Interview with Black Business Owner- Interior Designer Vicki Noli
By Sharon Oliver, Founder and Lead Designer of Sharon Oliver Interior Design
Vicki Noli is a military veteran turned interior designer who served in the army for over 6 years. She was born to Peruvian and African American parents. Although, she has served and worked overseas for several years, she is a Bronx Native and currently resides in the Bronx with her spouse. She attended the New York School of Interior Design in 2016, where she studied Basic interior design before deciding to branch out to start her very own black female owned interior design business called LivZen Interiors by V. Apart from starting her own business, she has worked for the New York City School Construction Authority, where she furnished newly constructed NYC public schools and now works as a project manager for EvensonBest, a furniture dealer corporation. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Ms. Noli, as we pick her brain and get to know the woman behind the company.
Is interior design your first career post military?
I wish it was, but no. It wasn’t until just 2 years ago when I tapped into this hidden talent of mine. Post military, I was a government contractor, where I helped reconstruct Iraq during the war from 2004-2008. I played a role in Iraq’s infrastructure; the re-build of clinics, schools, prisons, and railroads. When I returned stateside, I was consulting for Con Edison as a Project Analyst, all while completing my degree in Criminal Justice. Far-fetched I know, but believe it or not, at one point in life, I aspired to become a Homicide Detective….so I thought! But God had other plans for me.
After you left the military, out of all the careers you could have chosen, what made you choose interior design?
My Con Ed project ended after 4 and a half years. I applied to multiple jobs and it just wasn’t panning out for me; no call backs, no interviews…which was rather strange, because I never had this type of issue finding work. But as I have mentioned before, God had other plans for me. I felt something wasn’t right and then one day it just clicked. My friends and family always told me over the years that I had an “eye for design.” I always brushed it off, and my response each time was “it’s just a hobby”. Honestly, I never viewed it as a serious career. Others took notice of my talent and sadly so, but also a blessing, it took for me to be unemployed for a lengthy period to realize what I was truly destined to be in life….an interior designer…yes, THAT hobby [she laughs].
What does interior design mean to you? What makes a great design “GREAT”?
Interior design means bringing emotion, harmonious balance, and life to people’s abode. Bringing one’s vision to life if you will. Most of the time, clients do not have a clue as to what they want so they seek interior designers to unveil that.
And in terms of what makes a great design “great”…what comes to mind is blending various elements within a space that compliments each other so well, you get that wow factor. I can talk about aesthetics all day, but what truly makes a design great is the emotion you feel when you walk into a space. Anything can look good, but what about the energy it evokes. That’s the reason behind the name of my business LivZen Interiors and my slogan “…beyond aesthetics.” I always want my clients to feel tranquil and comfortable in their home apart from looking good aesthetically.
What is the single most important aspect of a design that people often overlook?
Emotion! Contrary to what most people think, it’s not just about aesthetics. I mean really, what’s aesthetics without emotion?
What was it like doing your first home renovation? What did you like the most about that project? What did you like the least? What were your biggest challenges?
What I loved the most was my client’s reaction once the project was complete. That was the most gratifying part of the entire project. What I didn’t like was the length of time it took to complete….due to unforeseen circumstance, building restrictions, regulations; etc. That particular project took 22 months to complete and a great deal of patience. One of the biggest challenges was trying to accommodate my client during the lengthy process of construction, all while still providing him reassurance and finding ways to meet his needs and of course keep him at ease and happy.
Do you feel like your experience launching a female black owned interior design company is any different from if it was started by a male or someone of another race? Were there any challenges you ran into because of it?
I feel when you are your true self, when you are honest and exert a high level of efficacy, people respect and value that. It doesn’t matter if you are a black owned business owner or not. I cater to my clients’ needs while also exercising veracity. I treat people the way I would want to be treated and when you give excellent client service, they see just that. Now I may be giving too much credit here [she chuckles], but my experience thus far has been great.
What makes your company stand out amongst the others? What is your signature style?
My signature style is zen-like warm modern masculinity. I enjoy designing masculine spaces. You don’t find too many female designers that gravitate to masculine-like appeal [she chuckles] Of course I am referring to homes and not people. I can recall during an initial consultation with a male client and one of the first things he said was: “I don’t want the place to look girly….” [she chuckles again]. I guess he didn’t do his homework when he hired me, but I knew he made the right choice.
Apart from that, I truly listen to my clients and make every effort to deliver excellent results and keep them happy even when things go wrong…..and in this business, especially when a reno is involved, oy vey!!
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
I’ve always been a fan of ‘Restoration Hardware.’ So I would have to say that I draw my inspirations from their design team. They thrive on clean modern appeal, but their pieces also exude warmth. I absolutely love minimalist designs.
What do you see for LivZen Interiors in the next 5-10 years?
As of now, I see myself picking up a client or 2 every year. And I say that now because I currently have a full time job. But I do see my company evolving into a full blown business upon my retirement. It’s a bit premature to tell at this point honestly, but I know I will get what I put in.
Confucius had a quote, among many, that always stood out to me. “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”…And that to me is called following your passion. Another one I love is: “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.” And believe me, I don’t plan on stopping.
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