Taniya Nayak, Interior Designer and HGTV Star

Do you have a signature style?
Taniya: I never really thought that I did have a signature style until people started pointing out my usage of lighting. I use unique fixtures to make a statement in many of my projects. Most importantly, I try to incorporate the clients' personal style by taking cues from things they already have. People find comfort in having some trace of their personal style filtered throughout the new design. I just try to give it that 2.0 version -- fresher, cleaner, better, with a Nayak spin to it.

What project would you consider your Mona Lisa?
Taniya: Right now my "Mona Lisa" project is Abby Lane located in Boston's theater district. This project was a "down to the bones," "start from scratch," "nitty gritty" project. By that I mean nothing was there to build off of -- it was a concrete empty shell of a building to start with. The view of the theater district was the focus and inspiration throughout the design process. I am very proud of this project. It evokes a warmth while being elegantly casual. It has a modern tavern vibe that incorporates rustic pine in a chevron pattern on the walls, brick painted white, and as always, unique lighting that becomes a focal point in and of itself.
You host 'House Hunters on Vacation.' Have you drawn inspiration from these vacation homes into your own designs?
Taniya: Absolutely! Every single vacation home and its surroundings had something unique to offer in terms of inspiration. In London, it was the mix of modern elements used in a historic flat. In St. Martin, it was the crystal blue waters against plush green and white sands. Hawaii was inspiring in so many ways! Lanais, flowers, exotic woods and surfers. I draw inspiration from so many different things. I did a series called 'Destination Design' on HGTV which was all about finding inspiration from your travels and incorporating it into your home design. For example, we sent a young couple to Aruba, and they went fishing which inspired the use of a shimmery mosaic tile for their fireplace from the iridescent scales of the bonefish.
Any advice on buying a vacation home, or making your own home feel more like a getaway?
Taniya: Be sure to visit the location several times as a tourist before buying. Make sure that it is a place that will actually feel like a second home to you and your family. Don't be afraid to keep it simple. Let the views help dictate the style and direction that you may want to go in. When trying to make your own home feel more like a getaway, decluttering is #1 on my list. Freshen up your space with light colors and linens. Envision being away at your favorite resort and incorporate elements of that special retreat in your own home. It may be something as simple as fresh flowers.
What's the best way to add value to an existing home?
Taniya: My best advice is to budget for a small to medium renovation or update every year. This helps keep your home up to date without breaking the bank. Oftentimes people wait until they are ready to sell before making these changes, and they never get to enjoy their investment. Allow yourself to enjoy the changes a bit before handing it over to someone else. I have learned a lot in the four years that I did 'Designed To Sell' on HGTV, and this is hands down the way to go!
What home renovations do you think give people the most bang for their buck?
Taniya: It sounds cliche, but kitchens and baths are your smartest investments. However, a fresh coat of paint and new hardware and light fixtures go a long way in terms of most bang for your buck.
You are known for your creative living room and kitchen designs. What's trending right now in living rooms?
Taniya: I've never been a huge fan of "trends." I think that if you have a particular style, then that is what's trending. The question is, how to pull it together so that it feels fresh and current. For a living room, try not to copycat a look from a brochure store display; incorporate elements that make it your own unique space. Refurbish an old hutch or turn a hand-me-down dresser into an eclectic, bold-color sofa table.
Flat-screens over fireplaces: acceptable or tacky?
Taniya: Acceptable. I have to say that because I have it in my own house. The important thing to remember is to keep the TV at an appropriate eye level. If the fireplace is too high, then don't put the TV above it.
What is your best advice for people looking to do a living room remodel on a budget?
Taniya: Find inspiration online and start a folder of ideas. Refurbish old stuff. Create a new layout. Paint.
Where are your favorite discount places to shop?
Taniya: I love antique shops, and at the same time I like to get a few fun things at Ikea. It's all about the mix and match and how you use things. My all-time favorite place to shop on a budget for awesome pieces is HomeGoods. I find high-end items that no one else has at prices that are shockingly low!
You've got a lot of kitchen-related experience designing restaurants, both in Boston and on 'Restaurant: Impossible.' What have you learned that you bring to private residences?
Taniya: I learned to be more playful with my designs. I want the space to be well designed and properly finished but to still have a few quirky elements that make for great conversation pieces. Don't let your renovation stress you out. It should be fun and exciting and it should evoke an inspiring and fresh look that gets you excited to wake up every day in your new space.
What's hot in kitchens right now?
Taniya: I am noticing that people are no longer doing multi-level islands. Large, open, flat workspaces that double as eat in dining is what's hot. Mixing up colors for cabinets and adding elements of butcher block to soften up stone countertops is another thing I really like to see. Switch things up by making the island a completely different color and different countertop material.
What's the key to making a kitchen function well?
Taniya: The kitchen is serious business in my opinion. It is why I chose to renovate my kitchen last. I waited a year after moving in and renovating everything else first before tackling the kitchen. The reason: I wanted to be sure I knew exactly how I wanted to use it so that it was perfectly functional and fabulous for me and my husband. With that said, this applies to all the rooms in your home, know how you want to use the space, identify what is wrong with it in the first place and tackle it from there.
Updated kitchens sell. How do you redo a kitchen the right way and still save money?
Taniya: Kitchens are costly to renovate. Decide how much you want to spend. Devise a plan. This is critical. Get quotes on labor for flooring, plumbing, electrical, cabinet and counter installs, etc. Those numbers may knock the socks off of you! Create a spreadsheet of materials and how much it will cost to order including shipping and handling. And don't forget to add in your lead times. Once you put those numbers together, you can then prioritize what is important today and what elements can be addressed at a later date.


Taniya Nayak is a Boston-based interior designer and owner of Taniya Nayak Design LLC. She stars on HGTV's 'House Hunters on Vacation' and 'Designed to Sell,' and was a featured designer on Food Network's 'Restaurant: Impossible.' Taniya has also appeared on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' 'Today,' 'Rachael Ray,' and in numerous major magazines. Keep up with her on Twitter @TaniyaNayak.


• Not in Boston? Find Interior Designers Near You »