Designers Are Redefining the 'New York Cool' Trend Which Makes Homes So Sophisticated — Here's How

Equal parts grit and glamour, the Big Apple has its own brand of style. I talked to the city's tastemakers about mastering 'New York cool' at home. Here's how to achieve the coveted urban look

How to achieve the 'New York cool' look at home, according to experts.
(Image credit: Net-a-Porter; West Elm; Wayfair; Perigold; CB2; Ssense)

The essence of the 'New York Cool' looks is irreverence meeting abundant charm. We don’t fuss, and we effortlessly exude style. While I'm not a native New Yorker, my time here has taught me a thing or two about the city's interior aesthetic. It's a blend of sophisticated wit with an air of nonchalance, reminiscent of Paris but a little more personal, skewing higher on the side of eccentricity.

This is why a new interior design trend is emerging as we're seeing a new New York Cool look take over. “New York has its own cool,” says Ryan Matthew of Studio RM. It's a “melting pot of design styles with inspiration everywhere.” From hotels to subway stations, a stroll around the city offers more visual stimulation than any art book. Surprisingly, one of Ryan’s richest sources of interior design inspiration comes from the city’s restaurants, New York institutions such as the Odeon, Dante, and Balthazar. Details like ceiling tiles, industrial lighting, weathered burgundy leather, and the warm, dim light that floods our windows at night all contribute to the character of our apartments.

In New York, the key to cool is romanticization. The city can either be the ugliest thing you've ever seen or the most beautiful, depending on your perspective. So, before we delve into the details of New York cool, Ryan advises us to “fall in love with your space. Find the thing (or many things) that you love about your space, romanticize it — even if it's challenging — lean into romance and own your style.” New York cool isn’t about completely transforming your space or imitating someone else's style; it's about enhancing and reframing what already makes your space unique. With that sentimental note, let’s explore the subtle metropolitan touches from the best home decor stores that elevate our interiors.

Get the Look: New York Cool

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Bar Carts

Ryan hits the nail on the head when he quips, “New York homes are just big bar carts.” Indeed, we adore our barware, especially a sleek martini glass. When it comes to bar decor, Ryan advises, “Mix vintage and contemporary styles while owning your own personality nuances. Don't overthink it. Your space should look good, and be useful — and ready to entertain. Don't be a stickler for the rules,” he adds. Dare to step out of your comfort zone with quirky selections and don't shy away from mixing metals — New Yorkers are anything but conventional.


According to interior designer Alex Bass, textured walls and decor add that gritty urban edge we love. Think stucco, brick, and plaster techniques, which, if you lack these design elements, can easily be replicated with various types of wallpaper or paints. Pair tactile materials like boucle with handmade ceramics for a unique, perfectly imperfect touch.


“Seek out pieces that exude art deco elegance, rustic wooden tables or cabinets that stand the test of time, and anything with a ‘shabby chic’ vibe,” suggests Alex. Ryan recommends incorporating mid-century French-inspired decor and billowy fabrics — items that evoke the feeling of heirlooms, even if they're not. Remember, old doesn’t equate to dull; continue to opt for unexpected choices.

Set the Mood

“Candles and incense! Always! They help set the mood... every time.” Lighting is paramount — it ties the room together, creating that enchanting urban ambiance that captures the essence of the city. Take cues from New York with industrial lights featuring bold, almost harsh lines that ultimately cast a warm and inviting glow. If this sounds like a metaphor for New Yorkers, it's because they're cut from the same cloth.

Every New York interior has at least one stack of books. Check out our selection of the best interior design books to complement your newly New York-inspired space.

Style Editor

Formerly covering fashion at L’Officiel USA, style maven Julia Demer brings her love of design to Livingetc’s world of interiors. As the title’s Style Editor, Julia's work reflects a sharp eye for detail and an innate passion for aesthetics. Her journey began with a strong foundation in design, honing her craft at renowned establishments like The Row and even establishing her own eponymous fashion brand. Julia’s design background is evident in the way she thoughtfully curates shopping edits, always maintaining a focus on emerging trends while preserving timeless sensibilities. For Julia, fashion and interiors go hand in hand, reflecting her lifelong commitment to perfecting the art of style.