Nadia Yaron + Ry Scruggs  I  Designers  |  nightwood nyc

"When we first started, I think the most important thing for us is that we just did it. We didn't have a plan. We didn't have this whole thing funded up front, we just made a lot of work. And so I don't know what the advice would be for someone who isn't producing something, but for us that was it...just make stuff….just do it and do it." 

Where did you grow up?

Nadia: I was born in Brazil, and I grew up on Long Island. We moved to Long Island when I was six. And I have been living in Brooklyn for about 16 years now.

Ry: I grew up in Missouri. In the Midwest. Heartland.

 

Describe that place and its people…

Nadia: Brazil...I don’t remember too much, I mean, we went back a lot because my relatives were there. I just remember it having a totally different vibe from here because it was really laid back and people were friendly and warm and just enjoyed life a little more. And, I don’t know, Long Island is Long Island. I grew up in the suburban part of Long Island, so it wasn't like I grew up in the fancy parts. But the thing I like about Long Island is the beaches. I enjoyed it. I had a good childhood out there.

Ry: I got a lot of good things out of growing up in the midwest. A lot of things that I think are good qualities, like I got my work ethic from there, and I feel like I’m super trustworthy in the way that midwesterners are. There are qualities like that that I think are really great about the midwest.

 

What were you like as a child? What did you want to do when you grew up?

Nadia: I remember like in 3rd grand we had to make books about what we wanted to be….and every page of my book was that I wanted to be something different. So, I wanted to be a psychologist and I wanted to be a veterinarian and I wanted to be a ballerina -- I was all over the place, which I still am. I just have always had my hands in different pots. That’s why I think having a business has been really good for me, because I can kind of do all of those different things at once.

 

When did you first leave home? Where did you go?

Nadia: I think I was 19. I came to Brooklyn, and I went to Hunter College. Me and my sister moved in together on Smith Street, and she was going to NYU. That was the beginning.

Ry: I left home when I was 16, and I stayed in Kansas City for maybe a year and a half and then I moved to Denver. I had just met somebody who I was dating, and I was always adventurous - I’ll go anywhere, and at that point I was totally fearless. I didn’t even really think about it much. It was just like, “Yes, of course I am moving to Colorado. Why would I stay?” Which is not the case for a lot of people who grew up in the midwest, but I always felt that way. I was always like, “Get me out of here, please.” And then I moved to NYC in 1998 - I was 24.

Why Brooklyn? Was there a particular reason you wanted to come here?

Nadia: I think me and my sister both knew that we wanted to do Brooklyn. It took us a while to find an apartment, and I think our parents didn't want us going anywhere shady….so, my dad was like, “Smith Street, this is good.” So we ended up there. But even Smith Street...We moved there a long time ago so it was before all that stuff happened. Restaurants had just started opening up there so it was a good place to be at that time, I think.

 

And you have been here ever since?

Ry: We moved away for 10 months. We moved to LA. It was a big change, and I think that’s why we did it. We needed a change. I didn’t want to go to another city that was trying to be a smaller NYC, and I feel like LA is the most different big city.

Nadia: And her best friend was living there, and my sister had moved there, so we knew people. We kind of drove cross-country and said, “If we like LA, we should just kind of stay...or if we see anything on the way….” We were open. So we stayed in LA and we didn’t like it and we escaped. It brought us back here. It made us appreciate NYC so much more. Now we live in Clinton Hill, and we have been here for a long time. I love Clinton Hill.

 

What do you think it is about New York and Brooklyn that you love so much?

Ry: I love the fact that it feels like the best of the best are here. So it is challenging to me, and I need that stimulation. I also just love the seasons, the architecture, the way it looks...I love New England and New England feeling stuff. I have always loved cities. This city is a bit much, and I don't love hanging out in the city-city, but I love being in Brooklyn. And I love being in a nice quiet part of Brooklyn. Yeah, I love it here. I probably love it more than she does. I am probably the reason we are here.

Nadia:  No, I love the energy here. And I love that there is so much happening, but I miss nature. So that is the only thing….

 

Do you guys feel that there is a strong community among makers here?

Ry:  I think that there is. We haven't always been a part of it, but I think we are starting to be more so now. We have kind of established ourselves in a way, and now it feels like we have more freedom to link up with other people and reach out to other people and use our foundation to open doors for us and other people too. It works to our benefit. Now there is more of an exchange.

Do you have any formal art or design training?

