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Exploring Life & Business with Natalie Milberg of N.O. Studio Design and Development

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Milberg.

Hi Natalie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I never knew much about architecture or design growing up. I went to a high school that, at the time, was a little limited in that area. I went to college not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I hoped one day lightning would strike and I would all of a sudden just know. Luckily, during a summer trip to Europe after my freshman year, I ended up in Barcelona.

My friend and I decided to take a Gaudi tour on a whim. I remember being in the attic of Casa Mila where they had a small exhibit. I saw a mirror on the floor, and above it was a giant tangle of ropes and weights. However, when you looked in the mirror, it all made sense. Standing there, in the reflection was a model of an intricate, beautiful dome. I was done for. It was the simplest yet most complex thing I had ever seen. I decided to go into architecture and design at that moment. I majored in Art History and Urban Planning and then went to SCI-Arc for a master’s of Architecture. I had the good fortune to learn from some amazing mentors along the way. At Gehry Partners, I had the opportunity to work on the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. Following that, I went to work at Westfield and spent years doing retail and food & beverage design. While I was there, I also got a Master’s in Real Estate Development for Architects. That taught me to balance my wild and crazy design ideas with the practical realities of maximizing budgets and schedules.

Since then, I have had fun and success in airport concession design work and residential design. Now I run my own design and development company. I truly love looking at a new project like it’s a puzzle. I have a parcel of land, a home, or a vacant restaurant space, and I start tinkering with the space with design at the forefront of my mind. However, as I design I look at the budget, client needs, zoning, and code requirements – not as constraints- but as pieces to the puzzle. When a design emerges that shows consideration to all these factors, it is extremely satisfying. It is this satisfaction that furthers my passion in this industry. There is nothing better than working for weeks, months, or even years and seeing your imagination and hard work brought to life.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No road worth taking is ever truly easy. While I truly love my career and the industry in which I work, there are always obstacles. The construction industry is a male-dominated world, and I have had to work extremely hard to earn my reputation and establish myself as a credible player in this business. While these stereotypes maybe lessening, I realize that I still need to push myself every single day. Not just to succeed in this business; but to ensure that I help propel the role of women in this industry.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I bought my first income property in 2009 when the housing market crashed. I had meager savings, but it was just enough to buy a run-down triplex in Silverlake and have a bit left over to do some improvements. It was a crazy purchase. Someone stole the kitchen sink cabinet out of one unit on the day of the appraisal. Without a sink in the unit, I couldn’t qualify for my loan. My above-and-beyond realtor went on a Craigslist hunt for a sink cabinet and had it plumbed in that same day. I think he beat the appraiser by half an hour. That is just the beginning of the crazy situations you’ll find yourself in when you do this kind of work. I say this because my perspective is shaped by being a first-time property owner and entrepreneur. I understand what is at stake when someone comes to me to help them envision their home, store or restaurant. I know what it’s like to rely on truly great professionals. I strive to be that person.

Especially when unexpected circumstances arise (which is more often than not). I like to help people past roadblocks, whether it’s design, budget or schedule related (usually it’s all three) Because at the end of the day, you get to see your hard work turn into someone’s beloved home or business and it feels great. That passion to create spaces that people love is what motivates me to push past all of the challenges. And once these challenges are overcome, you can usually laugh about them. They certainly are learning opportunities. N.O. Studio proudly offers design services for residential, retail and food & beverage spaces. The unique thing about my perspective is that I’m not here to push anyone’s design style. I find satisfaction in traditional and contemporary styles. My main goal to achieve the desired lifestyle of homeowners and brands. One of my better skills is understanding the underlying lifestyle a brand is representing and finding innovative ways to express it.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I may need professional help with my obsession with chevrons. If you look closely at my work, you’ll start to find them everywhere. I’m always sneaking them in. I just can’t help myself.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Natalie Milberg Keary Bladel

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