Jae Joo is the principal designer behind the Tribeca, New York-based firm, Jae Joo Designs. We’ve been coveting her iconic Brooklyn brownstone for years, so we’re thrilled to finally sit down and chat with her today! Jae has a knack for vintage and a solid ability to mix the old with the new to create incredibly chic and timeless designs you’ll instantly adore.
Read on to learn more about Jae’s journey from moving to the states at 16 years old from Korea, starting her design firm, how travel and her phone serve as the basis of her inspiration, and the best advice she’s ever received. Scroll through to see some of the stunning work she’s created, and don’t forget to follow her on INSTAGRAM for endless inspiration!
From opera to fashion to interiors, you’ve had quite the journey! Tell us all about your journey that led you to where you are now.
I moved to NYC from Korea in my teen years to pursue my goal of becoming an opera singer. I’d spent most of my teen years in a conservatory all the way through college, so after graduation, I knew I was ready for something entirely different. I’ve had a few different jobs including being a stylist and a translator, and though I realized these weren’t forever positions for me, both were very social and made me realize I really love working with people. After my husband and I got married, we bought a 100 + year old place in Brooklyn and worked on it one room at a time. It was definitely a labor of love. I learned a lot from this experience including my love and obsession for designing a home.
I started working on smaller projects for clients and realized the more work I did, the faster I learned, so I was working all the time. I met many wonderful people in the industry who I could turn to and ask questions, which helped me learn a lot. It’s been six years since I started my studio and my obsession still stands to this day. I am just as excited about these projects as when I first started, especially now that we get to work on some pretty amazing homes from all over the world.
How would you describe your design ethos?
I believe in livable, timeless design that is fun to look at. Although each project is its own vision, I strive to create a dynamic design that is well-balanced with a hint of refined drama. I usually stay away from trends or creating anything overly precious.
How do you create interiors that are both timeless and unique?
I think about what kind of feeling we want to create in the space instead of putting a style to it. I believe it helps me explore further without limitations and keeps the project open to many possibilities. Once the renovation is done and the major pieces are in, I like to take time and find the one-of-a-kind items that can make the space special. I am a big believer in mixing, blending the old and new, and playing with scale.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I think most often inspiration for me is something spontaneous whether it comes from scrolling through my phone or visiting new places. My phone is always filled with random photos and screenshots that inevitably become a reference point, but my favorite type of inspiration comes from unexpected moments in my everyday life. These might include architectural details I come across while walking around, taking a pic of someone’s pantry layout from a house party, or random color combinations I stumble across here and there.
What’s one thing that you think people get wrong about interior design?
Interior design takes a lot more time and detailed planning than some might think. In every project, there’s a moment where I am stressing over options for a robe hook or a knob somewhere. I know it seems minuscule but in the end, it’s always the well-thought-out details that make the space feel so special.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, either personally or professionally?
Stay true to your idea.
Do you have a daily ritual that gets you through the day?
I like to make breakfast every morning with my husband and 2 dogs in the kitchen. I make something super simple, and he makes coffee or gets them from a coffee shop next to us. It’s easy and quick but sets up a good mood for the day.
What’s next for Jae Joo?
I have a few exciting projects wrapping up this year. The covid delays have put a significant pause on a bunch of our projects but we finally are near the finish line and excited to share them. I am also wrapping up our own home renovation we’ve been working on for a year. I have been sharing bits of it on my Instagram and I cannot wait to move in this week!