Ry: Not formal. I kind of wandered and floundered and worked in the service industry for most of my 20’s and just kind of very randomly felt my way into this - and did not suspect it at all. I did art when I was young, but I never thought that I would make that into a career. And I also didn't really feel passionately about it. I mean, I kind of always in my head thought, “Oh, I want to build a house” or maybe I said I wanted to be an architect, things like that, but it’s still sort of a crapshoot how I ended up here. I worked for an artist for a few years. I think Nadia has taken classes on how to refinish things, and I worked with some people as a freelancer doing a lot of things with my hands, so I kind of learned informally in that way. But no, we kind of taught ourselves everything. And we taught ourselves a lot on the job. 

 

What was your first experience getting into doing what you do now?

Nadia: Probably decorating our apartment. When we first moved in together, we moved into a brownstone with 4 other girls, but we had our own room. It was in Clinton Hill and we were super excited about it. It was beautiful. We decorated our bedroom together, and that was exciting. We gave it this island-y kind of vibe.

Ry: But, Victorian. {laughs}

Nadia: And then when we moved to LA, one of our few saving graces was going to the flea or finding stuff on the street and just decorating our apartment - our tiny little bungalow. The fleas there are amazing. When we moved back here, we got another brownstone apartment and that was ultimately inspiring for us. We started finding furniture on the street, taking it apart, deconstructing and reconstructing. That’s how we learned how to build stuff.

Ry: I mean, I feel like LA was responsible for a lot of inspiration. It inspired us. It was a catalyst.

Nadia: And we didn't know until we got here. But it was important. It was an important step.  And then a friend told us about this guy that was starting the Brooklyn Flea, and we were like, “Cool…” So we made a couple things for the flea, just for fun, but we never thought it would be anything. People just started placing orders for stuff and buying stuff, so it just happened like that.

 

What were you guys doing before this?

Ry: At that point I wasn't really working in the service industry anymore. I was doing more freelance jobs. I was working for two artists and house painting on the side. Random things like that. I had a moment in my head where I thought,  “I have been working with my hands for like 4 years,” and I never thought I would be. It never was a thing I felt drawn to until I had already been doing it, and I realized that I am good at it too. That was kind of a revelation.

Nadia: I was doing a lot of different things. I went to school for women’s studies. When I graduated, I got a job working for a council member on the women’s issues committee. Plus, I was also a manicurist. {laughs} It’s a long story, I’m not sure you want me to go there. I went to nail school on Long Island after high school. I used to do nail art on my friends nails. We were punks...I would do flames and crazy shit. And then for some reason I decided to go to nail school. It was the 90’s when nails were big - everyone had those crazy hooked acrylic nails...so I did that for people. I don’t know, I enjoyed it. So, that kind of got me through college. Then there was the women’s issues stuff.

Ry: She was still doing both of those things when I met her. When we were 24...and that was ….. a long time ago.

How did you guys meet?

Nadia: We met at a club in Williamsburg.


Did  you guys start creating together right away? 

Ry: We actually started playing music together. We had a band.

 

What was the name of the band?

Ry: We actually never got that far. It was a point of contention in the band, we could never name ourselves. We could also never decide what kind of music we wanted to play.

Nadia: We were all over the place. We also got drunk every time we played...so we couldn’t remember what we played the last time. {laughs}

Ry: We had one show before we broke up.

 

What did you play?

Nadia: She played the drums, I played the base. It was pretty amazing.

Ry: You can see the drums over there...collecting dust. We try to take them out occasionally and play.

 

How did you guys come up with the name Nightwood?

Nadia: Well, it’s a book. It is one of the first recognized lesbian novels. It is a lesbian novel that was actually published under her own name instead of an alias, and that was in the 30s.

Ry: It was a romantic/tragic/mysterious tale of doomed love in France in the 1930s. And it kind of set a tone….we both read it at the time that we named our business.

Nadia: But then we also thought it was literal because we would actually go looking for wood at night.

Ry: We were always looking for wood on trash night. This was before bed bug scares. People threw away such good stuff back then.

Nadia: We knew when garbage nights were and we would get our little cart and walk around. Because it was a lot of old brownstones in our neighborhood there was a lot of old art deco furniture and stuff that is just solid wood.

How would you guys describe your style/aesthetic?

Ry: It changes.

Nadia: I like to hear people fill in the blanks, you know? I like to hear their interpretation, but I think it is definitely rustic but I don't think it is a stereotypical rustic kind of feeling. Sometimes I add the word modern to it, but I don't think that that fits.

