F5: Alda Ly Revels in Reeded Glass, Icelandic Baths + More

03.15.24 | By
F5: Alda Ly Revels in Reeded Glass, Icelandic Baths + More

Alda Ly founded ALA Studio (formerly Alda Ly Architecture) in 2017, inspired to sit at the helm of her own practice after taking a leap of faith when The Wing – a then groundbreaking co-working platform – tapped her to design their East Coast and California locations. This project marked the start of the studio’s continued work with entrepreneurs and startups, as well as established organizations looking to rethink traditional retail, healthcare, office, and cultural spaces.

Ly’s story originates in New Zealand, where she was born before moving and being raised in a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, California. Watching her cabinetmaker father draw up plans and traveling with him to visit open houses, she became interested in how others shape their spaces. Ly attended UC Berkley as an undergrad before going on to earn a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design – but she was hooked on architecture from the moment she started studying freehand drawing. In 2008, while still a student at Harvard, she helped launch MASS Design Group, the award-winning nonprofit design practice dedicated to humanitarian and socially sustainable work.

Light-skinned woman with long dark hair wearing a button-down navy shirt smiling

Alda Ly \\\ Photo: Christine Han

Living in New York City since 2002, Ly has long nurtured a curiosity in the evolution of work and cultural spaces, as well as in leading project teams guided by empathy. This organically led to her co-founding the Designers Assembly, an organization supporting young architects who aspire to ethically and creatively exercise entrepreneurship. It’s clear how much Ly is committed to donating her time to those who also contribute acts of service within the architecture community.

ALA Studio’s projects have a wide range, but they all share the commonalities of minimal, playful design while seamlessly combining comfort, wellness, smart planning, and fresh interior concepts. The studio often gives form to services and business models that have few spatial precedents. To arrive at each unique project solution, ALA Studio begins with a discovery phase in which an organization’s founders, team members, and users share their experiences with that brand. The studio’s ethnographic research then becomes the basis for deciding upon programming, functionality, concepts, layouts, and finishes. Ly and her team take great pride in their collective abilities to listen and collaborate in a hands-on way with clients, helping them reach the ultimate goal of meeting every commission’s potential within set time constraints and budget.

The architecture and interior design studio is a noted thought leader in biophilic design and has been featured internationally. ALA’s long list of clients includes Bloomberg, Rent the Runway, Red Bull, Christian Louboutin, and the women’s healthcare platform Tia. ALA Studio is also a certified Minority and Woman-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) in New York City.

We’re happy to have Alda Ly join us for this week’s Friday Five!

Two women sitting at a table in a store.

Photo: Pippa Drummond \ Courtesy of HBF

1. Sketching on the iPad

Drawing with pencil on paper or trace was my first love as I got into architecture. These days, I still love sketching, and with an iPad, it’s more convenient given the pace and modes of our fast-paced and frequently remote work. With a paper-like film and an app that lets me layer on drawings, sketch fit plans, or trace over an existing room view, it feels effortless and fun – and it makes me feel like I’m back in my undergraduate studio days. Sharing and presenting also become a snap, so iPads are a standard issue for all ALA team members.

A lagoon in iceland at sunset.

Photo: Alda Ly

2. Icelandic Baths

While working on a restaurant project in Reykjavik, I had the chance to explore Iceland’s seemingly limitless supply of hot springs and geothermal pools. Bathing in the outdoors is a relaxing, blissful way to connect with the land and find inspiration. The natural beauty here is almost overwhelming.

Four grey fluted glasses

Photo: Courtesy of Ferm Living

3. Reeded Glass

I’m an unapologetic aficionado of reeded glass for all sorts of applications. I love running my fingers over the ridges. I love the mystery of the shapes on the other side. I love the different scales of ribbing that it can come in. It’s our studio’s go-to when we want to create privacy in a room while still bringing in light. The texture of real reeded glass is my favorite, but we’re never too proud to spec a ribbed film for our projects with tighter budgets. It works equally well in residential settings – even housewares and housewarming gifts! Did I mention I love reeded glass?

A person picking up cans of beer in a refrigerator.

Photo: Courtesy of TALEA Beer Co.

4. TALEA Beer

We’ve been lucky to work with TALEA Beer, New York’s only women-owned brewery. I’m usually a cocktail gal, and this is the only beer I truly enjoy. I love how they’ve recast beer as something that can be feminine and fun. It’s beer without frat-bro vibes, and it tastes amazing. With flavors like ‘Blackberry Mango Crush,’ they’ve really managed to stand out from the crowd. Their can designs, by the agency I Want Design, are just stunning.

A set of stoneware plates, bowls, and spoons on a table.

Photo: Courtesy of Heath Ceramics

5. Stoneware

That’s all we use. They’re heavy, solid, substantial, and nice to hold. I like my coffee in large, low mugs (in which my husband practices his latte art for me!). We received a set of Heath plates and bowls as a wedding gift from one of my early clients. We reluctantly trust our 3- and 5-year-olds to set the table with them, even though they’re way too heavy for their little hands, which makes setting the table exciting every time.


Work by Alda Ly + ALA Studio:

The interior of a veterinary office with light wood and a welcome desk.

JUNO Vet \\\ Photo: Britney Townsend

Juno Vet

ALA Studio reimagined the flagship location of Juno Vet, a veterinary practice in Toronto, Canada, creating a better clinic experience focused on care for pets, pet parents, and staff alike. The design concept elevates the vet clinic experience by prioritizing inclusion through the lenses of function, flow, form, and materiality, sending the message that humans and animals are equally considered.

A group of colorful stools in a room.

Bao \\\ Photo: Pippa Drummond


Informed by ALA’s ethos of inspired design-thinking and close attention to user experience, the Bao collection is designed for maximum comfort and usability. The first furniture collaboration between the API women-owned firm and HBF with a charming play on the Chinese word “bao” – a homonym for bun, bag, precious, and baby – this collection was conceived to bridge the gap between formal and informal, sedate and lively.

Two semi-circular shaped blue couches in a room with lots of windows.

Athena Club \\\ Photo: Reid Rolls

Athena Club

Athena Club’s new 2,300-square-foot Manhattan headquarters was designed by ALA Studio, which partnered closely with the self-care brand to translate their brand identity from paper to a welcoming space for working. Before approaching ALA Studio to fit out a new office space in Manhattan’s Flatiron District neighborhood, the Athena Club team had meticulously developed its own strong visual identity, which the studio used as inspiration to carefully curate mood boards and craft a custom approach to bring the visuals to life.

A restaurant with stools and a lavender bar.

TALEA West Village \\\ Photo: Brooke Holm

TALEA West Village

ALA Studio is also behind the third “taproom” for TALEA, the first female and veteran-owned production brewery in New York City. A cafe by day and a bar by night, TALEA’s West Village taproom is its first in Manhattan, with two locations already up and running in Brooklyn. The concept for this location is inspired by the history of the neighborhood and TALEA’s unique founding story of two women breaking ground in the overwhelmingly traditionally male-dominated industry of brewing. As such, the new taproom on Christopher Street reclaims the masculine identity of a West Village saloon to celebrate the voices of women and LGBTQ+ communities in the Village, all while serving Talea’s popular sour brews in an elevated, vibrant space.

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.