Inspiration

Originally from the East Coast, Natalie Myers fell in love with California—and it shows. Her “Scandifornian” spaces combine the ease of Golden State living with the minimalism Nordic design is known for. Here’s what the Veneer owner and design principal had to say about her influences, keeping clients calm, and why she’ll never take on a Belgian farmhouse.

Written by Juno DeMelo

Photography by Jessica Alexander and Marisa Vitale

veneerdesigns.com, @nataliemyers

You started out studying architecture. What made you switch to interior design?

I attended school for architecture because I didn’t know that interior design was an actual profession or course of study. I considered going to art school, but I also wanted a general bachelor's degree to fall back on if there was a need. Cornell University has an excellent architecture program. I figured even if I don't love architecture, I’ll have a degree from Cornell.

I studied architecture for one year and I wasn’t very good at it to be honest. I was too focused on the details. My professors would get frustrated because I couldn’t think on the larger scale. They told me my work looked like a dollhouse. Interior Design happened to be a major at my university as well. I was walking by an Interiors student exhibit and I had the realization that Interiors was actually what I had intended on when I had signed up for Architecture.  It was a light bulb moment for me and thankfully I was able to switch majors within the school. 

How did you end up working in the corporate sector?

At Cornell, we were ushered into corporate jobs as early as interns and immediately upon graduation. I spent about 7 years working in corporate and retail interiors. A lot of that design work was based on prototypes which is a safer, more cost-effective way of designing, but it does get repetitive and was not exciting to me. 

What made you decide to strike out on your own?

During the last recession (2008-2010) I had my infant son when I was laid off with severance pay. That gave me the push I was secretly hoping for to try my own venture and focus on residential work which I find more impactful for the end users. I determined that with the severance and unemployment benefits I had been granted, there was the opportunity to work through the growing pains of starting a company and not making very much the first year or two. The perfect alchemy of the economic state, being a new mom, and having a supportive husband with a secure job motivated me to take the leap. 

Did your corporate experience transfer? What new skills did you have to learn?

Initially I may have been too organized and over-documented the minutia because of the accountability I was trained to have in corporate design. I'm glad I had that level of detail and organization instilled in me because I pride myself on over-delivering to clients' expectations. I did find that residential builders and clients don’t want as many documents. They want to get started on the build. I still document everything for my own sake (to keep track and also for liability), but I edit what I present to the owner or they can get overwhelmed. I also edit what I send to the builder to avoid overcomplicating a simpler concept. If either party needs the additional information, it's there and ready to share. 

When you work with clients, are you executing your vision, or helping them execute theirs?

I help clients define what they want to achieve stylistically and filter that through my creative lens. Ideally they hired me because my point of view is meaningful to them. Some designers want to be everything to everyone, and they don’t have a strong point of view as a result. If a client wants to design a traditional Belgian farmhouse (for example), I tell them I don’t know how to do that very well and recommend another designer who excels at it instead. 

My projects all look different to me because each unique client is coming to me with their own cultural touchstones, visual preferences, and the house itself will define what's appropriate. Yet each project I have completed also shares the same design vocabulary. I will tell clients “These are the elements I believe in. Do you agree with me? If so, we’re going to have a beautiful space.” Hopefully they have familiarized themselves with my point of view and didn't hire me based on a recommendation only (recommendations are wonderful of course). Most of my clients have been following my work for a while, and upon buying a house they are ready to pull the trigger. Those are the people I look forward to working with because they find value in my style and we can create something boundary pushing together.

How would you describe your vision?

A strong foundation of Modernism meets an infatuation with the Californian lifestyle (I moved here from the East Coast in my early twenties and I'm still enamoured). My vision is imbued with a relaxed, semi-bohemian, organic ideal and consistently impressed by new movements from Japan and Nordic areas with clean, minimalist, new materials.

You renovated your own vacation house in Joshua Tree. What design risks did you take there?

The real estate in the high desert area is still quite affordable compared to L.A (yet climbing steadily with piqued interest for more space during the pandemic). We found a sweet small homesteader cabin that had been quickly and poorly flipped. We decided to undo all of the flipper's cosmetic choices and bring in a more urbane sensibility with high end appliances and beautiful quality finishes (like the Ann Sacks MADE Mason Brick tile in the bathroom along with the Arrowhead Savoy tile on the shower floor). Being a vacation house, we did get a little funky and make design choices that would be fun to experience a few days at a time but were maybe too loud for the everyday. Mustard yellow, gold, and black as accents throughout the white space infuse it with a unique energy.

You did a unique Ann Sacks tile installation in a Beverly Hills remodel. How and why did you choose that tile?

I invited the clients to meet me at the Ann Sacks showroom in Beverly Hills. We were able to review many tile style and glaze choices in person and figure out which tile offered her the glam tones she was looking for and the earthier elements that I adore. Boy did we find it with the MADE Modern Ribbed Moon. The contractor was incredibly meticulous to ensure that all of the edges were aligned and the faucets located exactly at the centers of circles. It was an intense labor-of-love math exercise worth the effort for such a memorable installation.

Do you prefer to bring your clients into the showroom versus showing them samples?

When clients haven't expressed what they are hoping to find, the showroom is a wonderful resource to explore a world of colors, styles, and textures with them until we hone in on something that resonates with them. To me, it’s faster to bring them into the showroom versus stabbing in the dark hoping I find something they will like. On the other hand, if I get a strong sense of what a client is connecting with from the inspiration boards, then I can request exactly the samples I think will resonate and bring them to the client directly, saving us all some valuable time. 

How has your business model changed since you started?

Learning to turn down lovely people I know I can help because their scope is too small is a shift that I am still working on perfecting. As a small business owner you feel compelled to say yes to every inquiry, at least initially. At this point I’m only taking on full remodels or complete home furnishings. I stopped taking smaller scopes of remodeling two bathrooms here, furnishing a living room there, because I found myself doing almost as much work on the smaller jobs as I was for a whole house yet I wouldn’t have as much to show for it. Items like onboarding, getting to understand clients' psyches to anticipate what they will like and dislike, negotiating design or budget compromises, emails and answering questions seem to require the same level of energy from me regardless of the scope size. I take on a few big projects at one time instead of many small ones. I am less exhausted and make the same in revenue at the end of the day.

What are your design goals? What excites you about the future?

Product design and launching lines with other companies has captured my imagination. I’ll always be dedicated to remodels and new home builds, kitchen and bathroom design work, but it’s also appealing to have a hand in furniture, rug, wallpaper, tile, or lighting design with like minded companies who have the means of production dialed in. I would love to have input in developing home products that capture my sensibilities and over time build a whole-home portfolio that’s a recognizable “Natalie Myers” aesthetic. When I’ve had these kinds of opportunities, it’s been very fulfilling.