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Natalie Zudin: “Make the space function better”

Incorporate plants. I prefer to use real, living plants in my spaces as they symbolize life, breath, and air. Add a plant or two in your home and you will just feel better. If you travel often or just can’t have real plants, buy some fake ones. They make really good faux trees these days […]

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Incorporate plants. I prefer to use real, living plants in my spaces as they symbolize life, breath, and air. Add a plant or two in your home and you will just feel better. If you travel often or just can’t have real plants, buy some fake ones. They make really good faux trees these days and they will still remind you of nature and have a calming effect.


As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Zudin.

Natalie Zudin is an LA based interior designer and general contractor. The goal of NDZ Designs is to work closely with clients and give their project the respect and care that it deserves. NDZ strives to create a harmonious home that reflects the client’s style and originality and brings them a sense of calm, satisfaction and pride.


Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many others, I came to LA as an aspiring actor. I’ve always loved theater and the costumes and the sets. I studied hard and worked hard to get acting gigs…but it just wasn’t working out. I found myself getting depressed and upset and feeling lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself but I knew what I was doing wasn’t working. Thankfully, I had a great friend, producer Brian Burke who helped me find my way. One evening as I was complaining to him about my lack of an acting career. He suggested that maybe there was something else I could do that would bring me more joy. He gave me $300 and told me to a magazine store and pick out as many magazines as I wanted. Anything that caught my eye. Anything that seemed interesting to me. So I did. I had a HUGE haul of magazines that I brought back up to his house. He suggested that we sort them and see if there was a common thread.

As we started going through them this is what we saw: architecture, interior design, antiques, furniture, more interior design and more interior design. Then we started talking about my love for decorating and how I’ve always completely redone my apartments, down to new wallpaper and lighting fixtures. Could it be that I needed to start a new career? I was nearly 30 years old and I had already graduated from college and didn’t want to go back but…I guess better late than never? During this period, I happened to be working at a restaurant that one of the stockholders was the interior designer. I didn’t know that at the time and ended up waiting on him. I told him how much I loved working there because I loved the atmosphere and design. Then he told me he was the one who designed it! It turned out to be Eddie Bitton of Bitton Design Group.

Eddie is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. He’s beyond talented but also a really great person. I asked Eddie what I needed to do to become a designer and he told me about the program at UCLA ext., and that he thought it would be a great step for me. The program was very challenging but I graduated in three years. After graduation, I got a job interning for Peter Dunham. That was a huge step for me. Peter is an incredible designer and being exposed to his methods and working in his Hollywood at home office/showroom was a remarkable experience. I worked there for a bit and then left to do some commercial designing. It was also a wonderful experience that kept filling my bag of tricks. But then I found my ultimate job. I got hired to work for Brian Little of BGL design construction. Brian has been a mentor and friend, teaching me everything he knows.

While working for Brian, I also became a licensed contractor. We primarily did residential design in Hancock Park. I worked for Brian for nearly five years. Learning and absorbing every little bit of genius he put out there. I will forever be grateful to Brian. Though working with him was a dream come true, I knew it was time for me to fly and believe in myself. In honor of Brian and BGL, I named my company NDZ Designs. I’ve been so fortunate to have a range of celebrity clients with large budgets to people who just want to redo a room in their apartment. I love it all. I love the challenges on every level and working closely with clients to create their most sacred place. One thing I’ve learned during quarantine is how much I miss my clients. How much I miss vibing with them and seeing their faces. I feel honored to be let into people’s homes and lives and to go on a journey with them as we create their literal happy place!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

