Founder and Creative Director of NU MI Design House, Tanwa Newbold, who recently introduced to the Nigerian market her new corporate brand of interior designs at a uniquely curated exhibition, has over the last 10 years built a reputation as one of Nigeria’s leading young interior designers with her company providing a range of corporate and individual clients with project-based interior design services, supplemented by the ability to produce unique furniture and home ware to suit the individual taste. In this interview with Mary Nnah, she talks about her homecoming after several years of operating her interior business outside the shores of Nigeria, her passion for interior design and her plan for future
How did your journey into interior design start?
My daddy is an architect and a lot of people say I got it from him but my background is in business and investment banking; that is literally where my training is. However, I found out about 14 years ago that I love design and I started to explore interior design. I have a talent for it. I have an affinity for it and a passion for it, so I started to pursue it. I started from the very bottom. I started from making a sofa here and beddings there and step by step I grew and I am proud to continue growing because that is my aim – to do better than I did yesterday and to do better than I am doing today. I actually started doing interior design in bits and pieces in America and in the UK but the time when I took it very seriously, created other companies and did something very particular about it was when I moved back to Nigeria about 12 years ago.
So how has business been since you came back to Nigeria?
It has been difficult. My aim has always been to produce in Nigeria and to produce with what we have naturally available to us but it has been difficult because good finishing and quality are difficult things to achieve here. But we are getting better. We are training ourselves, we are learning from experiences and I am very proud to say we have come a very long way from where we were 12 years ago. And we would continue to grow as the years go by.
You have a whole lot of household wares and design displayed out here today. Can you tell us more about this exhibition?
This is basically the launch of my luxury brand. We have here interior designs, household luxurious wares, furniture and all of that. This is our own way of expressing ourselves and showing the world what we are about – our vision, aesthetic influences and what we are trying to bring to Nigeria. NU MI Design House is a newly integrated brand and today we are officially launching the brand at a uniquely curated exhibition here at the Oando Wings Event Space – Wings Office Complex in Victoria Island, Lagos. NU MI is an integrated interior design, procurement, bespoke furniture manufacturer and homeware product designer. The event features a pop up installation of NU MI’s launch range of furniture, accessories and homeware. So today we are introducing a new range of luxury crockery and bedding, the first in a series of products as NU MI seeks to establish a range of its own brand homeware products. Here, the luxury crockery features two new designs in a 32 piece set, designed to be a dinner setting for six. The range includes: Amina, incorporating a classic Nigerian theme and 24 Carat Gold, incorporating a contemporary splash of pure gold. The luxury bedding, designed by NU MI on 200 thread count Egyptian cotton, includes pillow cases, flat sheets, under sheets and duvet covers as well goose down pillows and duvets. Customers can incorporate their own design options for a minimum order of 50 sets. The event is supported by Oando Plc, at their recently launched Wings Event Space and La Connaisseur, the exclusive concept store for wine lovers.
There are different items with rich aesthetic design displayed here. Are these all your designs?
Yes, I made them all. The point of everything is to show you that there are different tastes, different characters and different aesthetics. And it is just how you play on them and with anything, you can achieve beauty.
What inspired the name Nu Mi?
A lot of things inspired the name Nu Mi. My last name is Newbold, and I am going on new journey to an uncharted territory. It is a dream name. It is about continuity, newness, challenges and it is just about me, a new me.
What inspires each of your design?
Everything inspires my design – life, everyone and everything around me inspires me and that is the beauty of design and I love it so much. I change every day, I create every day and every little thing inspires me to create and to keep creating.
Who are your target audience?
My target audience is everyone because I take very huge pleasure in crating beauty in everything that I do. However, because of the cost of everything in Nigeria and because I aim to achieve perfection, every design I do seems to be a little bit expensive, so I will say my focus basically is medium to luxury.
Do you have a professional background in interior décor?
I have taken classes in interior design but I think my background is my experience, exposure and in my natural affinity and passion for interior design.
How do you operate your business?
I don’t sell single pieces. I do an entire experience. So what I do is that I try to provide an experience for individual client. I get to know you, I get to know your personality and what you love and I then create an experience for you as an individual. I like to make it personal. I don’t want you to just come and buy a sofa from me; there is no connection in such way. I want to talk to you, I want to get to know you, I want to get to know what your idea of beauty is and I want to create it for you. You can visit us on www.numidesignhouse.com for a total experience.
Talking about offering total experience to individual client, what should one expect from you?
I think you should expect your interpretation of beauty. I am not going to force my own reality on you. I want to bring your reality to life because it is about you and not me. That is my idea of perfection. When I am done with your job, you look at it and you say, “I am happy. This is what I wanted, this is my vision, and this is my passion, thank you!” That is happiness and success to me.
How easy has it been for you getting clients who want total experiences like you offer?
Nigerians have been very supportive. They have been amazing. And as long as you provide clients with quality and beauty, they would always keep coming back and that is what I love in my Nigerians. Nigerians are loyal.
Can you mention some of those you have worked for?
I have done a lot through the years and to be honest. I would like to keep my clientele private but I have done stuff for a lot of reputable private persons and organisations. I have been at it for 13 years. So I have done a lot apparently.
You studied investment banking at school and suddenly you switched to interior decoration. Would you say this is more financial rewarding compared to a job in bank?
For me, it is hundred per cent more rewarding than being a banker. I always knew I could make money in banking but I didn’t have the drive and passion for banking job. I didn’t used to wake up every morning being excited to go for my banking job but with interior design, I wake up every morning being excited. I would work till 5a.m. because I love it and I have passion for it. And that is what I would tell anybody with a passion. As long as you have a passion and push, you can’t be wrong.
You are married with kids, so how do you combine your job with the home front?
I think the trick is to have a husband who believes in you, a husband who trust you and shares your vision; a husband who cares enough about you to accept you as yourself and gives you the freedom to express yourself and create your own legacy. I have a husband, children and other people who support me and are there for me daily and this makes me stronger and makes we wake up every day and want to do more because I want them to be proud of me.
Tell us about growing up and how exactly you were influenced by your father?
My father is an architect and I was influenced by his love for deigns. My house was never the same, every six months things changed. –something was broken down and something was put up again. There were designs everywhere. So I had beauty everywhere and everyday things kept changing for me. So it was a beautiful experience growing up. And I had the freedom to be myself and express myself. Nobody forced me to do anything. I was allowed to be creative in any way I wanted. So I had the peace to express the creative aspect of me.
Where did you school?
I am from Ilorin, Kwara State. I attended the Nigerian Navy Secondary School in Nigeria, and then I finished high school in New York and then did my undergraduate in Business. I moved to the UK to have my masters in Investment Banking and then moved back to Nigeria about 13 years ago. I had worked in the bank for about three years but I always knew that was not what I wanted to. It was just a way to make money and run a living until I found my passion. Once I found my passion, I left the bank and never looked back again,
What’s your future plan for Nu Mi?
Expansion – being able to provide beauty to everyone. Being able to give everyone what they desire; being able to provide both the medium and high class beauty because I feel that everyone should have beauty regardless of price. My aim is to go into every home, regardless of what your pay cheque is and make it beautiful. And if I can achieve that in my life time, then I have done well. My future plan is to be able to provide a one-stop shop for designs, either for commercial, residential or hospitality. I want people to be able to come to me for everything – from furniture to beddings to dinnerware and whatever it is with regard to interior designs.
What advice do you have for young people who aspire to go your way?
I would say keep going, have passion and drive. Keep forcing it and pushing it, keep having standard and wanting to do your best. Keep expressing your ability and passion for good finishing excellence and you would get there. Just keep challenging yourself.