In 2020, aged 30, he launched his eponymous design studio, having already built a stellar celebrity client base, and he has offered his expert interior design tips to H&G for some time.  In 2021 he co-founded The Expert (opens in new tab) with digital entrepreneur and friend Leo Seigal (above, right). The industry-first platform creates connections for one-to-one online consultations with over 130 respected interior designers in the US and UK as well as Copenhagen, Stockholm, Australia, and Canada.  In April 2022, Jake designed his first collaborative home collection with Parachute (opens in new tab) (see above), and in June he launched The Expert Vintage (opens in new tab) (see below) – an e-commerce arm to the website, featuring Jake’s handpicked capsule collection of lighting and Mid-century vintage furniture, refurbished and reupholstered by trusted LA-based craftspeople. With a team of 11, Jake Arnold (opens in new tab)’s studio works on both residential and commercial projects and these have included properties from Florida to New York City and Los Angeles. Here we consider his style aesthetic, his journey into design and his future aspirations.

Immersion in comfort

Working in a primarily neutral palette, Jake’s approach to interiors marries ambience and sensuality with warm yet pared back decor. His rooms give textures center stage to create immersive spaces that cosset those who live in them. You can see a wonderful example of his work in this Spanish revival house we recently featured. ‘My philosophy has always been to make spaces that improve and enhance life for anyone who starts and ends their day in them. When you are immersed in a space it must be somewhere that allows you to feel good, to feel well,’ Jake says. ‘Every project is to be started from zero and contextually thought through in terms of the architecture and what the client wants, but the through line for all of them is that philosophy of comfort. What that means in tangible form is using materials that have that rich, deep, layered feel but that also contradict each other, so I’ll put something that’s very raw and almost unrefined – like a reclaimed limestone floor next to a super-plush, luxurious mohair fabric.’

Contrast and contradiction

‘Playing up and down those moments and mixing materials that don’t typically go together underscores everything we do,’ Jake continues. ‘I’ve said this many times but it’s like wearing blue jeans with a silk or velvet shirt. The two things don’t emote the same response but together they just work because there is an effortlessness in pairing something super refined with something that is very casual.  ‘I’ll never go too far in either direction – a room will never be too rustic but it will also never be too polished; it’s about finding that balance. This starts with the material choices for all of the finishes. For me so much is about the foundational pieces: flooring, walls, ceiling, lighting, drapery. These set the stage for a successful space; furniture can really only do so much.’

An experiential approach

When asked if there is anything in his skill set that magnifies this approach, Jake says ‘I’m a very big picture person. I don’t get wrapped up in the weeds of things. Even though the detail is in the design, of course, it’s also being able to take a step back all the time and read the room as a whole; so I’m always thinking in terms of composition, the way you are entering the space, and – most important to me – how you are actually experiencing, in a layered format, moving through that space.’

Journey into design

This marriage of contradictions and an almost spiritual approach to interior style, in many ways mirror Jake Arnold’s own design journey. To have achieved so much in little more than a decade he has had to draw on business acumen and creative flair; hustle and self-belief.  And although he was always innately drawn to design, he is not formally trained. Jake explains that in his youth, ‘I saw so much stigma around design and thought this is not a career that is seen as a serious job. So I went to study business and economics.’  He enrolled on an Honors degree in Management studies at Nottingham University in Britain, but after the freedom of a gap year, felt suffocated by his surroundings. ‘I suffered from really bad depression; it was not where I wanted to be.’  The experience sparked a significant shift in perspective, and whilst visualizing the life he wanted to pursue he felt a kind of ‘spiritual awakening’. ‘It had such clarity for me and gave me this sense of freedom from fear that I felt I could do anything,’ says Jake. ‘It was an amazing period of time that I’ll never forget and somehow gave me the foresight or ability to accept that there were other things out there for me.’ He secured an internship with interior design business Woodson & Rumerfield’s House of Design (opens in new tab) in LA during the summer of his second year at university. This proved to be both a spur and an epiphany. In LA he found optimism, a sense of opportunity and support from like minds. Once his degree was complete, he moved across the Atlantic in 2012 and began to build his career with a series of roles including work with Estee Stanley (opens in new tab) and 4C Design Group (opens in new tab). ‘I learnt absolutely everything on the job; it’s been a big journey and I’ve learnt the hard way but being thrown into the deep end at the start of my career definitely made me realize that you don’t need a formal education: it requires passion, dedication and the curiosity to always learn: you can “study” design but you either have it in you or you don’t.’  He goes on to say: ‘I think you can be taught layout, practicality and palette but the styling and the last 10% of a project is such a trial and error and it is that which takes a room from something that is good to great. It’s a touch that is purely instinctive.’

North Star Mission

Jake readily describes himself as a businessman and a ‘service provider’ but in our interview it is his sensitivity of character and a need for a bigger purpose that come to the fore. ‘I am a business owner first before I am a designer. Business comes first because the creative can get swooped into anything,’ he says. ‘But for me, there’s a bigger purpose and goal attached to doing what I do every day. I’ve only had that privilege in the last year to even think about what that is.’ His mission – which he describes as his North Star – is, in the broadest sense to ’empower people to create their homes as a deeper part of their life experiences’,  and to democratize design.  ‘I’ve realised my work doesn’t have to have just one linear path. It can cater for a small sector of high-end clients with truly custom projects but I can also give a part of myself to a democratization of design and push the industry closer to a more inclusive direction.’ Further to this aim,  he has recently enjoyed guiding aspiring creatives. ‘I’ve had amazing opportunities in the last year to be a mentor and motivational speaker –  if you will – both through The Expert and in-person set ups and, honestly, using my experience and knowledge to help others to follow their dreams fulfils me the most of everything I do.’

Future aspirations

Plans are afoot for the launch later this year of the next iteration of The Expert which will introduce a section called ‘Showroom’ which will showcase and sell buys recommended by professional designers, including from ‘trade only’ sources. The intention is to democratize accessibility beyond the traditional private client base. ‘My biggest dream is to do a hotel in a city – one that has an incredible spa and restaurant – because I really would love to create a public space that can be enjoyed by anyone and make it almost a destination.  ‘I have this fantasy of creating something that becomes more of an institution – taking my London upbringing as inspiration for the creation of things that last but with the playful, whimsical way of living that comes from California.’  He goes on to say: ‘It would be so much fun to give people an opportunity to experience what we create in private homes on a smaller scale. And it would also be about creating a platform for other people; creating a community-style business that is rich in relationships between people who all elevate each other, because that is how I’ve been able to get where I am, by meeting amazing people along the way.’