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Q&A with Noz Nozawa

Q&A with Noz Nozawa

It's always a pleasure to work with San-Francisco-based interior designer Noz Nozawa. We’ve seen first-hand how she brings a fearless, imaginative, and personalized approach to her work, which has been recognized by Architectural Digest, Luxe, The Wall Street Journal, and many more. We’re happy to share this peek into Noz’s career with you, and for more, you may find this podcast to be a good listen...it's how we first got to know her!

Noz Nozawa, and the room Noz designed for the 2022 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse in Palm Beach, featuring our Bistro Table. (Photo by Christopher Stark).

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I started my business in 2014 so that I could do interior design. I career-switched from a medium-successful brand marketing career with no formal training or experience and also sucked at having a boss, so being hired somewhere else was not an option! Like lots of people, my first project was my home, and my first two paid projects were friends’ homes. I loved everything about what I was working on, but without much of a wealthy former professional network, I mostly had to build my client base from scratch. And thankfully I came into this industry when it was still reasonable to gain a following on Instagram and Houzz, so most of my early clients found me online, which meant I was building a clientele based on who was connecting to my past work which were only images of my favorite projects that represented the kind of work I wanted to do more of.

How did your childhood influence your design thinking?

In a lot of ways, it didn’t! I grew up in a lovely but unadorned house and wasn’t allowed to put anything on the walls. But I had Legos, which I used to make little houses, and I often got to thumb through home design books at the bookstore, and I loved drawing. So, I understood that home must be a medium through which a person could be creative. Then my favorite Saturday morning television show was “America’s Castles” – so despite my humble single-story Lego rectangle homes, I had access to some opulent inspiration!

How do you stay inspired?

I guess I ask a lot of questions and try to follow my own curiosity. I’m a big nerd and like to go deep into the rabbit hole about things. One night I stayed up to 4AM learning about different cephalopods and what defines animal intelligence. I don’t know how that may ever translate to interiors (although we do have an octopus mural in a client foyer!) but discovering another whole world of knowledge I don’t have is so exciting and so easy between the internet, books, and talking to people, that I almost never feel bored!

Two of Noz's commercial projects: Fiat Lux (photo by Aubrie Pick), and Hilda and Jesse (photo by Nicole Morrison).

What would your dream project be right now?

Funnily, I’m not alone in this dream, but it’s a boutique city hotel with a rad bar and restaurant that are destinations for locals and visitors alike! I’ve loved working on my restaurant and store projects because those projects allow me to create spaces that serve the public in ways my not-scale-able residential practice cannot. And I also LOVE being transported to a whole other experience when I stay in hotels that inspire me, so being able to design one myself will be a major career milestone.  

How do you see home design changing in the next few years? What has you most excited?

Artificial Intelligence is going to transform so many of the basic tasks and retail-centric digital design that the V 1.0 version of human-led e-design was trying to achieve—and I think that the many consumers whose needs will be happily met by AI interior design will inevitably put pressure on our industry to continue to innovate on what makes our work truly human and nuanced. I am both totally nervous and very excited about this inevitability, because there is huge opportunity in so many consumers who don’t even know interior design is a service, to be introduced to the machine-version much younger in their purchase life cycle; and then with more success, upgrade to a higher level of service, where a relationship and trust and being taken care of, matter. Right now is the time for us to figure out how to communicate our value in the context of actually decent robot competition and transform certain pockets of our standard services to meet the value expectations of the next generation of young clients. 


Getting to know Jacqueline Downs

Getting to know Jacqueline Downs

Jacqueline Downs is the owner of her eponymous design firm in Tampa, Florida, and also the founder of Jacqueline Downs Collective, a resource for artisan-made pieces for the home. We first met Jacqueline in the summer of 2021 when she visited Brooklyn while building a list of artisans and brands to represent in Florida, and it wasn’t long before we decided to participate in her new venture. Last spring, we sent her a custom 16-foot-long sofa that sits in the showroom, and Jacqueline’s team has been so kind to share our story with the firm’s clients and also designers throughout Florida. Here, we’re pleased to share a bit of her story.

Jacqueline Downs, and the 16-foot custom sofa we created for her Collective.Jacqueline Downs and the 16-foot custom sofa we created for her.

What made you want to start your own business?

My stepmother is an interior designer, so I grew up tagging along with her to source and install. My parents have always fostered my love for art and design even to this day. Originally, I started college in pursuit to be a fine arts painter, but switched my major to design two years in and I'm so glad I did! I worked for larger architectural firms after graduation, one in Atlanta and one in Tampa. Not long after the birth of my second daughter, I started my own firm—it started with a single residential project and snowballed from there!

What advice would you give to the next generation of female designers/business owners?

I think being a designer and being a business owner are two different roles and just because you're a good designer doesn't mean you should be a business owner. The design business is fast-paced, intricate, and complicated. For me, as a business owner, it's all about time management, boundaries, and being efficient with our time and workflow. As a designer my best piece of advice would be to travel as much as you can and experiment. Don't be afraid of failure and hone in on your signature style. Keep your side blinders on and do you; that is what will set you apart and what people will be drawn to! 

A range of artisanal pieces that Jacqueline has selected for the Collective, and the team at JDID.Artisans that are part of the Jacqueline Downs Collective include Wud, Thomas Hayes, and Gabriel Scott. Above right: Jacqueline's talented team.

From seeing all that are part of your Collective, we know you gravitate towards soul! Why do you think that’s important?

I believe true design has much more to do with how a space feels than how it looks. We pay attention to where materials are sourced, the light a certain window placement will bring and every other small detail that you might not realize has an enormous amount of thought and intention behind it. Our job is to be our client's storytellers and to make sure that when they walk in the door, their space supports their lifestyle and well-being. I think every piece and every person you bring into your home is sacred and brings with it/them an energy. I encourage my clients to know where their furnishings are coming from, who is making them and who they are supporting with their purchase(s). My goal with the JD Collective is that we can transition away from the throwaway culture and back to supporting sustainable, intentional and handmade goods.

Thanks, Jacqueline! It’s been a pleasure working with you and your team!