole new aesthetic. Which is why we’re talking about Arjé, a leader of lifestyle brands, and why we caught up with Arjé founder Bessie Afnaim Corral, who is at the forefront of the movement.
Galavante: What inspired you to start Arjé?
Bessie: Both Oliver and I worked together as a couple for almost eight years for Donna Karen’s private label, Urban Zen. During our time together, and before we had even met, we both had a dream to launch our own brand. And a side note: I had always wanted to launch a brand with my partner to be! It took us time to branch out on our own, and we were super clear with our vision and mission. But it was only after our wedding in Puglia in the summer of 2016 (after we’d left Urban Zen) that everything really fell into place.
Galavante: That’s amazing that you started Arjé with your now husband. You two really are the Dream Team.
Bessie: Well thank you. I think so too! We had a vision to create a full lifestyle brand. Our objective is to connect everything from menswear to women’s clothing to homeware and everything in between. We always said there’s no start and no end to anything we do. It’s a full circle and it’s all connected. We essentially wanted to create a brand that was a direct mirror of our life and lifestyle. A company where everything had a purpose to be, to exist and to connect with like-minded people from all around the world. And we are so fortunate to be doing just that through Arjé.
Galavante: To do what you love is a gift. From the moment I saw Arjé, I thought it channeled a very cosmopolitan aesthetic. What is your background?
Bessie: I grew up in London, but my family is Turkish. Oliver is Spanish; he’s born and raised in Madrid. So yes, our combined backgrounds have influenced so much of our taste, vision, and aesthetic.
Galavante: How would you describe Arjé today, and what you want to achieve with the brand?
Bessie: Arjé is a complete lifestyle brand. From home to wardrobe, we create, curate, and collaborate with likeminded brands to offer the most complete collection for your life. Our mission has always been to make you feel beautiful from the inside out. If it’s from wrapping yourself in one of our gorgeous shearling jackets or bringing warmth into your home with our curation of artwork and objects. Each piece exists to bring a smile and a sense of comfort into your life.
Galavante: In the new spring season, a lot of us are re-imagining our space. What are your four top tips for design?
Bessie: Let’s see if I can give you the cliff notes on this. Here goes:
- First, decide on a mood within your home – if this is a color palette, a texture, or a feeling. Commit to this mood and take it all the way from the kitchen to the bedroom to the living room. We call this the “red thread” that holds everything together. It makes it so much easier to shop and add pieces to your home that all feel harmonious – yet unique.
- Bring warmth to your home by playing with indirect light and putting a dimmer on every light switch. Really allow your home to evolve during the day and take on a different personality from morning to night and be intentional about this. You will fall more in love with your home as the day evolves and then starts again.
- Buy high and low — vintage and new. It’s important when designing a home to have a balance of something new plus something lived in. Beautiful design is achieved by playing with all the elements and creating that perfect balance.
- Reduce clutter. Find clever storage solutions that work over time and can help you keep your space organized. We really believe a house without clutter clears your mind. Don’t throw things behind a door; have a place for everything and be intentional with every purchase.
I know you said four, but this last point is important: Experiment with shades of color between rooms and spaces. We always suggest to move away from a standard white wall and experiment with limewash paint. Not only is this much better for you as it’s chemical-free, but it also creates so much depth and texture to your walls. This will bring in such a unique personality into each space. A limewash wall is an art piece in itself, and will play with light and shadow in such an interesting way.
Galavante: These are great tips. We already feel more serene. Like we said earlier, your aesthetic is unique, like it’s inspired by destinations around the world. How does travel inspire your brand?
Bessie: Travel has always been [part of] who we are as a couple — Oliver is from Spain, I grew up in London to Turkish parents, and we lived for 8-plus years between New York and Italy. We traveled extensively for pleasure and for work. Our lifestyle was always rooted in the duality of being a true city dweller with a Mediterranean soul. With each collection we create, we often used a place as a muse. And by doing so, we become a brand very known for two extreme weather climates. From shearling outerwear perfectly designed for a life between the city and the mountains, to linen shirts that take you from island living to summer in the city.
Galavante: Your clothing is beautiful and feels organic, whether it’s summer or winter. We’re saving up for a shearling coat; they are just dreamy. As a lifestyle brand with a strong home furnishings line, are there any hotels that have given you inspiration for your designs?
Bessie: More than hotels, I would say places inspire us so much. From the colors to the food to the architecture, the people, the language, the lifestyle, we become immersed in local culture when we travel. Everything can inspire us — from a loaf of bread in a local bakery to a heritage site. Travel really makes us feel home — and ties back so much to our brand that our tag line is “At Home in the World.”
Galavante: We think we can guess the answer to this, but do you prefer boutique or large-scale luxury hotels?
Bessie: We love staying in very local random spots and then more interesting unique places to really see two angles of any place.
Galavante: What specific countries inspire you?
Bessie: Puglia has inspired us so much with its original aesthetic. It was the first place we really felt at home in, and Masseria le Carrube is a very special property to us.
We are also inspired by Turkey. Sailing a gulet in Turkey allows you the chance to live on the water. This unique serenity always makes our minds wander. Our best ideas are usually created at sea. It’s also a plus that Oli is a sailor, so we get to sail a lot. Also, Mallorca stole our heart and we usually rent a very authentic villa when we are there.
Our dream and our bigger vision for Arjé would be to collaborate with a hotel to create the Arjé Hotel in both a city and destination island location.
Galavante: Now that’s something we would buy into in a heartbeat; your hotel and your lifestyle brand. Your aesthetic deserves a hotel to showcase your talents. What are your bucket list places to stay in the world?
Bessie: The list is very long. We adore following each of these places on Instagram, which makes us dream daily. A few on our list are:
- Amangiri Utah
- Sussurro in Mozambique
- CasasNaAreia in Comporta, Portugal
- Casa Bi’cu in Oaxaca, Mexico
- Scarabeo Camp In Marrakech, Morocco.
Our immediate desire is to travel to Tokyo, Sante Fe, Mexico City, and Costa Rica. We dream to find unique properties in all of these locations and work with local artisans for our Arjé Home collection.