Marla Nazzicone: Destined to design

Marla Nazzicone has always known she was destined to become an interior designer. After receiving her degree from Ryerson University, Nazzicone started her own design business, which, to this day, continues to thrive artistically and financially, even in the face of COVID-19.

She’s known since elementary school that her life was all about interior design. Marla Nazzicone had it all figured out before most us could tell time. “I went to an arts elementary school. It was called St. Michael’s Academy, in Thornhill, Ont., and I think that’s kind of where I fell in love with visual art.” The girl destined to be an interior designer grew up in Richmond Hill, Ont., and has always been fascinated with luxury real estate. In fact, Nazzicone used to check out open houses on the weekends with her mother for fun. “I remember critiquing the houses secretly, and this is where my love for residential design was sparked. I think completing a space is more satisfying than finishing a painting because it’s really a piece of art that you interact with, and it impacts the way people live.”

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After high school, Nazzicone continued her design journey, attending Ryerson University. “I think my background at Ryerson gave me really strong technical skills. It gave me all the tools necessary to execute my design visions properly.” Nazzicone is of the firm belief that attending design school was integral for helping her stand out as a young designer in such a competitive industry.

When describing her own personal style, Nazzicone’s the type of person who wants others to see her as glamorous, sometimes over-the-top, but essentially always comfortable. “I love to make a statement, whether it’s through jewelry or a pair of shoes or hair.” In terms of her designs, she always likes to have a focal point and a wow factor. “I like something that’s close to being over the top, but in a very elegant way.”

Perhaps the biggest influence on Nazzicone’s designs is fashion. “I try to think of interior spaces as being tailored like a custom outfit would be. I think fashion influences how you feel inside and out. I think fashion really impacts how you feel internally, and it can give a strong and immediate sense of personality.” For Nazzicone, it’s important to feel a sense of someone’s personality throughout their home.

Marla believes interior design is 90 per cent talent and 10 per cent technical skills. “The technical design and construction knowledge can be taught in school; however, the way each person interprets a space through their own visual lens is completely different.” She is of the opinion that, in order to be a good interior designer, you need a great imagination. “I think you need to be an artist to an extent to create beautiful compositions in a home.”

“I think completing a space is more satisfying than finishing a painting because it’s really a piece of art that you interact with, and it impacts the way people live”

For every interior designer, the process of creating varies. Nazzicone has broken it down into three stages. “First, I sit down with my clients anywhere from an hour to five hours and I try to dissect their needs and wishes for their home, as well as their esthetic needs.” During step two, Nazzicone works behind the scenes by herself and develops the design. In step three, she shares with the clients the vision that she has conjured and then together they work to tweak it. Next, once the package has been fully designed, Nazzicone calls in the contractors.

Throughout Nazzicone’s life, she’s had various mentors and role models. One of the most influential people has been her mother, who has, according to Nazzicone, an incredible design style. As well, Nazzicone got many internships while studying at Ryerson and named Lois Macaulay in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood as one of her mentors. “She was like a future me, in a way.”

One of Nazzicone’s favourite projects was a custom home in Oakville, Ont. “I had to create a new design style. The husband was modern and minimalist, while the wife was traditional, so I had to think outside the box.” She achieved the couple’s goal by taking the extremely modern house with floor-to-ceiling windows and creating a ceiling plastermoulding profile that would still look modern, but dressed up the space in a traditional way.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the profession for Nazzicone is when people want to simply play it safe. Conversely, the most rewarding part of the job is “a space coming together, and a client truly being happy about it. Capturing someone’s personality and style through my lens is very rewarding.”

COVID-19 has been an exceedingly challenging time for interior designers. “I’ve learned that human interaction is extremely important. It doesn’t matter what platform you use. There’s nothing like being hands-on. You need to touch materials and be together.” Interestingly, Nazzicone says people are investing more money into their homes during COVID-19 because they are spending more time in their houses. Subsequently, interior designers have been busier than ever. “I’m grateful this has been one of the outcomes of this horrible virus. People are really realizing how important their homes are.” In fact, Nazzicone indicated renovations have gone through the roof — no pun intended. Construction is booming, and investing money in your home has become more important than ever.

For people looking to become interior designers, Nazzicone says that “you need to have an open mind, an unbiased vision, love working with people and have excellent interpersonal skills.” You need to be open to listening and understanding what people need. Communication is everything in this industry.

Where does Nazzicone see her company in five years? “Expanded. I have a strong vision. I hope to be able to take on more and even larger-scale projects. I see a focused expansion.”


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