Ry: I find that when we compare it to other peoples work, or even furniture makers or textiles, our work feels kind of airy in a way even though it is very solid - in terms of it being a lot of wood. I also think that since we love old stuff, we kind of don't ever want it to feel polished or new in that sense. So raw is definitely what we value.

Nadia: We also love wood, the natural quality of it, so we don't want to polish it up. We kind of celebrate the natural qualities of it.

Ry: Those are the parts that stay the same and dont necessarily, or haven't at least yet, change through the years that we have been doing this. So I don't see us ever going away from natural materials, or getting super modern or space-agey.

Nadia: Well, space-agey would be good. {laughs} We go through phases. Twice a year we kind of get inspired by something - right now it is art deco stuff, rounded corners. We go in that direction but we still try to keep it raw and primitive looking and a little bit futuristic looking right now.

Ry: We tell ourselves the story behind it, and I don't necessarily think it always comes out looking that way...

 

Do you think where you guys are from or where you are now has influenced your designs?

Ry: Maybe, I try to keep the influence, for myself, kind of insular. I want it to come from a place that is purely me. While I probably do take inspiration from my surroundings, I feel like I wouldn't know unless I took myself out of these surroundings if it would change. I am not sure….I mean someone came to our showroom the other day and said “oh, that is so brooklyn…” And I probably can't help myself since that’s where we are.

Nadia: I don't think that where I came from inspired my pieces because when a lot of people see my stuff they think it is Sante Fe inspired. And I have never spent time there. So I don't know if that is just coming out of me from another time...I don't know.

Ry: And, I in fact, hate the southwest. Not that I hate the aesthetic and stuff, but just tie me up and torture me if you want me to go there. I cant breathe.

 

Do you generally sketch out your ideas first?

Nadia: When we first started we never sketched anything, it literally just came out of us. Also, because we needed to make things so quickly.

Ry: But now I find that it is one of my favorite parts of the process. So I kind of do it even though I don't necessarily have to and it results in a better result. I just said the other day, “I feel like I identify less with being a maker and more with being a designer now. And when I started I felt like I needed to make things to have the background to design.” So now it is more about the designing process for me, and that is probably why I draw things out more now.

Nadia: I definitely draw things out more now too. I try to make a habit of doing. If I am having lunch or something I kind make sketches and then go back on them later. It is also more to challenge myself because it is easier for me if I am just making something, and I kind of had an idea of what I wanted it to look like. Then if it didn't go in that direction, I can say, “Oh that’s fine…” Now I am trying to stick to my sketch and challenge myself.

 

Do you have any favorite designers or makers that we should check out?

Ry: I should really work on getting some.

Nadia: We are inspired by old stuff that doesn't usually have a designer attached to them.

Ry: I should probably be more aware of what’s happening out there, but I don't necessarily enjoy it when I see designs that are highly reminiscent of my own, so I don't want to return the favor, you know what I mean? I try to keep my head down and do what I want to do. Which does not mean that there isn’t a lot of work out there that I enjoy, I just don't think I stop to take the time to identify the designer and study it to the point where I have a favorite designer.

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Can you tell us a bit about the interior design work you do?

Nadia: It’s our favorite part. We get to do everything. We get to make stuff in the space, we get to design the space, and I like working with clients and helping them to achieve what they want.

Ry: We also think it exercises our life coach skills.

Nadia: When we retire we are going to be life coaches.

Ry: Because it becomes very intimate when you are working in peoples homes. When you see them regularly and you really learn about them and see how they function in their home.

 

Is it a very emotional process for your clients to let you in like that?

Nadia: Yeah, sometimes they are going through changes - divorced or they just lost somebody or they're newly single and they're starting over.

 

Are they very receptive to the changes you suggest?

Ry: I find that they, if you had to pick one or the other, they're usually more open because I think we arent your run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter designers. So if they are coming to us, they're already on the open end of things.

Nadia: The compromise is often more between the couples themselves. They have different styles, and they have to really work with each other on that.

 

Why the switch from retail to the showroom?

Nadia: Well we were in a store in Williamsburg prior to this, and in April we moved out because we decided that we just didn't want to do retail anymore. It was another hat to wear, and we were either going to put more money and energy into being a retail store or we were not. So we decided not to. Also, because the store was my studio in the back - it was a lot for me having to try to work in the back and be at the store at the same time. Even though we had people working up front, it was still hard.

