A peculiar dichotomy exists in the work of designer Harry Nuriev. His is a war between shameless opulence and strident restraint. As the founder of Crosby Studios, Nuriev excels in the creation of interiors that seem almost at odds with themselves: the brass of a modern sofa screams from the pale floor of a nearly empty living room, mint cushions announce themselves loudly from the white walls of a yoga studio. The rooms he creates can feel at once too much and not enough. The result is uncommonly beautiful, and harmony reigns in spite of itself.
Crosby Studios opened its doors in 2014, after Nuriev graduated from Moscow’s Architectural Institute. There, in his native Russia, he honed the aesthetic would establish him as a rising star in the design and architecture worlds. Nuriev’s work joins a wave of so-called “global minimism”; his own evoking Scandinavian and Bauhaus design while also incorporating his Russian heritage, and notable for its remarkable use of color. After two years in Moscow, Nuriev opened an additional outpost in New York.
Today, Nuriev’s clients span the globe. His projects alternate between residential and commercial, and include everything from an apartment in Paris to a tanning salon in Moscow. His rise has been sharp and swift. In a few short years, Nuriev has been featured in Vogue, collaborated with Nike, and hosted one of the most talked-about installations at last year’s DesignMiami. Expect more from him in the years to come.
Below, we hit the streets of Nolita with Nuriev and his partner Tyler Billinger to talk design language, gray as the new black, and seeking transparency in both life and design.
Former occupation and your most notable memory there:
My first job was when I was 15. I was a salesman at a fashion street market in my small Russian town.
Your first experience with design as a child:
I used to move all the furniture around my grandmother’s apartment, trying to find a nice balance, and I would bring flowers in from outside. I was always unhappy with the floor plan, and wanted to move walls, but I could only move chairs and smaller things because the rest was too heavy.
What did your parents do for work? Were they interested in design?
My father used to be a guitar player during the Soviet Union. After the end of the Soviet era, my father had to find a new career; he became a contractor in order to put food on the table. For most of my mother’s life, she stayed home raising me and my two sisters, but today she has her own career in graphic design and advertisement. My aunt was always super creative and is an interior designer. She inspired me a lot to explore that side of myself.
Describe your childhood living room in detail:
I grew up in a very small one-bedroom apartment. We didn’t have a lot of furniture because my family is very modest. I can say something we didn’t have that I missed a lot was a table. A table for me is a symbol of tradition, family, and happiness because it is the center of family conversations and memories. I always wished one day I would have a large dining room with a stunning table. That is actually probably why I started to design furniture.
Three words that come to mind when you think of typical Russian design:
Tacky, wood, memorable.
Three words that come to mind when you think of typical American design:
This isn’t three words, but: Elvis Presley diner vibes, Frank Sinatra Upper East Side, and Brooklyn DIY chic. I came to America to develop my own voice because I have a lot of things to say with my design language.
Most important thing you learned while studying at the Moscow Architectural Institute:
I learned traditional academic knowledge of art and design is crucial.
Honestly, I started my career in the middle of university because I badly need practice and couldn’t wait to start developing my own design language. So I guess I missed all the least important things because I was at work.
Color is a huge part of your designs. How painstaking a process is it to find the perfect shade?
It takes some work to find the right shade, but I love this process. It’s my favorite part. I know I can annoy my team and clients as I go back and forth between shades sometimes because I gravitate to so many different ones.
What color are you most interested in right now?
Grey and grass green. Grey is the new black and green is the new pink.
Any particular material you’re into?
I kind of want to explore glass right now. I guess I’m in a very transparent phase of my life. Nobody really uses glass in a cozy, non-commercial way right now.
Era of design you’re most interested in, if any:
I don’t want you to get me wrong, but I’m not really interested in any era of design. My goal is to create my own language and build my own reality. Sometimes I do look towards the Soviet Era because it’s the era I grew up in.
Aesthetic you’re currently tiring of:
I’m so over arches and pink color. The first time I used arches and pink was in 2014 and now it’s everywhere. It’s so annoying.
Aesthetic you’re hoping takes off:
It’s a secret, and I’m working on developing it right now.
Three things you always consider when designing a room:
The client’s heritage, my first impression of the space, and the window view—if the space has it.
How do you want people to feel when they walk into a space designed you?
I want people to have a new experience with everything, from sitting on a chair to holding a glass. I want to evoke a new feeling from people when they do things they are used to doing every day.
What should we expect from Crosby Studios in the future?
A hotel where everyone in the world can come and experience my design language, from the bathrobe to the gym and breakfast room. I want people to sleep, eat, and think in my place. Also, another very important thing I’m working on is developing my new brand, Reality, that my boyfriend and partner Tyler Billinger and I are working on together to bring our aesthetic and language to clothing.