One of the most interesting and unexpected things that has happened to me since starting this career is that I almost always end up being friends with my clients. You get much closer to your clients than you might anticipate initially because in order to design for them, you need to know a lot of personal information. Not only do you need to know what colors they gravitate towards, but where they like to travel, what they dream about, how much clothes they have and what they like to store. You even need to know what they keep in their nightstand so you know whether they can have an open or closed nightstand, one with drawers or no drawers etc. You will also spend a lot of time with your clients, sometimes over a year, so naturally you’re going to develop a relationship. When I first started my career I underestimated the personal connections that I’d make.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the biggest mistakes I made when scheduling a rather large job was not considering how the tile guys were going to get in and out of the bathroom they were doing once I had the floors stained. We were on a tight timeline so I had to have the guys load all of their equipment up in the bathroom before the stain went on the floor and once they started the floors, the guys had to enter through the bathroom window. I’m very lucky that everyone laughed about it and was a good sport but if the guys wouldn’t have climbed through the window I would have been way behind on the schedule. I learned how important it is to consider every factor of the job from who and what will be there and how they’ll get in and out!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Currently I’m doing a kitchen remodel that is really exciting because we’re changing the entire footprint of the kitchen. We’re eliminating a tall cabinet that blocks the view and adding an island. It’s going to change the entire look and feel of the home. I can’t wait until we’re finished because the before and after will be quite different!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my very favorite quotes comes from Dolly Parton. She says “the way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” This means a lot to me because it reminds me that in challenging times I just need to brave the rain, and then the rainbow will arrive. Every design/construction job comes with ups and downs. There are always unexpected things to contend with. They can be really hard to navigate but you must tell yourself that you will get through it and the client will be happy. You just might need to keep your rain boots on for a few days before the rainbow comes.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m very grateful to my mentor, Brian Little of BGL Design Construction. I was in the design industry for about 5 years before meeting Brian. Though I liked my job, I knew there was so much more to it. Brian taught me fundamental design secrets and helped me become a contractor. He’s the reason I’m where I’m at today.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

5 Things you can do to help your living space spark more joy.

The first thing you must do to make your living space spark joy is make it uniquely yours. Do not be afraid that you’re not following trends or what you like isn’t “right.” You must incorporate your favorite things into your space

One of my favorite spaces I’ve ever lived in had a saddle on a saw horse in the living room. I love horses and I love riding. I found an old saddle at an auction and I bought it. I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first and then I realized that the best thing I could do with that saddle was to incorporate into my living room. It was amazing how much joy it brought people and became a conversation starter.

Incorporate plants. I prefer to use real, living plants in my spaces as they symbolize life, breath, and air. Add a plant or two in your home and you will just feel better. If you travel often or just can’t have real plants, buy some fake ones. They make really good faux trees these days and they will still remind you of nature and have a calming effect.

By adding the plants in the corners of this room we filled it out and helped ground the room.

Incorporate favorite family pics. It’s time to get those pics out of your phone and into a frame. I like to find unique frames from secondhand stores. You can take out the pictures that came in the frame and blow your iphone pics up to fit in the frame. Its very inexpensive and will bring a smile to your face when you look at the beautifully framed photos.

Don’t be afraid of color. It’s fun to bring your favorite color into your room. I say paint the walls your favorite color but if you don’t have the time or means, bring your favorite color into the room by way of throw pillows, blankets, and rugs. It’s a surefire way to feel your unique self and enjoy a color that makes you happy.

Though this color of plaster finish isn’t everyone’s favorite thing, it certainly is mine. During quarantine I decided to do this faux wall and it brings me joy every single day!

Make the space function better. We sometimes forget that clutter or piles live in our spaces because we’ve gotten used to them. If there is a pile of books on your nightstand or on the floor go ahead and clean out that bookcase to make room for them. Staying organized and clean will always make you feel better. If you already run a tight ship, then rearrange a bookshelf or console top. Add a new trinket from a trip you’ve taken or some new candles. This little gesture will have big impact on your mood!

This bookshelf was full of toys and papers. The client and I took everything out and only put the kids favorite books back in. Now the child wants to read every day and she can actually see her favorite books!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement it would be to love and respect each other’s differences. One of my best friends often teases me saying “just act right.” She says I say that often when discussing what I wish people would have done. If we could all “just act right” I think the world would be much better and kinder.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

If I could have lunch with someone I’d love to sit down with Willie Nelson. His life is a treasure and his wisdom is infinite. I would just want to sit next to him and absorb his energy.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on social media @ndzdesigns or my website www.ndzdesigns.com

I’m Natalie Zudin of NDZ Designs. I’m an interior designer and general contractor.

You can reach me at [email protected]

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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