From NYC to South Florida, Karen Asprea Studio Uses Natural Materials to Design High-End Luxury Residences
Great interior design is contextual — it considers the surrounding landscape, whether that landscape is natural or architectural. Interior designer Karen Asprea has designed in excess of five and a half million square feet of residential and built mixed-use development in New York City, Long Island, Miami, Sarasota, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In 2021 Karen opened an office in Wynwood to take advantage of her opportunities in the South Florida market. She has a talent for creating elegant, tonal designs that feel timeless, and her success stems from understanding not only each project’s context but also the perspectives of everyone at the table.
While earning her BFA in interior design and art history at Pratt Institute, Asprea studied in Copenhagen, Sweden and Finland, an experience that had a profound impact on how she views design today. Early in her career, she worked for notable architect Costas Kondylis, designing interiors for large-scale residential developments. She went on to become the youngest partner and design director at a noted New York City architecture firm, where she built a multi-million dollar practice and impressive portfolio.
In late 2018, Karen started Karen Asprea Studio, based in a historic townhouse in New York’s Tribeca Design District.
She says, “I think that breaking away from a corporate model of design is really important. I want to be the person interfacing with my clients and setting the standard for the whole experience that they’re going to have.”
Karen leads a passionate team of six, who prides itself on taking on no more than 10 projects per year.
For Karen, the commercial projects offer a size and scale of expression that allows her to see the power of design on a grand level. Residential projects on the other hand speak to the transformational quality that a home can have on a family’s life. Karen relishes this responsibility in both areas. And she is grateful to have the ability to work with developers on their projects as well as their private homes.
As she works on residential projects, Asprea has the mindset of, “This is your home, this is your sanctuary, and it needs to feel that way.” When someone’s feet hit the floor in the morning, she wants them to feel comforted — and that feeling is just as important in development work as it is in a private home. She tells developers, that even though it’s a commercial building, it has to have a soul, and to Karen that soul stems from nature and leaves room for the possibility of evolution.
That focus on quality is evident in Asprea’s light-filled contemporary spaces, which often incorporate stone, wood, and metal in their designs. She says, “My design philosophy is to use natural materials almost exclusively, because they become more beautiful with time, as people touch them and use them. As we work with each client, we’re thinking about what the light will look like in the space throughout the day. If UV rays hit the materials we’re using, how will it change the color and texture?”
Taking On New Projects in New York City
A native New Yorker, Asprea started to build her career designing under Costas Kondylis in 2006, and has worked alongside other famed architects such as Beyer Blinder Belle, SOM and ODA to create gorgeous interiors for top-tier developers.
In 2022 alone, KAS is designing three one-of-a-kind luxury homes, several select developments, and two high-level commercial spaces in New York and South Florida, and the list continues to grow. She says “I was recently hired by Triton Construction to design their new headquarters on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan.”
Frank Reich, CEO of Triton, says, “We brought KAS on as the design team, because they appreciate the complexity of the building process and wanted a high-level design representative of our own construction standards.”
Honing her interior design skills in New York City instilled in Asprea the importance of using space efficiently. She says, “Any project that we are working on in the city, the number one thing we address is making sure the space has an efficient layout.”
She is heavily involved in the schematic phase of the process, even for large-scale projects. She says, “I will look at every floor plan for every plate of the building, and make sure that the furniture not only fits in the space, but is also functional in terms of my design vision.” For each unit, she and her team consider things like where the television would go, whether there’s room for a sofa a comfortable distance from the TV, and the placement of the bed. She says, “We make sure that the living spaces are comfortable, especially for what would be considered tight square footage.”
Expansion in South Florida
In 2021 Karen opened an office in Wynwood. Asprea is currently designing a high-end luxury condo building, Peninsula Sarasota, in Sarasota’s highly coveted Golden Gate Pointe neighborhood, and says, “The nicest thing about this project is that the interior spaces open up onto the exterior spaces all year round, so I’m designing for both the indoor and outdoor at the same time.” She offers the example of creating a beautiful monolithic floor that goes from the inside of the house to the outside of the house. She explains,
The space and the materials flow from inside to outside seamlessly, and there’s something really beautiful about that.
This project is being jointly developed by Joe Feinleib of Coastal Luxury Builders and Sam Gault, president of Gault Family Companies, who say, “Karen has been an excellent asset to the project and brings a fresh sense of design that is exciting for this market.”
As Asprea continues to take on new projects in both New York and Miami, she appreciates that having her own studio allows her to work collaboratively with top names in the industry. She says, “The more I collaborate, the more I expand my knowledge base as a designer. I’m constantly evolving, and I’m bringing that to my clients.”