What is your favorite part about being business owners?

Ry: The freedom. Being our own boss. I was never really good at working for other people so that really is the best part. And I think being able to satisfy and quench all of your desires to do different things because there are so many different facets to it. You get to control it.

 

What are the biggest challenges?

Ry: That it’s super hard - not getting that regular paycheck from somebody else that pays the bills.

Nadia: I would also say the same thing...that you have to do everything and be good at it. It is 24 hours a day.

 

How has it been working together, having your business together and living together? Is that hard?

Nadia: It’s definitely rewarding. In the beginning, we both worked in this space together and that was definitely the hardest for us, because we were literally together all the time. And we are both really controlling and like to do our own things, so we would fight a lot in that time period.

Ry: But now we have been living together in this capacity for longer than we were not, so it is our reality. I don’t know what our life would look like if we did not work together. We are pretty used to it, and I think we manage it really well. But we do spend a lot of time apart too...we do work separately. That’s a really big thing.

 

Do you have defined lines as far as who does what?

Ry: I don't think one of us is more business oriented. There are certain aspects of the business that Nadia is better at than I am. LIke Nadia does research if we need a lawyer...establishing the business. I do more stuff about actual accounting...a lot of different things.

Nadia: She does the math stuff. She’s good at math, I am not. I will do the other stuff, I don't enjoy it, but I have to pull my share.

Ry: Communicating with clients I maybe do a little bit more. We basically do different work, so I’m in charge of my work and she is in charge of her work. So that is how that goes.  But we split it up.

 

What does a typical day look like for you guys?

Nadia: It’s different everyday. A typical day in the studio is just going to our individual studios and making our stuff and going home. But, that’s an easy day. We usually have meetings in the morning…or have to get supplies, go on wood runs, get fabric, or meet with interior clients.

 

Do you have any rituals that prepare you for your day?

Nadia:  I meditate in the morning. It is really important to me. I have to make the time. I try to meditate in the morning and at night before i go to bed - it grounds me and lets everything out of my head. It sets a good intention for me for the day.

Ry: We usually get up early everyday. We are morning people.

Nadia: Yeah, we are get up early, we take our dog to the dog park, we try to make time, because we both hate when we rush out of the house and are just all scattered because then the whole day feels like that.

Ry: And I am a super big procrastinator, so I like to take all kinds of time before I actually do anything. But then once I start working, I am super fast!

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Do you have any advice for someone wanting to do what you do?

Ry: Yeah, we still feel like we need advice, so it is hard for us to give advice. When we first started, I think the most important thing for us is that we just did it. We didn't have a plan. We didn't have this whole thing funded up front, we just made a lot of work. And so I don't know what the advice would be for someone who isn't producing something, but for us that was it...just make stuff….just do it and do it.  

Nadia: Don't get caught up in “Well, we need a website…” Just make shit and see what happens. It kinda just happens naturally, I think, if you put all of your heart into it and make stuff. Eventually something comes of it.

 

What does the word authentic mean to you? And how does what you do allow you to live your most authentic life?

Ry: I think I very much value authenticity. To me, it is just feels like without pretense and that just feels very raw. And I identify with that very much. It is really important to me to live authentically. I think that has to do with being really true to yourself and knowing what that is to you and knowing what that actually means. That is a really helpful thing to anybody - to really know yourself and to really fulfill what it is you actually want and how you actually feel. I wouldn't really know how not to live authentically. There was never a question of what I really wanted to do, I have always just done it.

Nadia: I think that is one of the reasons we get along too. We are both like that. Even if it is the harder way, we will take that route because it is important to us to do what feels good inside.

 

Do you have a favorite piece that you have designed?

Nadia: Hmmm...that is hard for us because we have made so much stuff. She is the kind of person that looks back at some of her stuff and is like, “Damn, that’s cute!” and I’m harder on myself like, “Oh, no I don't like that anymore, I’m over that.” I really still like our old old stuff from when we first started. It is just so primitive and has so much personality and totally just came out of us because we didn't know how to do it...so it was sculptural almost. I love those things. And you can't go back to that. You can never make that stuff again... because we have evolved.

 

What would you do if you weren't doing this?

Ry: We would flip houses. I think that feels like our progression. I feel like all of this is gathering dust and strength and snowballing into something else. We learn and learn and learn and take the many facets of it and build into it.

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