Nayoka Simone holds many titles. From government employee and author to her role as CEO and Founder of NyRai Interior Designs and Noir by NyRai luxury candles, Simone is undoubtedly known to her peers and the surrounding design industry as a renaissance woman and connoisseur of culture.
Why? Because there’s something audacious about a Black girl who dares to dream, and goes after the career she desires. While many may call these course-corrections a ‘pivot,’ or often a quick about-face in the way we do business, for Simone, she uses her career as a way to nurture her spirit and dreams in a way that’s proven to be transformative.
Nayoka Simone, a Maryland native, found her love designing homes in 2016, which is when she embraced her entrepreneurial spirit and founded NyRai Interior Designs. Since then, her business has seen tremendous success for influencers, celebs and high-profile clientele alike, especially at the point in the pandemic where people began spending more time at home than ever before and seriously began considering interior design choices — not to mention, dreaming of a few upgrades.
It’s no surprise that the ranks of interior designers in America are overwhelmingly white. The American Society of Interior Designers reports that less than 2% of their membership identify as black. At the top end of the market — where Simone sits — the presence of black interior designers is even more limited. So for her to see career success is a testament to how Black girls have made themselves seen, felt, and heard in every field.
In this interview with ESSENCE, Simone offers advice for aspiring or burgeoning interior designers of color, what inspired her love for interior design and what keeps her inspired.
Author, government employee, entrepreneur, and now interior designer. Your career is a testament to the power of the pivot. What inspired you to get into interior design?
The first business I owned was Exquisite Weddings by Simone. As the CEO of that company, I oversaw and executed all details of the wedding coordination to ensure the bride and the groom have the most amazing wedding experience to include the decor. From that experience, I was fortunate enough to have partnered with many mid-scale organizations that needed my design ideas. So being able to oversee the complete design of weddings, organizing and personalizing each wedding is what inspired me to take it to the next level and go beyond weddings to homes and businesses to become an interior designer. I started designing my own home which then inspired so many others.
How would you define your style?
I would describe my style as being more of a minimalist with chic interiors. Although I possess the skill to incorporate all style types, my overall favorite is that simple modern contemporary look.
What inspires you?
Perseverance keeps me going. Not quitting and giving up when the road gets tough. That grind is what always inspires me to keep going. In addition to that, I am also inspired by People who are passionate about nurturing their homes. By being able to personalize their living spaces for a cozy and comfy feeling, it gives me that warm cozy feeling inside of accomplishment.
Black millennials are currently a part of the homebuying boom. What advice do you have for those seeking to purchase and style their first homes?
The advice I would give any black millennial in the home buying market would be to not be afraid to purchase a fixer upper home. Adding their personal style is really important. Make sure to consider the must haves and have nots, and ensure the style of the home is one you can see yourself living in for quite some time. The housing market right now is tough so don’t just settle. Also, many homeowners have hired interior designers to join them in the house hunting process to eliminate any stressors. So that would be something for them to keep in mind as well.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring or burgeoning interior designers of color?
Take the leap! Believe in yourself and surround yourself with those who are doing things that will elevate you. The interior design world lacks black designers! So take the time to join mentorship programs specifically for interior designers, and attend events (in person or virtual). Don’t worry about any challenges there are, end use all situations as lessons to help you get better. The world needs your skill set. And if you’re worried about starting a portfolio, simply start with your own home or ask a friend or family member if they’ll allow you to transform their space.
What’s next for NyRai Interior Designs?
Our next big mission is to work with more commercial businesses to provide our services. We’d also love to work with tv shows to include hgtv, tiny homes, and continue building our portfolio to continue “Changing Lives and Homes” with our designs.